Dynamic Effort Box Squats and Acceleration Improvements: Interview with Scott Taylor

Scott Taylor is a strength and conditioning coach at High Performance Sport New Zealand. He was sharing an interesting story with me a while back and I wanted my readers to hear it. It appears that the hip loading induced by Westside-Style box squats transfers quite favorably to acceleration improvements. Notice the attention to detail by great strength coaches. The coaches out here are testing all sorts of things and analyzing the numbers. I love it! From time to time I’d like to interview various coaches and share with you anecdotes, case studies, and experiments. Here’s the interview:

1. Hi Scott, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. What is your role at High Performance Sport New Zealand and how many teams are you in charge of?

I work as a strength and conditioning coach with High Performance Sport New Zealand and work with the NZ Men’s field hockey team (Blackstick Men), NZ Women’s field hockey team (blackstick women), NZ Netball Team (silver ferns), NZ Canoe / Flat water sprint kayak team, NZ Softball team (black sox) and the Auckland Rowing Squad.

On top of that I train some junior elite water polo athletes (20 under 18 athletes), am doing my master’s degree, play Water Polo for the NZ Men’s team and North Harbour Men’s team, and coach the NZ school boys’ water polo team and also the NZ under 17 team in their build up to u18 worlds next year.


2. You were telling me a very interesting story about dynamic box squats and their carryover to acceleration. Please share that story with my readers.

Earlier in the year we started doing wide stance box squats with band resistance or assistance with our NZ men’s hockey team. Before this phase the guys weren’t the strongest lower body athletes but certainly weren’t wimps. Each athlete had a training age of at least a year with me and Matt Kritz (head strength and conditioning coach of High Performance Sport New Zealand) as their S&C trainers. We have consistent testing records of speed and acceleration measures as well as power profiles dating back between 12 and 36 months with each athlete.

We wanted to wide stance squat them to try increase posterior chain activation and really develop that area. With hockey typically being a very quad dominant sport where the athletes are bent over (with a poor bending pattern) and their weight is on the toes of their feet with heels elevated for long periods of the game, we felt we needed to really develop the posterior chain, not just from a performance view but also an injury reduction mechanism.

We began wide stance box squatting them, once a week – 10 sets of 2 with blue band resistance (2inch wide bands). We did a three week protocol loading up the weight over 3 weeks and then changing the bands to assist the movement (band assisted squats) for three weeks, building up the loads across the weeks.

The squatting style we used was similar to the west side barbell wide stance box squat, where the hips are forced back so far that at parallel, the shin is still perpendicular to the ground, with the shoulders in line with the ankles and hips well back. The box was at about parallel but varied for each athlete.

After 3 weeks resisted and 3 assisted we did a whole testing battery. Squat 1RM within the squad increased hugely (traditional stance back squat, greater trochanter below line of the head of tibia) with a team average increasing from 120kg(max of 145kg, min of 100kg) to 155kg(max 190, min 140kg). With an average BW of 77kg (max 95kg although skin fold sum of 8 of 44mm and 6 foot 3, and min 71kg) these guys are relatively strong dudes given the aerobic and metabolic beasts that they have to be and compared with their body weight. All athletes squatted at least 1.8 x BW.

Acceleration 0 – 5m time was hugely decreased with a team average decreasing from 1.02 seconds to 0.94 seconds. Some athletes decreasing their time by up to 0.18 seconds from their pre test scores that were also a PB time prior to the commencement of this training phase. One athlete went from 1.01 sec PB to 0.86 whilst another from 1.07sec PB to 0.89sec.

Speed 40m time decreased within the team from an average of 5.25sec to 5.10sec average with some 3 players running between 4.80 and 4.90sec for 40m from static start. It should be noted that there was no specific speed or acceleration training sessions in this 6 week block and their physical conditioning was high intensity hockey specific small sided games.

Relative peak power increased hugely as well with mean unloaded CMJ performance improving from 52w/kg (max 69, min 43) to 60w/kg with (max 78 min 47).

3. What loads did you use, what box heights, and how long were the inter-set rest periods?

Loads

Week 0 Resisted = between 3-6 sets familiarisation at 50% 1rm plus blue bands

Week 1 Resisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 55% 1RM mass + blue bands. (for a 6 foot tall individual the bands were adding approx 60 kg at the top of the lift and 38kg at the bottom of the lift)

Week 2 Resisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 60% 1RM mass + blue bands.

Week 3 Resisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 65% 1RM mass + blue bands.

Week 1 assisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 100% 1RM mass + blue bands assisted (assisted bands taking approx 20 kg off at top of lift and 50kg at bottom of lift for a 6foot individual)

Week 2 assisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 110% 1RM mass + blue bands assisted

Week 3 assisted = 10 sets x 2 reps at 120% 1RM mass + blue bands assisted.

*Instructions were given to do concentric phases at maximal velocities without losing technique.

Rest period between sets were not strict – the athletes would work in groups of 2-5 and would wait for their other group members to all squat before starting their next set. They would not have rested for more than 150 sec at any stage with most rest periods being between 60 and 90 sec.

Ideal box height was glutes touching a box below the height of the head of tibia, however if the athlete lost form at depth and their pelvis started to ‘scoop’ for want of a better word, under them the height was raised using half inch soft flooring tiles that could easily be stacked up to change the depth of the box very easily. Each athlete had a certain depth that we assessed they could get to safely.

4. Did you ever consider using bands or chains? (I sent Scott the questions all at once so I didn’t see his previous answer before asking this)
 
We used 1m long blue bands 2 inch width for the duration of the training intervention.

The bands were set up in a triangle formation with two connection points for the bands at the base of the squat rack and the third being over the barbell. Athletes would stand in the middle of the two base points to squat.

When assisting the movement, a band triangle was used again with two connection points at the top of the squat rack on each side.

Because we were already using bands, no thought was given to using chains.


5. What supplementary lower body exercises did these athletes perform during the same time period?
 
The squat day was always Monday or day 1 of a 3 day gym week with these guys. After a good warm up and movement prep they would do their ten sets of squats then move on to supplementary exercises.

The supplementary exercises were done in a circuit, 5 rounds of the following

Week1-3

-band resisted deadlifts (aiming for speed) 5reps

-single leg bench hip extension (shoulders on bench) – 20kg bar across hips, 10 reps each leg

– stiff leg sled drag , 40-50kg, 30meters. Pulling through the heels to drive hips under you. No push off with back leg.

Week 4-6

-band resisted deadlifts (aiming for speed) 3 reps

– reverse hyper – single leg for some athletes, double for others (10 reps or 10 each side)

-stiff leg sled drag as above.

All weeks

Calf complex and standing cable core combo

Day 2 / Wed – Upper body strength/force

Plus

5 sets

– single leg box squat on to soft foam box 10 reps each leg

– bench hip extension 40kg 20 reps

-reverse hyper – double leg 10 reps

Plus calf complex and hanging leg raises

Day 3 / Fri – Special Strength – 10-12 exercises 50 reps per exercise, lower body exercises included

-band assisted front squat

-band assisted good morning

-walking lunge with good morning

-lateral hip mobility lunge

-bw bench hip extension

-closed chain, slippery feet leg curls

Thanks Scott, I appreciate your time! Keep up the great work my friend.

Anytime Bret!

21 thoughts on “Dynamic Effort Box Squats and Acceleration Improvements: Interview with Scott Taylor

  1. Steve

    I’m surprised this hasn’t generated comment. perhaps others feel what I do: “Geez, that’s interesting; maybe I should do a cycle and see”.

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Haha! That’s what I was thinking. The folks who commment are typically people seeking fat loss, hypertrophy, aesthetics gains. I believe I have a decent following of strength coaches, but they’re not the type to comment.

      Reply
      1. AJ

        Bret, Im a Strength Coach working on a regular basis with NCAA athletes and have worked numerous NFL clubs/athletes. I really enjoy your blogs and find the information provided to be of huge significance and very insightful. Keep up the good work

        Reply
  2. George

    I thought i’d chip in and show my appreciation! This is a great article on a simple but thorough cycle of training. Those are some fantastic results for the short period of time. I have a few questions: was this in season, what other sessions were performed during the week and were improvements on other lifts/ performance test measured (eg, deadlift, vertical)? Thanks bret always a pleasure reading your blog,George.

    Reply
  3. ScottTaylor

    Hi there.
    This protocol was done in season, remembering that it is an international season so not games week in week out just tours every month or so.
    On top of the one Lower body power a week, they had one upper body power, and one full body muscle balance / special strength work out. Plus 2 HIT conditioning sessions – 4 x 1km sprints (I apologies for the metric system I use) with 3min recovery between.
    They also would of had a long jog, 2 x club hockey sessions, 2 x national team sessions and one club or regional game a week. (remember this is field hockey not ice hockey).
    Did not test dead lift, we aren’t just about the raw numbers, the most important things for us are the in game indicators, speed, power (counter movement jump), lateral jumps, aerobic fitness, repeated sprint.
    CMJ peak power levels all increased ( tested on force plate). Speed improved. 5-0-5 speed improved ( acceleration with change of direction) , repeated sprint improved, and aerobic endurance improved although that is more likely to be the HIT running!
    Hope that answers your questions for now.

    Reply
    1. George

      Thankyou Scott for taking the time to respond. That answers my questions and then some. The volume of training makes the results even more impressive. Do you have a website or blog I could follow? George.

      Reply
      1. ScottTaylor

        Hey George,
        Not a problem its good to hear others feedback.
        Im not on the blogging world sorry, i leave that for my good friend Bret.
        Happy to answer any questions you may have though.
        Im on twitter but all i really do on there is post my own workouts.
        Happy lifting

        Reply
  4. wiley

    I’m a strength coach and I’ll comment- This looks like a nice cycle and I’m looking forward to playing with it. Thanks for posting it, always nice to see how other people are applying techniques with there athletes.

    Reply
  5. Adrienl

    Hi Bret

    Thanks for this look into athletic training.

    Moving on from your post yesterday where you noted you wished to discuss more programming I am wondering if either yourself or Scott might be able to give further insights into the reasoning beyond the choices made here.

    Hopefully this could be looking at how the use of bands and the setup for this 6 week cycle was determined much like how the choice of the box squat was well described in the 2nd answer. If possible I would also enjoy hearing the reasoning behind the rest of the days particularly the 3rd or special strength day.

    Thanks for your time and all the information you have provided over the years.

    Reply
  6. Nick Efthimiou

    Do you (Bret) feel that it was the wide squatting movement, the dynamic effort against bands, the fact that they “weren’t the strongest” (author’s comments) or just targeting a limiting factor (weak posterior chain), or something else entirely that resulted in the improvements?

    Reply
    1. Bret Post author

      Hi Nick, it is my belief (and I think Scott and the head strength coach Matt Kritz would agree) that many athletes have a lot of room in the tank as far as squatting goes because they don’t know how to use their hips efficiently. Most have only done narrow stance and as soon as they master the wide stance and learn to sit back it starts to cure most of their quad dominant movement strategies. So you’ll see improvements in how they jump, land, cut from side to side, etc. So I think that it was the wide stance, but the dyanmic effort against bands helps a lot because most aren’t used to squatting explosively. Have you ever seen the Westside guys do dynamic effort box squats? It’s insane! They make 5-600 lbs look like cupcakes. Great question!

      Reply
  7. Carlo Buzzichelli

    Interesting article. I would like to give a different perspective regarding the analysis of the results. First, I should say I am a bit doubtful about the existence of a direct positive transfer from a single gym exercise to several performance parameters of an athlete. In fact, such a view is partly confirmed by the whole program used by Scott, which doesn’t rely solely, or almost exclusively, on the box squat. Before S&C coaches from all over the world begin to use the box squat with their athletes expecting the same results, we could better say that training the strength and power of the posterior chain brought such (great) improvements; in fact, we cannot isolate the contribution of the box squat versus the contribution of the power/power endurance circuits that followed it, which also worked mainly the posterior chain.

    Other comments:
    a) It would have been nice to have some testing done between the power and max strength phase of the box squat, to see the dynamics of the improvements, and partly the contribution of each phase.
    b) I presume the CMJ were done with free arms (not with hands on the hips).
    c) What endurance test were used and how much did they improve (because of the HIIT, specific training and games)?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. ScottTaylor

      Apologies – CMJ was really a squat jump, hands on hip, gold standard testing protocol.
      YoYo level 1 was used – a team average of 22.4 was recorded for this time which is the highest team average on the Yo Yo level 1 with the previous test having a team average of 21.6, we know have to use YoYo level 2 as two athletes clocked the YoYo L1 test on this occasion. however they were training for a big tournament and had done a good block of prior of both aerobic and anaerobic training.
      Obviously this is all just anecdotal evidence, this wasnt a research study, rather a National sporting team preparing for a world event, so we have to find a blanace between S&C training, testing, and their actual hockey training, keeping in mind that these athletes are not full time professionals.

      I agree with your comment re we cannot put the improvements soley down to wide stance box squatting as there was a large part of the program using other exercises, however i do think the wide stance band box squat was extremelly benificial for the athletes. It encouraged them to really get back through their hips and stop relying on quad dominant squatting and bending strategies that they use when playing hockey.

      Reply
    2. Bret Post author

      Hey Carlo, good to hear from you buddy. I’m a big fan of this types of articles because coaches are rarely scientific in their methods and very few do any sorts of testing. Out here in Auckland they seem so much more methodical. I am in complete agreement regarding your belief that it was the entire program (which emphasized the posterior chain), not just the box squats. I know that Scott would feel the same way. This is why we included the entire program in the article. It was my idea to title the article as such. I don’t anticipate coaches from all over the world jumping on the box squat bandwagon…though I’m a big fan of box squats especially for athletes who have not yet benefited from them, I also like Oly full squats, front squats, heavy quarter squats, etc. and believe that these should be performed throughout the year.

      The point of these type of articles is to show specific protocols and their effects. Could similar effects have been seen with no squatting at all? Probably, as these athletes had huge room for improvement due to underpotentialized posterior chains. For example, say the program was centered on hip thrusts, or RDL’s, with a bunch of accessory posterior chain and single leg lifts, a coach could most certainly see just as good of effects. And if you have any programs to share with their effects, you have an open-door policy with my blog :)

      Reply
  8. Carlo Buzzichelli

    Scott and Bret,

    Thank you for your replies.

    a) The relative power numbers you have in the article are VERY high, what software did your force plate have? Do you have a video of the jumps (jumping technique affects force plate reading)?

    b) I was impressed by the Yo-Yo numbers, too, untill I noticed that it’s probably not the Yo-Yo Recovery, but the Yo-Yo Endurance test in stead (I presume), which I am not familiar with due to the fact that all team sport are of intermittent nature. Why did you choose the Endurance over the Recovery?

    c) I guess hockey players are like soccer players (or most team sport players), lacking size, strength and ultimately power in their posterior chain, thus with a very high potential of benefits from posterior chain work and for positive transfer to specific performance.

    Bret, I appreciate your policy, if you like the idea you can publish my article on specific strength. Regarding programs, I think a well structured program will deliver results, some S&C coaches measure, some others don’t, some would like to, but the technical coach don’t let them as much as they would. Scott’s program is a good one, and has delivered great improvements, some as good programs don’t ever get “measured”, some “not as good” programs get the attention just because the proponents have the means to measure everything (read “coach-wonna-be researchers”, which are also the cause of some of the stupidest studies on training). In my earlier years I didn’t have the means and the knowledge (regarding testing), and I did not test much; in my later years I had the knowledge and the means, but the technical coaches (in team sport settings) would not let me test as much or as often as I wanted to; sucks to be a S&C coach! LOL. Yet, I have my share of numbers.

    Reply
    1. ScottTaylor

      Hi Carlo

      I will attempt to answer your questions, loving the debate!

      a)We are using a Keiser force plate with BMS softwear. The testing protocol was done by our Power Scientist, Dr Mike McGuigan, maybe you have heard of him. Sorry we do not have video of the jumps, but both Mike and myself were watching all the jumps, I will take your note on board and video the jumps in the future. They perform a full testing battery / power profile on the force plates including squat jumps, drop jumps, concentric only jumps / static jumps, explosive push ups, and mid thigh pull (as you would appreciate, i cant publish all of our numbers sadly but you are more than welcome to privatly email me and we can discuss further)

      b) The Yo Yo test that we used is the Yo Yo Level 1 intermittent recovery test not the endurance test, the guys in this squad are incredibly fit. The players may not have the skill of the world number ones but they certainly run every team off the ground and therefore manage to push the better players around. Hockey is a very fast game, much faster than soccer.

      c) yes, there is a lot of room for improvement in these athletes. Prior to the protocol all of the athletes were squating at least 1.5 times bodyweight, now they are all 1RM squating over 1.8 times bodyweight, so they are relatively strong dudes! but yes, noticably we have seen improvements in their posterior chain, as i said they were under developed in that area.

      Cheers

      Reply
  9. Carlo Buzzichelli

    Hello Scott,

    Thank you for your reply.

    Now I am very curious about your metabolic training, because an average of 22.4 at the Yo-Yo Recovery Lev. 1 is quite impressive. You can send me the details at: strength_coach@usa.net if you don’t wish to publish them on the board.

    I am not familiar with the Keiser force plate; what made me think is that I am more powerful than all the soccer players I have tested (including Serie A pros) and faster than your team’s average, but I don’t get close to those relative power numbers according to my force plate. Unless, the players are instructed to have minimal ground contact and the relative power is measured at the second CMJ or in a depth jump, then the power values shoot up.

    What was the depth of the squats?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  10. Vicki

    Fantastic article! I am an elite level athlete (ICE hockey) so found this of particular interest for my own training. I’m a huge believer that if a certain protocol can improve the performance of a high level athlete with several years of training under their belts, it must have some merit. One of my weaknesses on the ice is power and acceleration; the ability to get separation from the player checking me once I get the puck. Thus I have started incorporating much more Olympic lifting in my training than just the hang power cleans and hang power snatches that are most common with hockey training.

    I was wondering if you think resisted and assisted box squats would be a good option for me. I currently have a steady dose of Olympic squats, deadlift variations, glute ham raises, BB hip thrusts, etc. in my program.

    Cheers, and thanks for the great article!

    Reply

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