We get it—you want to perform impressive exercises in the weight room.
Bench press a weight equivalent to a dump truck? Sure, sounds great. Deadlift so much weight that you take up all the plates in the gym? Awesome! Do Barbell Box Jumps? Whoa, hold on a second.
Impressive exercises are great, but you can only go so far. And the Barbell Box Jump breaks almost every rule in the Workout Safety book.
Here’s why you should never perform Barbell Box Jumps in your workouts.
What is a Barbell Box Jump?
To put it simply, the Barbell Box Jump refers to Box Jump with a heavy bar on your back. The guy in the video below demonstrates a perfectly executed Barbell Box Jump.
[youtube video=”-G3nlntJOtg” /]
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Whoa, that looks pretty cool!
Indeed, the Barbell Box Jump is a badass exercise. Just watch DeVonte Wilson, a ridiculously athletic running back at the University of Kansas, perform the exercise below.
This guy can jump onto a fairly high box with 225 pounds—there’s evidence he has hoisted as much as 405 pounds, albeit on a much shorter jump.
To perform a Box Jump with a heavy barbell, you need to be extremely powerful. You need the strength to actually move the weight, and your muscles need to fire quickly to get you off the ground. Tons of stability, balance and coordination are also required to control your body and weight throughout the movement.
So we understand why someone might make the case for performing the exercise.
OK, great. Should I try it?
Absolutely not. It’s one of the most dangerous exercises you can perform. The risk is not worth the reward.
If done correctly and everything goes according to plan (as is shown above), it doesn’t look that crazy. However, many many things can go wrong.
Let’s say that when you jump up, you clip the edge of the box with your foot and fall forward. On a normal Box Jump, you might gouge your shin or fall awkwardly, but nothing catastrophic.
Holding a barbell on your back is sure to make it infinitely worse. If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to dump the weight backwards. But odds are it will cause you to horribly crash forward with heavy weight on your back.
Or what if you lose your balance on top of the box? With your bodyweight, you can hop down in the worst of circumstances. With a barbell, it might take you down for a fall. Or you won’t be able to control the bar, and it will go crashing down loudly.
Any exercise that involves a big jump with a barbell is a recipe for disaster.
But isn’t it similar to Barbell Squat Jumps?
To an extent. But the similarity only goes as far as having a barbell on your back. Both moves involve a Jump, but with Squat Jumps, you’re not hopping up onto something. The odds of messing up are far less.
And typically, Barbell Squat Jumps are performed with only around 20 percent of your max, so the weight load isn’t too heavy and doesn’t overly stress your spine when you land. (Some coaches don’t like this move for that reason, but that’s for another article.)
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What should I do instead?
Creativity and a desire to show off sometimes get in the way of what works. This is definitely one of those cases.
The solution is simple: Stick to tried and true Back Squats and Box —as separate exercises.
If you are advanced enough to perform weighted Box Jumps, the best option is to wear a weight vest. The load is strapped to your body, so you can focus on the jump and not have to worry about the safety issues that come with holding weights.
You can also use dumbbells, because they’re easier to ditch than a barbell. There’s also a case for using a broomstick or unloaded barbell—which is significantly easier to control than a loaded barbell—to take momentum created from your upper body out of the Jump.
Regardless, we encourage you to always ask “why” when assessing an exercise. If the answer is to show off or look cool, it’s probably a poor choice.
Remember, the No. 1 goal of training is to not get hurt. If you sustain an injury from an exercise, you can’t work out or play your sport—the exact opposite of what you’re working toward.
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