Correcting Faulty Mechanics - The Box Squat

The Box Squat fix


Often the role of a trainer is less about teaching new movements and more about helping the trainee remember movement patterns that have been lost over years of inactivity. From the trainee point of view, there may be a need to first unlearn bad habits before learning, or relearning the better habits.

Of the wide assortment of exercises found in kettlebell training and other forms of exercise, there is probably no single exercise which highlights restrictions in movement more than the simple (but not easy) Squat.

For long-term success in an exercise program, it is a smart idea to progress slowly and make sure you can perform the Squat with good form using only your bodyweight, before loading additional weight to your frame in the form of a kettlebell, barbell or any other loaded apparatus. 

In assessing a squat, the movement initiates in the hips, not at the knees. A good squat starts with sitting back with the butt, which properly fires the correct movement sequence in the posterior chain of the body. A way to describe this sitting-back action is hip-hinging. Like the hinges on a door, the Squat movement involves rotation around a fixed hip joint. There is no shifting of the weight forward and back or side-to-side. Instead there is an opening and closing of the hip joint via flexing and extending.

A common mistake in performance of the Squat is initiating the movement by sliding the knees forward.

The mistake can potentially cause strains or sprains at the front of the knee. If this faulty forward knee slide occurs during the squat, it is important to correct that problem early on, otherwise it will likely persist and potentially create pain and further restrictions in movement. Adding additional weight to your body is not likely to correct this problem, rather compound it.

Remember a basic goal of exercising is to improve health, not to destroy your body through adding load on top of incorrect movement. Fix the movement first, then add load. 

A helpful drill to reinforce the correct hip-hinging pattern and improve Squat mechanics is the Box Squat.

Stand in front of a sturdy box or chair with feet shoulder wide or slight wider. The box gives you the confidence to sit way back and load your hips, while simultaneously keeping tension in the hips and midsection.

The action is just like sitting onto a chair, however you don’t actually sit on the box. Instead, lightly touch your butt and upper part of your hamstrings down to the top of the box. This way, you learn to keep full control of your body. Rather than collapsing onto the box, maintain a firm midsection/core which will support your posture

Follow a simple breathing pattern: inhale as you sit back to touch the box, exhale as you press your feet into the ground and stand back up. 

Other alignment points to keep in mind:

-Keep your weight on the heels

-Eyes looking forward and maintain a neutral spine with a slightly arched lower back

-Press your knees out to the side to avoid allowing them to collapse inward

-Stand in front of the box, close enough that you can easily reach your butt to the box, but far enough that the back of your knees do not make contact with the box. 

Practicing the Box Squat in conjunction with the Kettlebell Goblet Squat will go a long way towards improving the pattern of the Squat and sets a strong foundation for all other exercises. 

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