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Box Squatting for Bodybuilding

Kyle Newell
Published: January 11, 2011Posted in: TrainingTags: body building, box
squatting, glute ham, Kyle Newell

When I was competing in natural bodybuilding shows, one of the biggest

weaknesses for competitors was a lack of glute and ham development. I
remember we used to try and carve them out with leg curls and glute kick back
machines. The only problem with many of the machines is that they work only
one portion of the muscle at a time, usually the insertion. I was always saying to
my training partners that we needed to invest in a sled. I knew that the entire
range of the muscle had to be worked for complete development.
While Im currently on hiatus from competing, I still have a few clients who
compete. Their training is far from the norm for traditional bodybuilding. They
get a blend of athletic development and some traditional bodybuilding
movements along with the proper diet. However, the purpose of this piece is to
show you the importance of box squatting for bodybuilding. (Keep in mind,
even if you dont compete, you can use these techniques to get jacked.)
I know firsthand from training for shows and having many training partners over
the years that bodybuilders often think they know how to squat when in fact they
let their egos get in the way and perform more of what looks like a quarter squat,
often with 315 lbs on the bar. If you have ever attended a local bodybuilding
show, youll see that if there is any leg development at all, it is often on the front
side with some lines throughout the quads. However, when the competitors turn
around, the hams and glutes are nonexistent. This happens so often that if a
competitor does have some definition back there, hes normally put into the
winners circle.

Without going off on too much of a tangent, there are many problems with the
way most bodybuilders train their legs. Box squatting the correct way, as
described in books by Dave Tate and Jim Wendler, can be used for superior
posterior chain development for bodybuilders. Instead of doing only max effort
and dynamic effort days, bodybuilders can use box squatting and other substitute
movements (i.e. good mornings, Romanian deadlifts, deadlifts, glute ham raises,
sled work, etc.) with moderate weight and higher volume.

When examining how these moves incorporate the hamstrings, glutes, lumbar,
and spinal erectors, they are far superior than trying to isolate these muscles on
machines. Box squatting emphasizes driving the butt back or squatting back
instead of down. This helps to put the glutes and hamstrings into a stretched
position. When the box level is reached, this breaks the eccentric-concentric
chain and, although the glutes and hams want to relax, they cant because they
need to be activated to complete the box squat. Kinetic energy is stored in these
muscles during the brief pause on the box, much like what happens in
Another great benefit for bodybuilders is that the box regulates squatting depth.
You wont have any more quarter squats or thinking you went deep enough
because you got a little out of your comfort zone. Box squatting and any of the
above mentioned substitute exercises emphasize both the origin and insertion of
the muscles. The more muscle worked, the more development you will have.
Bodybuilders can even use cycles of max effort and dynamic periods in addition
to higher volume days in order to recruit different motor units and train more of
the fast twitch fibers, giving their muscles a denser, harder look on stage.
My bodybuilders have had great success using many of the principles I use with
my athletes (with a bodybuilding tweak of course). Think outside the box and

stop doing only what is traditional when it comes to getting bigger and
competing if you choose to do so. Another example is doing hours of cardio to
get ripped, which is a bunch of BS, but that is another story for another day.

Box Squatting for Bodybuilding, Part II

Kyle Newell
Published: April 6, 2011Posted in: TrainingTags: body building, box squat,
Kyle Newell

It seems that Box Squatting for Bodybuilding garnered a lot of interest, so

naturally Im now bringing you part two. I had people emailing me for set and
rep schemes of how I use box squatting for my bodybuilders to gain muscle. In
this second part, Ill address how focusing on closed-chain kinetic movements
based around hip dominant exercises will bring your legs to the next level and
beyond. Get rid of the butterfly machines, leg extensions, leg curls and leg press.
Its time to train like a rebel.
In addition to highlighting what the rep scheme should be for box squatting for
bodybuilding purposes, Ill highlight some of my other favorite exercises to use
for the lower body. When talking about which exercises to use to develop some
serious wheels, you need to be aware of the function of the hip musculature. For
our purposes, the hip musculature is the posterior chain muscles that either cross
or attach to the hip. The main functions of these muscles are hip extension and
hip stabilization when were on one foot as seen in sprinting and single leg
exercises. So with that out of the way, here is how I implement box squatting.
Many bodybuilders train with the assumption that they have to get a pump and
train very high volume to get growth. This is only partly true. Lets examine
muscle growth before moving on. An increase in muscle diameter is due to

enlargement of individual muscle fibers by an increase in the number and size of

individual myofibrils accompanied by an increase in the amount of connective
tissue. This increase in muscle protein is produced by increased protein
synthesis and decreased protein degradation (Verkhoshansky 2009). There are
two different types of muscular hypertrophy functional and non-functional.
The scientific names are sarcomere hypertrophy (functional) and sarcomplasmic
hypertrophy (non-functional). The definitions are as follows (courtesy of
Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy: The volume of the non-contractile protein and
semifluid plasma between the muscle fibers increases. Although the crosssectional area of the muscle increases, the density of muscle fibers per unit area
decreases and there isnt any corresponding increase in muscle strength.
Sarcomere hypertrophy: An increase in the size and number of sarcomeres,
which comprises the myofibrils. These may be added in series or parallel with
the existing myofibrils, although only the parallel growth will contribute to an
increased ability to produce muscle tension. The area density of myofibrils
increases and there is a significantly greater ability to exert muscular strength.
OK, all the boring stuff is done, but as you can probably tell from the above, we
need a healthy dose of myofibrillar hypertrophy (the second one) to have that
dense, hard muscle look. This type of muscle growth is what you will see from
guys like Ronnie Coleman. He had a lot of dense muscle from years of power
For box squatting, I implement a few different schemes. In one cycle, well
perform 5 X 36 and in another, well follow the dynamic method of the
conjugate system for 24 reps (12 X 2, 8 X 3 or 6 X 4). This is speed-strength
and a weight of 60 percent max is appropriate. Move it as fast as possible on
the way up! If it is slow, it is too heavy. Then, either on a second day of the
week or the next week, depending where we are in the athletes year, I will have
them perform box squats bodybuilding style with 45 sets for 1220 reps.
The other exercises I highly recommend for the same purposes (i.e. being jacked
with strength to boot) are the Bulgarian split squat and the one leg, two arm
deadlift. The Bulgarian split squat with the front foot elevated is my favorite.
Significant depth can be achieved if you get a great stretch in the hip flexors and
work every muscle in the leg including the adductors and quads. If you took a
freeze frame of the bottom position, it should look like an overexaggerated
sprint great hip range of motion with great hip extension. If youre a beginner
with these, use just your body weight. If youre a moderate lifter, use goblet
style ala Dan Johns recommendation. If youre an advanced lifter looking for a
great challenge, use a heavier dumbbell in each hand. Go heavy some days and
go for more volume on the others. Read your body. Strength leads to endurance.

If you get strong in a movement, it will allow you to use more moderate weights
for greater reps down the road, leading to greater hypertrophy.
The one leg, two arm deadlift is essentially a one leg Romanian deadlift. As you
perform the movement, the leg that is planted on the ground will be highly
stimulated from stabilizing because of a changing center of gravity. From the
bottom position, youll get great hip extension as you return to the starting
position because the glutes will be fighting internal rotation of the hip. There is a
lot going on in this exercise.
The other exercises I included in the last article, which are great for your power
bodybuilding program, are deadlifts (all variations), squats (all variations), and
all types of lunges, including lateral lunges, step-ups, and tons of sled work. As
my bodybuilders competitions get closer, and my own for that matter, I
implement a lot of sprint work for conditioning to bring out more definition.
Sprinting is the ultimate speed-strength work for the lower body.
Its time to start thinking outside the box in your training. I remember when I
was first getting into the world of strength training back in high school. I bought
a book titled Big Beyond Belief. It was more of an underground book, but I know
Tom Platz and Fred Hatfield were in it. If you dont know who they are, theyre
two of the most legendary athletes in terms of leg development and strength in
the history of strength sports. I distinctly remember the book saying that any
movement in which you are moving through a plane of motion rather than
staying fixed as you would when using a machine is far superior for stimulating
muscle growth because of the higher demand placed on the central nervous
system. Just a little more information to back up this type of training for muscle