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Box Squat and Piriformis Mumbo Jumbo

Written on October 29, 2008 at 9:00 am, by Eric Cressey

Q: A lot of strength coaches and athletes (myself included) utilize variations of the box squat. I’ve heard other strength coaches (one in particular) indicate that it does not fully stimulate/activate the piriformis.

What are your thoughts on the issue of the box vs. free squat in terms of advantages and disadvantages? I currently utilize both variations however it would be nice to be able to articulate to an individual the pros/cons.

A: I don’t buy it. For one, the piriformis is a tiny muscle that is typically very overused. I wish we could get more people to calm it down and used their glutes for the majority of the work!

Second, box squats are one tool in your toolbox; we use them in addition to a lot of other lower extremity exercises. In fact, they’re an integral part of the Maximum Strength program. Nobody ever criticized chin-ups because they don’t target the gastrocnemius – but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t useful for what they’re intended.

Additionally, I haven’t seen any EMG studies to show the piriformis argument is legit.

  • Hi Eric;
    Discussion…
    Are box squats a superior assistance exercise to pause squats?
    Both help to establish a groove.
    Pause (2 sec) squats do not load the spine (moment of contact) as do box squats.
    The static benefits of holding the bottom position with no external support…
    Box squats tend to relax the lifter in the hole. This isn’t something you’d want to learn as a powerlifter.
    Best Wishes, Saul Shocket
    PS
    I’ve found that hip width stance (DL stance) pause squats are a great conventional DL assistance exercise.
    PPS
    Some years ago, I was speaking with George Frenn in regard to box squats. This was particularly interesting, because he’s credited with being the originator. George felt that today’s version of box squats were being performed incorrectly.

  • Mieke

    I do seem to notice I get steffer when it comes to exorotation at the hip (using A&C), something I never had issues with before doing another cycle of WSB and thus box squatting as a rule. Is this a coincidence? Does this actually come from box squatting, or is it the band work I am doing?


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