Strength Training

Helpful box squat tip & incorporating Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Program into the WS4SB template

Q: Joe – I just watched your latest youtube video of 2 of your hs kids squatting 435 for 4. Very impressive as usual coming from your gym. I have 2 questions for you:

1 – I recently attended a seminar at a high school and got to witness the football team squat. It was painful to watch. There were a lot of rounded backs and kids crashing onto the box during their attempts. I realize not all hs kids are going to squat perfectly but do you have any words of wisdom you can share with your readers regarding any coaching cues or things that have helped your athletes “get it”. I think I’m pretty good at teaching the box squat but many of my athletes don’t understand the concept of sitting on the box while staying tight. Any helpful tips, tricks or cues on this specific topic would be MUCH appreciated!!


2 – I noticed in the description of your latest video you mentioned the athletes in the video were on wendler’s 5/3/1 program.. Does this mean your not doing ws4sb anymore at your facility??



A: Thanks for the email…and I appreciate the fact that you think that all of our athletes “get it”, but trust me, they don’t J


We work real hard coaching our athletes so they do eventually “get it”, but many times it takes longer than we would like; it’s just the nature of the business, I guess. Basically, what I’m trying to say is, “I know exactly where you’re coming from!” With that being said, I think I have a cue that may help you. It has definitely helped my younger athletes understand how to “sit” on the box during a box squat without crashing down like they’re crashing onto their couch to watch TV!


I’m going to assume that you’re teaching all the “classic” box squat cues…arch your back, squeeze the bar, break at the hips before the knees, sit back, push your knees out, etc., etc. Here’s a super-simple analogy I’ve been using to help athletes comprehend what it means to “sit” on the box while staying “tight”. Here’s what I do…


I tell the kids to pretend that the box is a scale. Now, if I weigh 225 lbs. and I sit my fat ass on the box/scale like I was sitting on my couch, the “scale” would read 225 lbs. (or very close to it). Next, I stand up and then sit back onto the box using proper box squat form. Once I reach the box, I pause. While “sitting” on the box, I tell them that even though I weigh 225 lbs., if the box were a scale, it would now read about 150 lbs. At this point, they can see that I’m “sitting” on the box differently than my first example. They notice the “tension” in my body and something about the “scale” analogy makes them “get it”. I will then ask them what they weigh. If a kid tells me he weighs 175 lbs., I will tell him to make the “scale” read 100 lbs. each time he sits back on the box. This little analogy/cue has really made a difference in many athlete’s ability to “ease” onto the box during the descent of the box squat. As coaches, we should always be figuring out ways to explain exercises/techniques in the simplest way possible. Try to think of how you would explain things to a 3rd-grader; this is how simple your explanations should be to your athletes! Remember that most athletes love playing their sport; they don’t love the science of training like us coaches do. Keep your verbage simple and understandable so all of their energy can go into performing the lift! Between school and their playbook, they have enough shit on their minds…don’t turn your weightroom into a 4-credit course! (Sorry for the little rant, but some coaches needed to hear that!)


Check out the sample videos below. All three of these athletes have their own individual box squat technique, yet they’re all able to handle impressive weights without crashing onto the box…




With regards to Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 program

I think it is an incredible program. I love simple programs that produce BIG results and Jim’s 5/3/1 program definitely delivers!

With that being said, my WS4SB template is still the basic template we follow in my gym for most of our athletes. But, we’ve been experimenting with Jim’s 5/3/1 set/rep/percentage scheme for the squat and bench press on Max-Effort Days for some of our athletes. For example, on Max-Effort Lower Body Day, we will use the 5/3/1 sets, reps and percentages each week for the main lift (free squat or box squat); but then we will follow “our” template for the rest of the workout. I’m usually not a fan of “mixing” programs, but I feel this is the exception to the rule. Jim’s set/rep/percentage scheme works great for the first exercise; then our athletes get the extra volume from our template. This is a great combo for younger athletes (high school & college kids) who can handle – and recover from – more volume.


Try out these recommendations and then give us your feedback in the comments section below!


Joe D.





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