Zach Even-Esh

Box Squats vs Free Squats?


The argument of box squats vs free squats is endless.

With the box squat you must sit back and then you literally pull yourself up using primarily hamstring work.

At the bottom of the box squat your shins are parallel, while at the bottom of a free squat or weightlifting squat, your knees will often be angled forward and you are going to parallel or lower.

The free squat hits more quads and more overall leg work.

Here are my thoughts on box squats vs free squats…..


I use them both.

I don’t discriminate against either style of squats because I respect ALL things that make me and others stronger. I use them both for the athletes I train as well. The free squat requires greater ankle mobility and we can see how low they can go without a box while maintaining an upright posture. I can also see if they can pause and explode with heavy weights in the deep bottom and still come out alive! ha ha

The box squat allows me to work with someone who needs greater posterior strength, teaches them to be athletic by learning BOTH squat variations, teaches them to explode from a dead stop position, to maintain knees out and more.

I love both style of squats. If you’re hating on squats you’re likely a complainer in life and can’t think for yourself. I love Louie Simmons’ methods but I can think for myself and see a great benefit to using both forms of squats.

You do NOT have to be a slave to only one style of squats.

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In an effort to be more explosive and to build up my posterior to boost my deadlift I’ll be using banded box squats more frequently.

If you are a CrossFitter you must get good at ALL styles of squats. There are MANY mistakes being made when people box squat. Check out this video to ensure your box squat AND free squat help build one another UP but MOST importantly, you want to use these squats to up your performance.

For example; I found that when I box squat it doesn’t have a BIG carry over to my free squat, BUT, when I up my box squat, I am able to have BIG improvements on my strongman events, my jumps and my speed.

You MUST identify how an exercise helps you and in which ways.

The first step, of course, is to do the box squat correctly, otherwise, it will NOT work.

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Here’s the take away I am hoping you roll with after reading / watching Underground Strength TV and being a subscriber to our newsletter:

Think for yourself.

Don’t take everything everyone says blindly. Instead, put it to the test and see what works for you and what doesn’t. Don’t be a slave to one of your internet heroes. Instead, become your own person and don’t allow everyone else to do the thinking for you.

The best way to learn is under the bar.

Live The Code,



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13 Responses to Box Squats vs Free Squats?

  1. Daniel Linsacum says:

    I like to use the box squat to teach Squats. It helps get them to push their hips back and establishes a consistent depth. I use the box with both front and back squats! I find you need to have as many tools in your cheat as possible for different physiological responses but to also help change things up for the athletes. Happy Holidays brother!


  2. Sven says:

    I guess as long as you do either one you’ll be alright. Variety and mixing it up will benefit you most certainly. The ones who sit on their theory and dont listen wont go anywhere after they hit a certain level. Simple as that.

    I’ve been experimenting a lot with short sprinter crossfit wods and heavy lifts lately and the results have been very good. I’m not a heavy lifter as I definetly focus more on athletics. Nevertheless I’ve hit a plateau in my lifts and have been there for quite some time. Lately I’ve reduced my endurance work due to time issues and have focused more on getting any trainingdone at all. So I switched to short X-fit WODs (Fran, Helen,etc) and combined them with heavy basic lifts. Cant really figure out why but my PRs have gone up in every lift AND the times of the WODs have gone down simultaneously. Part of it is certainly due to the taxing mental issues during the X-fit WODs. After that every other pain seems less hurtful.
    Anyone experienced similar things, results?

    • Zach says:

      Sven U answered your own question bro. You are stronger and if all you do are typical crossfit metcon sessions you don’t get stronger, period.

      As you get stronger and still train stamina, your CF workouts get better!

      • Sven says:

        Thx for the input Zach,
        I certainly cycle through all variations of training (albeit metcons are my horse) – not only within a week but also on weekly and monthly basis.
        But I’ve never combined those two mentioned training regimens in one training session or in one day.
        I’m certainly also prone to overdoing training – so maybe in cutting back and concentrating it, it helped my body to recover more quickly and therefore to be stronger for the PRs.
        Never stop working & learning.

  3. Robb Francis says:

    Zach, I have found that regular sguatting every third week has given Mme awesome results n carryover. An example of this would be: two – three weeks box swat with safety squat bar then free squat. Two – three weeks working up to a heavy double or even single good morning and the next week free squat. 2-3 more weeks of box squatting with a straight bar then next free squat. This would work into a two to three week free squat session using belt n knee wraps to really test strength. Once again, the carry over is tremendous doing it this way. Belielve me, Iv’e been in the trenches for many years. This method really works!!!

  4. Matthew says:

    When training for an athlete who does want extra mass, I train them with more box squats. Quads can hypertrophy and have the athlete carrying extra but uneccessary lbs… I’m talking wrestlers, pole vaulters and powerlifters trying to stay at a certain weight.

    • Zach says:

      Interesting…. most wrestlers train so much AND don’t eat enough that I found their nutrition intake and training output determine the mass gains more so

  5. Dennis says:


    I love this debate. I agree with what Mark Bell said in the video. I think the answer is to mix it up if your body is healthy/flexible enough. I personally mix it up in 4 week increments on my max effort lifts. For example,I’ll do 4 weeks of wide no gear box squats, followed by 4 weeks of olympic no-no-no squats, followed by 4 weeks of medium width foot stance box squats, followed by 4 weeks of heavy good mornings. This seems to work really well for me. I max out on squats usually twice a year and have almost always hit a new PR each time. I rotate the same way through conventional deads, sumo deads, trap bar deads, romanian deads and heavy good mornings. I forgot to mention I do all of this and mainting the same weight plus or minus 6lbs year round.

    • Zach says:

      Thnx Dennis – I used to do 4 week cyles myself but I got bored so now I switch almost every week like Louie speaks about

      Louies crew switches ME lift every week

      You found what works for you and that’s the ticket!

  6. Zack says:


    I’m relatively new to box squats/squats in general. I mostly do leg presses just because they’re by far one of my favorite leg exercises. I get knee issues from time to time from my XC days, but especially with squats if I accidentally extend my knees over my feet. I want to experiment with different squat variations to see what would maximize strength gains/not bother my knee. Suggestions for squat variations?


    • Zach says:


      focus on sitting back and also working hamstrings

      in addition, roll out your IT band on a foam roller, that is the side portion of your hip

      squats when done properly don’t bother the knees

      leg presses often hurt the back as people tend to round their back and throw their head and neck forward

      Once U learn proper technique, things feel great

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Zach Even-Esh is an Author, Founder of The Underground Strength Gym & Creator of The Underground Strength Coach Certification.

Zach's inspiration in training comes from the Golden Era of Bodybuilding & Days of Old School Strength. His mission is to help You kick ass & take names in Life AND Lifting without the hype, fancy fads or gimmicks. Zach's Commitment To Your Success Is Unmatched. He Knows What It's Like To Go From A Weakling To An Unstoppable BEAST In Charge Of His Life, Business & Destiny. Zach Made It Happen Through The Iron and Now it's Your Turn!

Zach Even-Esh