There is a difference
This post will break down the differences between them to help you understand which one to choose and when.
Squatting To A Box
Squatting to a box is a great tool to assess and develop squat mechanics and to determine the feel of reaching a specific depth. Starting with the box slightly above parallel or where you can maintain correct form (a second set of eyes is really useful), descend to “tap” the box and then rise. The height of the box can be lowered gradually in an effort to recruit more musculature, take pressure off the front of the knee, or if the goal is to “break parallel”. It would be a gradual process that will provide consistent tactile feedback to help create the habit to make it second nature for you to achieve the intended squat depth while maintaining proper form. Once that depth is met consistently, the box can be removed. Put another way, it’s almost like having training wheels on a bike, once you have your balance, you can remove the training wheels and you are on you’re way!
The Box Squat
The box squat is broken up into two separate movements, the eccentric (lowering) and the concentric portion (rising). Unlike squatting to a box, in a box squat, you would “sit” on the box rather than “tap” the box. The “sit” will break up the two portions of the lift creating a distinct bridge between the two. The box squat, generally speaking, is used with more weight than squatting to a box. A controlled descent with a dead stop and explosive rise will help develop strength, speed, and power in our legs (both anterior and posterior dependant on style) while recruiting the muscles of our abdomen (Rectus Abdominis, External Obliques, Internal Obliques, Transverse Abdominis). There are many different variations of a box squat, high bar, low bar, wide stance, narrow stance, tempo, etc. the choice would be dependent on what you are trying to achieve. Looking to improve your squat numbers? Give a box squat a try!
I hope this gives you some insight into the difference and when to use them. If you are looking to dive a little deeper and learn more (as the above just scratches the surface) you can contact us here.