We’re finally getting back around to the best squats for athletes.

I’ll be covering my overall picks for the squats that athletes should favor in their training as well as the specific variation you should be doing based on your sport and training goals. 

I also throw in my overall favorite squat that every athlete should be doing. 

Athlete Performs Back Squat

This is a follow up to my first article where we talked about the best stance and depth for a squat. Both of these factors are dependent on an individual athlete’s mobility and range of motion.

For your best stance and depth, I recommend quickly reading on how to find the position that allows you to create the most torque and power in your squat. 

If you remember my take on low, or “ass-to-grass” squats I feel this causes an over-activation in the quads that I DON’T recommend for athletes. Too much quad strength can often lead to weak glutes which is the most essential part of any jumping or sprint training. 

Let’s get back to what I want to address today:

Which squat is best?

When it comes to a squat, the three most common variations we think of are front squat, back squat (high or low bar) and the box squat.

When it comes to my training I believe there’s a time and place for each one.

I’m going to get into each squat variation to discuss why I like it, and how I think it’s valuable in your training. 

*Keep in mind that when it comes to any kind of lift, training is just a stimulus to the body. Depending on each particular athlete, you’ll need to apply a different kind of stimulus in order to achieve whatever result you’re looking for. 

We apply stress, we recover from stress and become stronger. 


Each squat has its own variation in the way it stimulates the muscle and nervous system.

The overall goal of any squat, is to strengthen the glutes and the athlete’s hip extension. This translates over to athletic movement on any field or court.


Athlete Performs Front Squat

I love this movement because it’s amazing for training thoracic extension. This makes it a favorite when working with high school athletes 

After being hunched, sitting at a desk all day – performing a front squat forces them to lift up through the elbows and strengthen hip extension at the same time. 

However, there’s a few reasons I DON’T believe this is the best squat when it comes to jumping higher and sprinting faster. 

With the our next two variations, you typically have the opportunity to load the axial spine with a lot more weight as opposed to a front squat.

While there’s a space in your training for the front squat, it’s not the best for glute activation and strengthening.


Athlete Performs Back Squat

At both high bar and low bar positions, the back squat is great for enhancing hip extension and glute activation. 

Here, your stance and depth are dependent on your range of motion.

Whether you keep your feet narrow or they’re a slightly wider than the hips, aim for the position that gives you a lot of torque. Achieve this by external rotation of the feet into the ground.

In a box squat with good form you’re still activating the stretch-shortening cycle. This refers to an eccentric stretch followed by a concentric contraction in the same muscle.

This brings us to the best squat for athletes. 


Athlete Performs Box Squat for Strength Gains

Through all of my coaching and personal personal experience, the box squat is the best squat for an athlete. Here’s why:

First off, you’re typically able to add a much greater load onto the bar than you would with just a single rep max on the back squat.

I’ve seen athletes who maxed out at 300lb on the back squat, only to increase their max by anywhere from 10-20% more weight on the box squat.

Doing a box squat allows these same guys to hit anywhere from 330lbs to 350lbs and even higher. 

This occurs because the athlete is forced to eccentrically control a higher stimulus of weight when sitting on the box. They must simultaneously, eccentrically load the hips and the glutes.

Now out of a dead stop position at the bottom, your concentric movement is a powerful hip extension to stand. 

To perform this squat:

  1. Take the feet outside the shoulders. Come to stand in front of a plyo box right behind your knees. 
  2. With the barbell on your shoulders, back up until your heels are just in front of the box and sit the hips back and St until you sit down on the box. 
  3. From a dead stop, explode out of the squat keeping the weight in your heels. 


Athlet Performs Barbell Squat

The box squat stands as my top squat for athletes to perform.

Over time I’ve seen better gains, increases in vertical jump and sprinting speed.

Use a combination of all squat variations to keep your training dynamics.

If you’re interested in learning the best way to program squats into your strength training, I’ve recently put together the Athletic Strength Formula

I know you want to be making dramatic strength increases on a regular basis…

Click below to read what this program can do for your training:




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