Box jumps are a staple in most training programs these days and for a good reason. They can improve coordination, explosiveness, and the overall rate of force development in athletes.
But just because somebody blindly tosses them into a program does not automatically improve said training components.
The box jump is one of the most misused and inappropriately programmed movements in training programs.
The Biggest Errors Athletes Make When Performing Box Jumps
1. Selecting A Box That’s Too High
We’ve all probably seen it before: the guy who stacks plates on the 48-inch box all the way up to their chin and asks their buddy to shoot a video for social media.
If the individual even happens to make it on top of the box without scraping the skin off of their shins, then they likely have their knees somewhere close to their chin upon landing.
While these efforts may seem fun and light-hearted, they’re missing the mark for what box jumps are intended for.
When jumping on a box, select a height that we can land on top of in a good position (thighs at parallel or above), achieving full triple extension on the way up.
On average, most individuals would be best starting with something around 14-16″ and working their way up slowly. Youth athletes can start even lower at 12.
Although these numbers are extremely conservative to start, individuals who can execute the movement very effectively will move up with no problem. The best part about a box jump is no matter how low the height, it’s always acceptable to jump as high as you can.
2. Using Box Jumps For Conditioning
There are many ways to break a serious sweat, but box jumps should not be one of them. Crossfit gyms are notorious for this.
The main objective of a box jump is a single, explosive jump that allows for full triple extension (ankles, knees, hips), followed by a perfect landing. However, what happens when sets of 10, 20, 30, or more box jumps are prescribed in a single set is an inevitable breakdown in technique and a greater risk for error or an injury.
The volume with which plyometric movements such as the box jump are prescribed ought to be closely monitored due to the load they put on one’s body.
Overdosing jumps and other forceful plyometric exercises too quickly can be a recipe for disaster in terms of overuse injuries. It’s essential to prescribe adequate volume and rest between sets for optimal performance.
3. Programming Issues
The last major issue coaches run into is deciding exactly where to insert box jumps into a program.
Generally speaking, box jumps and similar movements should be performed at the beginning of the session after an effective dynamic warm-up routine has been executed or combined with compound movements (i.e., hang power cleans, back squats, deadlifts).
This is because we cannot execute explosive movements after we’ve accumulated too much fatigue as the performance outcome will suffer, and we will not reap the benefits we’re seeking.
Furthermore, the complexity of movements such as these verses single joint or low load accessory movements require greater time and attention; therefore, they take precedence in a program.
Next time you consider implementing box jumps into your training program, review these common mistakes.
Box jumps can be a fantastic movement to implement, but the devil is always in the details.
Before selecting something to add to a program, always ensure that you understand why, the what, and how it functions.