As with most of the exercises I use for this series, it is an exercise which a great many people execute poorly in both practice and application. The one thing that is slightly different about the Box Jump from the rest of the exercises I’ve featured so far in this series is that it is much more advanced than one may think.
We’ve all seen it before in the gym. A person attempting a box jump, and stomping on the plyometric box so hard it sounds like a shotgun blast. We’ve also probably witnessed people jumping onto boxes that are so high up it looks more like a test in hip mobility than how high they can jump. Or, possibly you’ve fallen victim to a trainer or group fitness instructor having you do something idiotic like upwards of 20 box jumps in a row in some sort of half-assed HIIT circuit they “programmed in for you.”
The Box Jump, can have a huge carryover for people when programmed and performed correctly. It allows people to focus on increasing speed, force production, and deceleration, however, when poorly executed can be very high risk with little reward. So without further ado let's break it down so you can be successful with this exercise or any of it's progressions or regressions.
What it does for you:
- Increases your body's ability to produce lower body force downward
- Increases the speed at which you can produce said downward force
- Improves the body's ability to control deceleration
How to perform the Box Jump:
When setting up for the Box Jump I tell my clients to get into a comfortable “jumping position” that is about 4-6 inches away from the box they’ll be jumping onto. Note: If you’re not sure where that jumping position is for you, an easy way to find it is to quickly jump up and down a couple times. After your last jump look down at where your feet are, and you’ll have found the perfect place to start your box jump.
Now I can’t stress this next point enough; always make sure to start with a box height that you absolutely know you can do. If you’re not confident in your ability to land the box jump safely you will hesitate at some point when doing it, even if for just a quick second, and whether or not you successfully land it, at the very least you will have decreased your force production and therefore will not jump as high as you could have had your box been lower and your confidence level higher.
I like to coach an overhead arm position with my clients, and have them utilize an arm swing through the jump portion of the exercise to help improve their momentum and ability to jump high.
Now that you are set up correctly, and assuming you are using the overhead arm technique I talked about, you’ll begin the wind up portion of the exercise. During this phase you’ll begin the jumping process by swinging your arms back fast, as you simultaneously begin to bend the knees in a squatting pattern. Another thing to remember is this is not a full squat before the jumping phase. You’ll get no further than a quarter through that squatting pattern before you begin jumping upwards.
Once you begin to jump, you should be swinging your arms right back over head where they started from as fast as possible to help increase upward momentum, and thus allowing you to jump higher.
Now here comes the part where people more often than not screw up the exercise. That’s right, it’s the landing. As I stated previously, the two big issues here is that most trainees will either land extremely hard on the box like they were stomping out a fire, or have chosen a box so high that they look like they’re in a deep squat the second their feet hit the box.
Here is a video of what a box jump should look like:
How should I implement them into my program
So as I stated at the beginning of this post, this is a much more advanced exercise than what I normally break down in this blog, so please be safe with these if you choose to work them into your program.
When I do work them into a program for my clients, I generally keep the reps very low in the 2-4 range. I never want my client trying to land on a high box while in a fatigued state, and further more if you’re fatigued the chances of you developing any kind of maximal speed and force are pretty much impossible. If you’re just looking for something fast to do to make your legs get fatigued, goblet squats are a great exercise alternative for that and are relatively safe, or if you must jump, just a couple body weight squat jumps should suffice (just make sure as you land you’re not letting your knees collapse inwards when you land).
For my athletes I’ll generally work these into the beginning of their workout just after their warm up to allow for maximum force production, and have them do multiple sets. For my non-athletes who are just looking at getting stronger and feeling better, I like to keep both the sets and reps low and basically make them an extended part of their warm up to help them charge up the nervous system and get them feeling explosive.
I hope this was helpful for you and you have a better understanding of how, why and when to use box jumps in your routine. Happy Tuesday!