Box squatting is a technique made popular by Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell, but it’s not only beneficial for powerlifters to do them. They have a great carryover to Olympic lifts and to CrossFit. And, when done correctly, the box squat is one of the safest and most efficient ways for athletes of all skill levels to squat for many reasons.
- Teaches Proper Mechanics: Box squats are an excellent way to teach new people how to squat properly…or how to break bad mechanics for those who have been squatting incorrectly for a while. It teaches lifters the proper mechanics of how to reach back with their hips first, and not with their knees driving forward first. It also gives a physical target for athletes to sit back to and receive instant feedback on the depth they should be hitting. Depending on their current ability, the box height can be varied from above parallel for beginners or those with mobility limitations, all the way down to a short box that will put the lifter in a below parallel position that we shoot for in CrossFit.
- Strengthens Posterior Chain: Since the hips go back so far in a box squat and the shins stay vertical, the hips, hamstrings and glutes are the primary movers. Many people are very quad-dominant in their normal squatting patterns, but this movement pattern will strengthen and bring up any lagging muscles in the posterior chain by changing their body positioning. By strengthening these large muscle groups, most people will also see improvements in their pulling movements, like deadlifts, cleans and snatches. Many people will also notice that their lower back health improves.
- Increases Explosive Strength: The box squat teaches lifters how to explode quickly out of the bottom of a squat. In a normal squat, an athlete can use the stretch shortening cycle (or the “bounce”) out of the bottom. With box squats, the eccentric (or lowering) portion is separated from the concentric (driving up) portion, which really helps to build reversal strength when starting from essentially a dead stop. For example, box squats can help an athlete get out of the hole when catching a squat clean in the rock-bottom position.
- Working Around Knee Issues: Box squats can also be a great tool to use when athletes are experiencing knee pain or a knee injury. As mentioned earlier, a lot of people are very quad dominant and drive their knees forward in their squats. By sitting the hips and knees back, the majority of the loading is placed on the powerful muscles of the hips, hamstrings and glutes, which will take the pressure off the knees while squatting.
So, don’t be afraid of box squatting or think that you have to be a powerlifter to do them. They are very beneficial when done correctly and will carry over to your normal squat as well as to other compound movements. Give them a try during your next squatting session!
When people think of CrossFit, the typical image is of buff, sweaty guys and girls throwing around barbells, flipping tires and doing all sorts of crazy gymnastic movements that you could never imagine yourself doing. However, step into a group class at any local CrossFit gym, and you’ll see a variety of people from all ages and backgrounds working out together.
Many people are scared to jump into CrossFit without getting fit first; this is backwards. Most people are actually not super fit when they start, but have developed into amazing athletes after months and years of work of consistency. The beauty of CrossFit is that everyone can do it on day one. Yes everyone. All the movements and workouts can be “scaled” or modified to suit any fitness level. Whether you are a former athlete or someone who has never played a sport or worked out in your life. We have members in their 60s and 70s, as well as members with physical injuries or limitations that we work around daily. The coaches at BCF are knowledgable and can guide everyone to movements and modifications that are best suited to their current skill level.
After you consistently workout for several months, you’ll find yourself doing things that you probably didn’t think you ever could. Maybe that’s getting a pull up, running 400m without stopping or simply taking the stairs at work without getting winded. After you knock those goals off the list, you’ll begin to realize that the sky’s the limit! There’s always room to grow in CrossFit, so you’ll never get bored. Just as workouts can be scaled to suit a beginner’s needs, they can also be modified for intermediate and advanced athletes as you progress.
Don’t wait to get fit before checking us out. We will get you to your goals with a great group of people and knowledgable coaches to guide you on your journey. You can schedule a time for a FREE intro session to come in, talk about your goals and see if we are a good fit for you.
Talk to anyone about CrossFit and many will immediately counter with “I heard CrossFit gets people injured.” I hear this concern often from prospective members. However, at Battleship CrossFit and many other CrossFit gyms, we prioritize movement quality and member safety above everything else.
This starts with our On-Ramp program. We require all new members who don’t have CrossFit experience to go through this training. The primary purpose of this is to breakdown the most common movements we do to ensure that members are moving safely before joining a group class and adding intensity. After members “graduate” into group classes, our coaches keep a close eye on everyone to make adjustments and modifications as needed to suit the needs of every member.
We warm up as a group each day at BCF. This is a crucial part of the day’s workout. Having a proper warm up decreases the likelihood of injuries. The goal of a warm up is to increase body temperature and activate the muscles being used in the training each day.
Although CrossFit is a high-intensity training program, that doesn’t mean that it should be 100% intensity EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. We balance high-intensity work with low-intensity work to facilitate recovery and avoid overtraining. Most people are already chronically stressed out, sleep-deprived and surviving on a less-than-ideal diet. Add on another “stress” of intense training day after day, and your body may not be able to recovery properly.
Bodybuilding and accessory movements sometimes get a bad rap in the CrossFit world, but they super important to a balanced workout plan. Including these special exercises increases muscle mass, which not only improves body composition, but it also decreases the risk of injury. In addition, accessory work can help to bring up any imbalances that people often develop from doing the same movements repeatedly.
And finally, an important part of reducing the risk of injury falls on the judgement of the individual. it’s always a good idea to be coachable, start slow to perfect technique and THEN add intensity. Not the other way around. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it! Be humble and aware of your current abilities and know when to take a step back. It’s much more important that members stay healthy and able to attend classes regularly than getting injured and being out for weeks or months. Health is not a sprint; it’s a marathon.
CrossFit is an excellent way to become faster, stronger and healthier for people of all ages and backgrounds. it prioritizes functional movements that you use in everyday life to make your quality of life better. There’s a TON of other gyms and a variety of training programs that you could choose for your fitness journey. No matter what training method you choose, be sure to do your homework on one that also prioritizes recovery, longevity and an improved quality of life.
If you’re interested in check us out, book a free intro session here and let’s chat! 🙂
As CrossFitters, most of us enjoy doing the “big” lifts and complex gymnastic movements. And I don’t disagree! There’s nothing more fun than throwing around a heavy barbell or finally conquering kipping pull ups. BUT…it’s also really important to focus on accessory exercises to help you become even more successful in unlocking your athletic potential.
In CrossFit, we do a lot of bilateral movements (both arms/legs), which is great for building power and absolute strength, but it can cause muscular imbalances from one side of the body to the other over time. For this reason, it is important to incorporate uni-lateral work (single arm/leg), single joint movements (like curls!) and strict movements to bring up any muscular imbalances. In other words, accessory work helps to bring up the weakest link in your chain. For example, if you’ve been stuck at the same back squat max for a while now, maybe you are actually being limited by your hamstring or glute strength, for example. By utilizing exercises that focus solely on building up these lagging muscles, you can often bring up your big lifts, too.
If that weren’t enough, most accessory and assistance work can be done in high-volume with little to no risk of injury. On the flip side, doing something like back squatting heavy every single day in hopes of increasing your squat numbers does raise your risk of injury. Also, by doing accessory work in high volume, you will likely add muscle mass to your frame. (Ladies – this does not mean you’ll get “bulky!”) Increased muscle mass means you’ll look better at the beach, burn extra calories while resting, get stronger AND your risk of injury goes down even more!
Several days a week, we program “cash out” or accessory exercises with the goal of helping you to be a better at CrossFit. So please, if you can, spend a couple minutes doing the extra work and see how it can help you!
Ahh, the elusive pull up. It is a movement that doesn’t come easy for a lot of people. However, if you’ve been doing CrossFit for a while, it’s worth devoting the time to focus on them as they are a great way to build upper body strength in the lats, arms and increase your grip endurance. They are also a functional, real-world movement that can be utilized outside of a CrossFit class. And finally, if you are interested in ever performing kipping pull ups, butterfly pull ups or muscle ups, you MUST have strict pull ups first!
Reasons Why You Aren’t Getting Better
While banded pull ups and jumping pull-ups are a good progression to use during a fast-paced metcon to keep you moving and keep your heat rate up, they will likely never get you to a real, unassisted pull up. By using this type of assistance, you are never actually holding 100% of your bodyweight and going through full range of motion (ROM). This means that you will likely not develop enough strength through the bottom position, where the band is stretched the most and provides the most assistance.
Second, unlike the weighted movements we do in CrossFit, where you can decrease the weight on the bar, you’re stuck with your bodyweight on movements like pull-ups! Obviously, the lighter you are, the easier it is to pull your bodyweight over a bar. When we first start out on our fitness journey, sometimes we may have a little weight to lose, which is completely normal. After working out regularly and getting your nutrition dialed in, you can get to a weight that is ideal for bodyweight movements AND all the weight training we do in CrossFit.
Progressions to Practice
So now that we’ve identified a couple problems that may be stalling your progress, you may be wondering how to start working on getting your first pull up. For that, you’ll have to devote some time (consistently) to developing pulling strength.
1 – Hangs:
Being comfortable in holding your own weight on a pull up bar is the first step. If you grip strength is lacking, practice hangs first. A couple times a week, simply hang from the pull up bar for 2-3 sets of a max hold. Make sure you are in an “active” hang. This means that you should pull your shoulder blades down and back (think of tucking your shoulder blades into your pockets.) Once you get to the point that you can hold for 15-20 seconds at a time, move on to the next progression.
2 – Static Holds:
Starting with your chin over the bar (either jump up or use a box to assist), hold in that position for as long as possible. You should start shaking as your muscles fatigue. Once you cannot hold any longer, lower yourself to the ground. Rest 1-2 minutes between and perform for 2-4 sets a couple times per week. Once you can hold for 10+ seconds with your chin over the bar, move on to the next progression.
3 – Negatives:
You will start with your chin over the bar by either jumping into position or using a box to assist you. From here, lower yourself as slow as possible through the full range of motion until your arms are straight. After your arms are straight, you can put your feet on the floor and start the movement over.
A couple things to keep in mind on negatives are that you want to work through the full ROM. This means that you do not relax until your arms are completely straight. A lot of people will lower slowly until the very end range of motion and then just fall to the ground. If you do this, you will never develop strength in that range, which is often the hardest part of the pull up.
Practice this on days that we aren’t already doing pull-ups, either before or after the workout. Each week, try to increase the amount of time it takes you to lower through full ROM. If you are able to lower under control with a 5+ second count, consider adding a weight vest (with a very small amount of weight at first) and repeating until you can lower slowly with weight added.
4 – Accessory Work:
Wok on the progressions above 2-3 times per week on days that aren’t already pull up intensive. In addition, you can add in accessory movements to help increase your pulling strength. Things like bent over barbell or dumbbell rows, ring rows or scap pulls are great options. If you have access to a lat pulldown, use it!
Finally, be patient and make sure you practice consistently. While some people may be able to obtain their first unassisted pull up in a few weeks, it may take several months for others. Keep practicing each week and you will get there. And getting your first strict pull up is just the beginning. After that, tackling all varieties of kipping pull ups and muscle ups will be next!