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Box Squats Galore by Dave Tate - CrossFit Journal

Box Squats Galore

By Dave Tate

In Powerlifting, Videos

July 18, 2009

Video Article

Dave Tate imparts a wealth of knowledge in the final four episodes of our series on the box squat. His coaching is as explicit as his language.

Dave Tate of EliteFTS came to CrossFit San Diego for a private seminar on January 24, 2009. Dave was a successful competitive powerlifter for over two decades. He trained with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell Club. His best back squat was 930lbs, bench 610lbs, and deadlift 740lbs. Tate is a powerlifting specialist, and he doesn’t claim to be anything else.

In part 1, Dave begins by loudly repeating his favorite cue: “back, back, back, back!” He says of Rachel Medina using a PVC pipe: “See how far she is forward? This is the benefit of the box squat. You can say I need you to be here, and then point to a specific position just over the box.”

In part 2, the weight is increased to 95 pounds. Dave says that on the way down you will see a bar path that will “kind of fall back a bit.” But “the most important thing to watch is on the way up, you want a straight bar path.” He tells Rachel that she should be able to move up to 315 lb. from 220 lb. within 6-8 weeks, provided she masters some technique points, activates her hamstrings and gets her torso strong.

In part 3, Dave explains his overall approach. He takes a bottom to top approach. He first works on the lower body and gets it working right. He then moves on to the upper body, and gets it working right, too. Dave surprises the seminar participants by demonstrating a strengthening exercise that uses a rubber band for leg curls. He suggests some CrossFitters might want to try this after their workouts.

In part 4, Dave shows how to determine the correct height of the box and adjust it over time.

Technically, these are parts 3 - 6. Parts 1 and 2 are here.

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Part 1:
Part 2:
Part 3:
Part 4:


37 Comments on “Box Squats Galore”


wrote …

Why is it that Parts 3 and 4, as denoted in the article, do not match that in the video (at the very beginning). I was watching Parts 1 and 2, then opened 3 and there was a huge jump in the action, and it was labeled at Part 5. What happened to the actual Parts 3 and 4?


wrote …

ahhh, would give my right arm to be at that lecture !


wrote …

So, I guess isolation exercises aren't completely worthless after all, as long as they are put in the proper place in a workout scheme.


replied to comment from Clinton Canaday

Nothing is missing. Future series will be more clearly labelled.


replied to comment from Daniel Freedman

Are you saying that the action was supposed to jump? It was seamless from part 1 to 2 and then from part 3 to 4 (or 5 to 6, depending on which labels you consider), but not from 2 to 3. Was it not intended to include the missing footage?

I'm sorry for complaining. I'm just curious if this issue is intentional or not, and why it happened if so. I feel like I'm missing out on some good info, especially since I recently tweaked my lower back doing a heavy squat, after I thought that I had correct my form (which apparently I did, according to the videos. I just didn't keep a solid core through the lift).

Thanks for the help. I'll be satisfied after this :)


replied to comment from Clinton Canaday

I don't have access to the raw footage. But I can say in general that our videos are excerpts from lectures, and not the entire lectures.


wrote …

my wife found me watching this and found it hard to believe I was watching it for the squat tuition


wrote …

Nick, I know exactly what you mean. I started watching the videos to learn about the squat but after seeing Rachel's..err..positions, I kind of went sideways. All I can say is...I'm only a man.


wrote …

i have trouble believing that doing box squats will help an high-bar, ass-to-ankles, olympic style back squat ...

anyone can comment on his claim that it could make rachel's hbbs back squat go to 315?


replied to comment from Nick Williams

Must be a common problem...ditto here.


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

I have tried box squats for a very short time and saw my 1RM squat go up 30lb (from 255 to 285), simply because they eliminate that rebound at the bottom and you have to activate the hamstrings etc.. which transfers very nicely into the regular squat. I don't know about adding 90lb in 6-8 weeks, but as Rip points out, the wide stance does allow you to squat more weight so I guess it's possible. Also, I don't doubt that powerlifters can squat a lot of weight ass to ankles.

I have two general comments:
What is it about the Crossfit Program or Rachel's general training that created this hamstring problem? Air squats come mostly out of the quads right? Should that be addressed or is that just her problem (I vaguely recall seeing a lot of people with overdeveloped quads and underdeveloped hamstrings).

Secondly, please invite Dave Tate back for more seminars/video lectures! His powerlifting advice/decades of experience is exactly what is needed to refine and improve the Crossfit strength program. May I also recommend to invite some professional strongmen to do some sessions. These guys will surely have some interesting ideas on strength vs. endurance and so forth. I really think that this is how we should grow the program, by taking specialists and learning from their experience and benefit from it in our Program.


wrote …

Dimitri's comment is interesting and I would like to extend the idea to inviting other generalists, in particular, decathletes/heptathletes. Their conditioning program is likely similar to Crossfit's but given the specific performances they are required to do, each one will have to overcome his/her specific weakness by doing specialized exercised on top of their GPP.

Don't know if Crossfit HQ would be able to get contributions from the likes of Brian Clay (Olympic Gold 2008)or Roman Sebrle (World record holder), but some college level competitors and their trainers may make some interesting contributions.


replied to comment from Ben Black

I think that's a very good idea, especially since many Crossfitters appear to neglect some fundamental aspects of their training. Castro mentioned in a video that many people preparing for the Games neglected the long distance work (ie. always knocking out short, comparatively heavy metcons). I know first-hand that some affiliates completely neglect the strength work, always doing the conditioning stuff.

I think it's great to get specialists on board Rippetoe, Buddy Lee, Brian M. CFE, now Dave Tate. Decathletes, sprinters, strongmen, anything we can get to improve Crossfit as a program.


wrote …

Weight belts!? Credibility definitely went down after seeing that


replied to comment from mike mallory

Mike, Dave clearly stated he wasn't a huge fan of belts. In this series, he used it to teach the use of abdominal pressure/tension and subsequently removed the tool. I believe this adds to Dave's credibility as a coach using all available tools to achieve the goal and in turn, increase work capacity.


replied to comment from Geoffrey Else

god help us if we get into another abs in/abs out arguement, but anyways, I think powerlifters are seperate from 'good human function'....the ab thing being a big part of that.

If you rehab spines for a living you can't get away with that nonsense


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

I think he meant he thought he could have her box squatting 315 in 8 weeks if he was training her full time (that is how I interpreted his comment), not that she could high bar olympic style squat 315 as a result of training box squats. Maybe her quad dominance comes from training that style of squat (or front squats or olympic lifting in general), I don't know.


believe it. aside from strengthening the hamstrings, the wide stance box squats shorten the distance that the load must travel, allowing one to move much heavier loads than the olympic squat. the increase in "torso" strength transfers nicely from the box squat to the olympic squat.


wrote …

"Passion #$%&ing trumps everthing!" - Dave Tate.


replied to comment from Tom Seryak

if box squats were that great at increasing an olympic style squat, i'm pretty sure we'd see olympic lifters do them. however, it seems like they rely on pulls and RDL's for most of their hamstring work.

personally, i feel i limited my own potential in the olympic lifts by doing only low-bar back squats and deadlifts.

no disrespect, but i don't see how squatting in a very awkward position to isolate muscles has carryover into anything else aside from the powerlifting squat where you only move your center of gravity less than a foot.


wrote …

These videos are awesome. More Dave Tate please.


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

I'm guessing here, but I think it has something to do with the eccentric loading of a box squat. Weightlifting is more about concentric power (pulls and recovery of snatch and C+J). Eccentric loading can put a beating on your CNS and takes a lot to recover from, so with limited training time/recovery, maybe weightlifters are better served practicing the lifts and pulls directly to increase their strength in those positions. Also, I think it's pretty rare that a weightlifter is limited by their squatting strength (although there are some, like Kolecki from Poland).


wrote …

Rip on Low Bar Squats and Olympic Lifts (From Starting Strength)

For both the low-bar squat and the pull from the floor, the relationship between the load and the spine is essentially the same: the load transfers from the spine to the bar at the level of the scapula. Both also share the essential requirement of the maintenance of the correct back angle off the floor. Neither the squat nor the pull will tolerate either bending over or rounding of the back during their initial phase, and the chest must be kept up during both movements. If the back angle is kept constant for both, which it must be, they are very similar movements, more similar than a high-bar squat and a pull of any type. If an argument is to be made for squatting with a form specific to the motor pathway requirements of the sport, the low-back position would be that form. And if an argument is made that the squat need not be similar, the low-bar squat still makes more sense, because it is easier on the back and can be done with heavier weights.


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

Separating the eccentric and concentric phases of a lift (ie. pausing at the bottom of a squat, or jump training with a bounce out of the bottom) more thoroughly recruits muscles of the hamstrings by negating the elastic energy stored by a stretch-response cycle of lengthened muscles.


replied to comment from Daniel Gam

"no disrespect, but i don't see how squatting in a very awkward position to isolate muscles has carryover into anything else aside from the powerlifting squat where you only move your center of gravity less than a foot."

For me these videos were an awesome tool for improving my squat mechanics, overall - air squats, front squats, Rip style back squats or these Tate/Westside squats - doing the drill Dave was showing gave me a new kinesthetic sense of wtf I was doing. I learned 'to squat' by myself, over 20 years ago, have never really been coached in the movment, and thus had limited ability to improve. I was unaware of what I was doing right, or of what I was doing wrong. Going through the box squat drill, with my "cup empty," was a powerful learning tool, even if I never do wide stance squats like that again.

I am beginning to learn how to get the same muscle activation I was feeling for the fisrt time in the sumo box squat and use it for all the other squats. Powerful.

Funny how these things work - for a few months before I saw this stuff, I identified that I was sliding forward 'onto my quads' at the bottom of heavy squats, but didn't know how to correct it. Now I know.

I can see why Coach likes these vids so much and admires Dave Tate so much - the man knows a lot about how to help people move well. Paul


replied to comment from Clinton Canaday

I found this which seems to be the intro(i.e. part 1 & 2):


replied to comment from Dimitri Dziabenko

Ok, here goes an attempt to postulate the reason for CF weak hamstrings (biceps femoris). Just don't crucify me for it!

Air squat positioning begins with the feet!
yeah, that's it. Ok, ok, ok, I know, "There has to be more!!!!!"

Take angle measurements during bottom of an air squat, CF style, and compare those with the bottom measurements of the near-sumo style PL squat. This attains different muscle recruitment, one of quad/glute, the other ham/adductor. Guess which is which...

Just the same as taken a person only associated with powerlifting and asking them to do a CF squat without their heels coming off the floor. Probably gonna have issues.

Fire away Griddly


replied to comment from Joshua Reed

Sorry, just read my own post and realized how vague I was in WHAT MEASUREMENTS!?!?! Stupid, stupid, stupid...




again, sorry, no beer, no tv, make Josh somethin'. somethin'.......


wrote …

Are you kidding? $25 for CFJ is the best money I've spent all year long. Thanks, Mr. Tate and CF. More, please.


wrote …

From personal experience I've tried the Westside way with box squatting and speed squats. They helped my free squat (olympic style) go up. I could box squat 425 lbs & in a powerlifting contest hit 465 lbs with the oly style. The box squats build tremendous hip & hamstring strength. I would definitely recommend everyone to try box squatting and speed squats. Check out westside barbell for more information.


wrote …

The box squat will increase ANY squat squat strength because the pause at the bottom eliminates the stretch reflex. Once you reincorporate the stretch reflex with high-bar or low-bar squats, the added benefit of more quad and hamstring strength will be shown through increases poundage.

Her hamstrings aren't a "problem" per se, it is just that her quad development(from air squats, high-bar squats, and oly lifting with a heel raise) outshines her hamstring strength. My guess is she doesn't train deadlifts or good mornings with the regularity of her quad dominant movements.

Just my thoughts.


wrote …

why does dave tate always (in multiple videos) refer to muscle contraction as "flexing" the muscle. Anyone educated in body mechanics knows that flexion refers to an increase in the angle about a joint. coming up out of the squat is correctly called "extension"


wrote …

Simple question, why in the most recent box squat video are there elastic bands attached from the floor to either side of the bar? what is the their function.


replied to comment from mike mallory

Power belts are not discrediting. They are a legitimate tool for training the practice of building pressure in the abdomen. Read a book.


wrote …

Bands are used for accommodating resistance. You crossfit people need to seriously educate yourselves in strength training before making suggestions about things you don't understand. Believe it or not, crossfit is not the best way to train for everything in life.


replied to comment from connie morreale

Does it really matter that much to you?

Anyone educated in body mechanics should be able to easily differentiate.


replied to comment from mike mallory

Re weight belt and abs in/out. It is possible to breathe into the stomach/ diaphragm pressing out against the abdominal wall whilst drawing the abdominals in (usually occurring in heavy lift. This creates intra abdominal pressure for maintaining stability. For someone who is a chest breather the weight belt could serve as a good cue for the belly breath and is very different from training to push the abdominals out consistently using a belt at any load..

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