Coaches want explosive athletes, and box jumps are a great way to train this quality. Explosiveness is usually measured with either the vertical jump or the standing long jump. Explosive athletes are able to run faster, change directions on a dime, jump high, jump far, throw, and kick. Jump training (also know as plyometrics) are a part of every strength and conditioning coach’s toolbox.
In strength and conditioning, we have vertical plyometrics and horizontal plyometrics. Horizontal plyometrics are important for sprinting, kicking, throwing, and punching. Vertical plyometrics involve jumping (or throwing) straight up into the air. Some sports compete in vertical distances (like the high jump), many use the vertical jump for catching, intercepting the ball, etc. In other words, both types of plyometric are important for most sports. Box Jumps are a great next step after you’ve gotten great at Vertical Jumps and the Standing Long Jump.
What are Box Jumps? They are about jumping onto, over, or down from boxes of different heights. They are widely used in the strength and conditioning of athletes, in fitness circles, and in Cross Fit.
Before we jump into Box Jumps, there are a few important things to keep in mind to keep you safe.
- Wear shoes: Not all boxes have nice, sanded surfaces. You need to make sure you wear shoes to protect your feet when landing.
- Nonslip floor: You don’t want the box to move when you land on it, so make sure they are on a nonslip floor.
- Watch out for edges: The homemade wooden boxes also have sharp edges, which your shins will not like hitting when you miss a jump.
- Landing surface: The top of the box needs to be large enough that you can land on it.
- Good form: Even if you are jumping onto, or over, a box you still need to be concerned with your landing form. Let your hamstrings absorb the landing, not your knees.
- Start small: Everyone wants to do the 70 centimeter box, but you need to work up to that.
Box Jump Exercises
This article is going to cover the following box jump exercises:
- Jump to the box
- Jump over the box
- The Depth Jump
- Box Jump with weights
Jump to the box:
This is the exercise that everyone thinks about when they think of Box Jumps. It develops your vertical jumping ability. Face the box, stand about 6-12 inches away from the box. To jump, keep your weight on your heels. Quickly move into a quarter squat. Allow your arms to swing back as you squat down. From there, without pausing, reverse directions and attempt to jump as high as possible to land on the box. Jump onto the top of the box, making sure to land on flat feet and make sure that your hamstrings are absorbing the landing. Start this exercise with the 12-inch box.
Jumps over the box:
This exercises works on your horizontal jumping ability. Start this exercise with the 12-inch box. The idea is to jump over the box and land on the other side. To jump, keep your weight on your heels. Quickly move into a quarter squat. Allow your arms to swing back as you squat down. From there, without pausing, reverse directions and attempt to jump as high as possible to land on the other side of box. When you land, make sure to land on flat feet with your hamstrings absorbing the landing.
The Depth Jump:
In the old days we’d require athletes to perform plyometrics for at least a year and being able to squat 1.5 times bodyweight before attempting this exercise. A lot of people have moved away from this, but I still think that it gives you a great foundation before moving on to advanced exercises.
Start with the 12-inch box. Stand on the top of the box. Step off the box and drop to the ground. Immediately upon reaching the ground, reverse directions and jump as high as you can. This exercise requires you to have a great landing, absorb the landing with your hamstrings, then explode upward.
Box Jump with weights
This variation works a little differently than you think it will. You can use this for any of the above three exercises. Start by holding a dumbbell in each hand, with your hands at your side. Then quickly move into a quarter squat. As you explode upward, drop the dumbbells so that you jump without them in your hands. Recent research in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggests that this is a very effective way for advanced athletes to train their jumps.
Program design considerations
There are a number of important program design considerations for Box Jumps. First, technique is extremely important. Bad landings can damage knees. Second, the exercise is meant to be performed as explosively as possible. A slow jump is counterproductive to an athlete. Third, each jump is meant to be an all-out effort.
With the above in mind, the following are some guidelines for using Box Jumps:
- Keep the volume low—5-10 jumps per exercise. Anything else makes you fatigued, breaks down your form and slows you down. In other words, you aren’t training explosiveness anymore.
- Complete rest between each jump. Take 30-120 seconds between each jump, more rest as the jumps become more difficult. Remember, fatigue is not your friend with jumps.
- Start with the jumps to the box, progress to the depth jump and doing it with weights. This should take you a good year to get there.
- No more than one box jump exercise per week, only trained once per week. In other words, pick an exercise, hit it hard, then do other things in your training.