Calendar for the back squat cycle.

More Volume this time

This strength focus will be a bit different than many we’ve done in the past. We’ll be increasing the volume of both the back/box squats and the ring dips each set to create a bit more stimulus for hypertrophy (bigger muscles). Remember that 1-3 reps is usually for maximal strength to weight ratio and power development. 4-8 reps is a blend of power and strength. 9-15 reps per set is usually used for building larger muscles (strength endurance too, but not maximal strength and power).

We may not see as many 1 rep maxes at the end of this cycle. That said, it will be good for folks to spend a bit more ‘time under tension’ and get a bit more experience with higher volume sets.

Notes on Back squat Vs Box Squat

If someone cannot do a decent back squat at or below parallel (without losing position like a ‘kink’ in the lumbar or knees caving in), they should stick with the box squat. This version has a set up that is virtually identical to the regular high bar, Olympic style, back squat, but with the corner of a box directly under the hips (or a stack of plates). For the vast majority of folks, it should not be a wide-stance-low-bar-powerlifting-style (As Louis Simmons calls it: a “good morning to parallel”).

We want to get people good at the version that is going to have the most carry over to other movements like the Olympic lifts, jumping, throwing, etc. The powerlifting style has its place, but it should be reserved for more advanced people or people who want to specialize in powerlifting (for the most part).

This ‘Olympic Style” box squat WILL have a slow, controlled decent, a 2-3 second pause on the box (with legs contracted 50% or more, NOT SOFT), then a 1 second up. Tempo: 2-3-1-2 (2 sec down, 3 sec pause, 1 sec up, 2 sec pause at top). The ‘landing’ on the box should be extremely ‘gentle’. No “plopping” on the box!

People Who Lack Those Extra Inches

Back to those people who can’t do squats for depth with any kind of weight. Have them do this style of box squat to a depth they can perform effectively. We want to get them fairly close to parallel (within 2-3 inches, maybe less if they have short legs), but also using a load that is pretty challenging.

Each time the prescribed percentage goes up for the rest of the people in the gym, they are going to stick with the same weight, but move the depth lower by 1-2”. They should still be able to maintain PERFECT positioning through this ‘new range’!

Once they are decently below parallel (usually 2-3” or lower than parallel), they can stay at the same box height and work on adding load (increasing by 5-10%).


If we didn’t have the box squat as an option, these people would not be able to use a load (safely) that would provide the correct stimulus. They would be stuck going really light and focusing on “form”…(ew).

This technique allows them to work on getting stronger, while also improving their effective range of motion in a safe and controlled manner.

Box Squats as a “Slow Motion” Teaching Tool

Using box squats for beginners also allows people to ‘break’ the movement up into two separate movements. There is a controlled downward decent, a pause, then a deliberate ‘up’. By slowing down the movement, beginners can focus on improving more techniques per lift (one on the way down, and one on the way up).

When the back squat is performed by itself without a pause, people can usually only focus on one thing for the entire lift (like keeping the core tight, controlling the knees, where the pressure is on the feet, etc.)

Another Case for Box Squats: Advanced Folks

As people get more advanced, larger and larger loads become very energy intensive. It takes a lot more time and volume… as well as an increased risk of injury to keep getting higher loads.

One way to circumnavigate this is by having these ‘advanced’ people change different variables of the lift.

Load is the easiest thing to change. Usually the next one is number of reps in a set, or number of sets (at the same number of reps). After that, people start thinking about tempo or speed. There is also rest between sets and even rest between reps!

Other things that we can ‘play around’ with are range of motion, more advanced/stricter form, accommodating resistance (like bands and chains), ‘unstable’ or ‘active’ loads (like hanging kb off of a bar), uneven loads, and more!

By adding a variable or two to the lift (in the case of box squats), we are changing the tempo and removing the stretch reflex, we can reduce the central nervous system demand on people (CNS demand) while also decreasing the rate of injury (because lighter loads are being used).

Research has also shown that using ‘variations’ will increase the myelin sheath generation of our neurons and nervous system (this is responsible for learning, skill development, and even staving off dementia and Alzheimer’s). By requiring our bodies to adapt to a broader range of stimuli, we are able to achieve higher levels of performance at the original endeavor. (Read Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code” for more details)

Back Vs Box Squat Wrap Up

Beginners and Advanced people should consider doing the box squat for the duration of the strength focus. People who move well, who are more ‘intermediate’ (2-5 years experience or 1.5 – 2.0 times bodyweight back squat at full depth) can choose between the two. Box squats will usually start at about 50%-60% of a person’s regular back squat max.

I will say that it is best if people stick to the same choice throughout the 6 weeks. Bouncing between box and regular squats will not be the best way to get the most out of this strength focus. At the end, we’ll test back squats (not box).

I hope this helps explain some of the theory being this strength focus! Please be sure to convey this to you members in your classes (and by copy and pasting this if you wish).

Thrive on.


Context: Practice – How much rest between reps on squats and ring dips?

Dynamic Warm Up Option: 200m jog, 300m row, or .25 mi airdyne, then 2 sets: 5 side lunges per side, 5 single arm ring row per side, 5 glute bridges, 5 broad jumps, 10 wall ball

Mobility/Activation/Prehab: Hip

Skill Practice Warm Up: Spend 6 minutes working up to a challenging weighted pistol (or progression) on each leg

Strength: 7×3 back or box squat – 2 of 12 (7 sets of 3 reps, same weight across at 70-80% of max)

Super Set: 7×5 weighted ring dip or progression (7 sets of 5 reps)

Metabolic Conditioning:Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag

8-minute AMRAP (as many rounds as possible)

Chest-to-Bar Pull-up (Health: 8 ring row / Athletic: 8*/ Performance: 12)

12 Front Squat (Health: 55lb / Athletic: 85lb* / Performance: 135lb)

40′ bear crawl

*Women’s “Performance” weights and reps (Rx)

Scaling Guide: 3 – 6 rounds, about 1:45 per round. Scale up: 15 c2b, 20′ hs walk instead of bear crawl.

Compare to: July 17, 2017

Coaching Tips: For the chest-to-bars, be sure to focus on the legs and the hips to get you up. The better the kip, the easier the pull-up. Be ready to drop to small sets if needed to save the hands and grip for later rounds. Aim to complete the front squats without putting the bar down. If you need to rest, try to rest at the top with the bar racked. Don’t move slow on the bear crawls. Move quickly and drop to a knee if you need to rest. The longer you are in the ‘up’ position, the more work you are doing!

Optional ‘Cash Out’ or Hypertrophy: 60 seconds (per side, split as desired) side plank, 20 wall balls, 3 rounds, OR 3 sets of 12 single arm db shoulder press in super set with 15 loaded hip extensions