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A Biomechanical Comparison of the Traditional Squat, Powerlifting Squat, and Box Squat

Swinton, Paul A.1; Lloyd, Ray2; Keogh, Justin W. L.3,4; Agouris, Ioannis1; Stewart, Arthur D.5

The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: July 2012 - Volume 26 - Issue 7 - p 1805–1816
doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182577067
Original Research

Swinton, PA, Lloyd, R, Keogh, JWL, Agouris, I, and Stewart, AD. A biomechanical comparison of the traditional squat, powerlifting squat, and box squat. J Strength Cond Res 26(7): 1805–1816, 2012. The purpose of this study was to compare the biomechanics of the traditional squat with 2 popular exercise variations commonly referred to as the powerlifting squat and box squat. Twelve male powerlifters performed the exercises with 30, 50, and 70% of their measured 1 repetition maximum (1RM), with instruction to lift the loads as fast as possible. Inverse dynamics and spatial tracking of the external resistance were used to quantify biomechanical variables. A range of significant kinematic and kinetic differences (p < 0.05) emerged between the exercises. The traditional squat was performed with a narrow stance, whereas the powerlifting squat and box squat were performed with similar wide stances (48.3 ± 3.8, 89.6 ± 4.9, 92.1 ± 5.1 cm, respectively). During the eccentric phase of the traditional squat, the knee traveled past the toes resulting in anterior displacement of the system center of mass (COM). In contrast, during the powerlifting squat and box squat, a more vertical shin position was maintained, resulting in posterior displacements of the system COM. These differences in linear displacements had a significant effect (p < 0.05) on a number of peak joint moments, with the greatest effects measured at the spine and ankle. For both joints, the largest peak moment was produced during the traditional squat, followed by the powerlifting squat, then box squat. Significant differences (p < 0.05) were also noted at the hip joint where the largest moment in all 3 planes were produced during the powerlifting squat. Coaches and athletes should be aware of the biomechanical differences between the squatting variations and select according to the kinematic and kinetic profile that best match the training goals.

1School of Health Sciences, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

2School of Social and Health Sciences, University of Abertay, Dundee, United Kingdom

3Sport Performance Research Institute New Zealand, School of Sport and Recreation, Auckland University of Technology, Auckland, New Zealand

4Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Gold Coast, Australia

5Center for Obesity Research and Epidemiology, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, United Kingdom

Address correspondence to Paul A. Swinton,

The results of this study do not constitute endorsement by the authors or the National Strength and Conditioning Association.

© 2012 National Strength and Conditioning Association