A kBox squat, simply, is a squat pattern done using the never-more-popular kBox. The kBox is a piece of equipment that employs a flywheel concept to maximize eccentric training.
In general, a kBox squat assumes a typical squat pattern. However, you have an added piece that gives the individual resistance, rather than some kind of free weight.
Every movement has 3 phases: concentric, isometric, and eccentric. In the eccentric (lowering) portion of a movement, we are the strongest. We can lift more weight going down in a squat, than we can lift back up.
The kBox allows us to overload the eccentric portion of the movement, in this case, the squat.This occurs during the lowering portion of the squat. As the flywheel spins, it creates tension on the strap which will pull you down. You have to use your eccentric strength to come down in a controlled manner.
When you spin the flywheel and create tension, that pulls the athlete down. The faster the wheel spins, the stronger it pulls you do. The resistance of the kBox squat adjusts based on the user.
In fact, the faster you stand up, the harder it will pull you down. Within each rep, you can make it easier or harder based on how quickly you stand up. Among elite athletes, the goal is to still stand up fast, and be able to control the weight on the way down.
You can also make the exercise easier or harder by adding or subtracting wheels of various sizes to the kBox.
Squat pattern training will incorporate control of the hips, knees and feet as the individual performs a repetition. The kBox will change the squat pattern training because of the direction of the resistance and the emphasis on upper extremity control. The flywheel will cause more eccentric control as the athlete lowers during the squat pattern.
Depending upon the tempo of the squat, that eccentric control can be much greater because of the speed of the flywheel. Having the athlete continue to activate their core is essential to avoid injuries during this exercise.
They’re not cheap and if you’re a serious athlete, you’ll need more of the bigger wheels. The most popular brand is EXXENTRIC and the cost of their kBox is $1700.
Wheels individually can range from $80-$120 depending upon the quantity and size.
You can’t break down the boxes for easy storage, so you have to find an area where it can live for easy access without getting in the way of other equipment. From experience, the inside of two pulley machines works well and allows for quick setup. It can also live behind a squat rack and be moved back and forth when you use it.
The kBox squat, or any kBox movement, is not for beginners. If you haven’t mastered basic leg training, you shouldn’t worry about going out of your way to do kBox squats. Stick to the basics. Barbells, dumbbells, you know the drill.
Understanding the proper body mechanics the athlete should have while performing a kBox squat is the biggest reason. The last thing you need is to blow out your back or pull a hamstring while performing this exercise doing an exercise that’s too hard for you.
If you’re a beginner and happen to have one at your disposal, there’s nothing wrong with the kBox squat, as long as you can do so safely. As mentioned, make sure the wheels don’t spin too fast and therefore pull you down ever faster. In general, keep the resistance light and don’t stand up too quickly.
Working with NHL players, I saw that their power was often too much for the kBox strap. As the athlete would complete the squat and return to a neutral position, the strap attached to the kBox would often snap, and I mean rip in half, which would cause a slight panic inside of the facility. While it was never dangerous for the athletes when the strap broke, making sure their workouts stayed efficient and on-time made fixing the strap important to the flow of the day.
Training eccentrically in both in-season and the offseason is an area of emphasis for strength coaches. The kBox could be a piece of equipment that could be added to train your athletes that could take them to the next level.
In-season training is much less rigorous and more sport-specific. Having the kBox as a tool for your in-season training can allow the athlete to perform sport-specific movements at a resistance that can be controlled by the coach. For example, players who may be in and out of the lineup can allow the coach to increase the size or #of wheels on the kBox to allow for a greater strain during the workout.
For offseason training, this piece of equipment can add a different dynamic to your program. From experience, implementing this piece of equipment during phase II of the training program, coupled with a 1080 lateral push off, saw the athlete increase their power, as well as prepare for phase III, which would be more sport specific and on-ice training.
Let’s say you’re a powerlifter, the kBox can help you train the eccentric portion of your squat, which often is the hardest to overload. Therefore, it can have a place in a well-periodized powerlifting program to help you hit that new PR.
Even for physique athletes, the increase in lactic acid from eccentric training can support the hormonal environment necessary for fat loss, as we’ve written about here.
That depends on the size of your training group. In my experience, depending upon the gym size, having more than one kBox alleviates wait times between sets. This allows the workout to move smoothly while also allowing for more 1-on-1 coaching when performing the exercise on the kBox.
Again, that depends how much use you’ll get out of it. For college team settings, many found it to be a useful tool because of the number of athletes and applicability of the training. However, if you’re just starting out, I would focus on learning the basics of leg training. This may sound boring and mundane, but jumping right into implementation of the kBox not only isn’t necessary, but could be dangerous.
A squat isn’t the only exercise you can do with the kBox. You could have your athlete perform a lateral push-off, Roman DeadLift and even a chest-supported row.
A lateral push-off is a sport-specific exercise for hockey players that has the same movement as a stride on the ice. The kBox allowed the athlete to activate the glutes, quadriceps, and adductors during a repetition, which are a few of the muscles used during a skating stride.
The Roman Deadlift is a very common exercise, but the kBox will give the athlete a chance to stabilize the hamstrings and back muscles in a different way due to the flywheel. The athlete will be on the kbox and a u-bar straight bar will be attached to the kBox. The coach will spin the wheel and the athlete will begin to raise their body up, keeping the legs straight.
The chest-supported row is done with the kBox directly underneath a bench. A u-bar or straight bar attached to the kBox, the athlete will row the bar to their chest, while maintaining the bar eccentrically as the flywheel winds back up. PRO TIP: have another athlete or coach stand behind the bench to make sure the bench does not move.
When should I buy a kBox?
This is an interesting question because there is no reason why someone can’t buy a kBox for their facility right now. With that said, if you do buy one, please take some time to learn and try the kBox. Understanding how the piece of equipment works so you can give proper cueing can help your athletes avoid injuries.
What type of athlete would benefit the most from a kBox squat?
The simple answer is any, but the coach must know what exercise with the kBox would be most applicable to the particular sport that is being trained for.