How to do Box Jumps
Box jumps are a great exercise for your legs, and can be performed on just about any variable flat surface. They hit your posterior chain – calves, quads, glutes, and hamstrings – pretty hard.
Box jumps can be used for cardio workouts, neural activation training (NAT), high intensity resistance training (HIRT), and high intensity interval training (HIIT) circuits. They are often used in CrossFit WODs (Workout of the Day), and are a staple exercise in plyometric training. Plyometrics have a wide range of athletic and real sporting applications; they are used, for example, to increase jumping ability, leg strength, hip drive, and explosiveness.
Box jumps are a simple movement. They require you only to jump from one flat surface up onto another flat surface, then either step or jump back down, depending on the purpose of the exercise.
What if You Can’t Perform Box Jumps?
To excel at box jumps, you have to develop strength, flexibility, speed, power, coordination and balance. Without a basic foundation in these core exercise stills, you should not attempt a box jump, and whatever you do, don’t follow the box jump tips at eHow unless you never want to know how to do proper box jumps.
Be sure you are comfortable with bodyweight squats. If you can’t do bodyweight squats then you’ve got a real problem and should not be attempting box jumps.
To practice for the box jump you can use:
- bodyweight squats
- bodyweight squat jumps (or jump squats)
- tuck jumps (or high knee squat jumps)
Once you master at least the bodyweight squat and squat jump, then you can attempt a box jump. Tuck jumps are more advanced, and while they will help you develop a max height box jump, you don’t necessarily need to master them before attempt a low to medium height box jump.
Proper Box Jump Technique
Standard box jumps are performed on a 24 inch (2 foot) high box. When found at a gym, these are typically boxes made for exercising; they are flat, hard, and pretty darned sturdy.
Unless you are performing a funky box jump, you want to start with both feet in a comfortable stance, roughly shoulder width, and flat on the floor. I will discuss other box jump variations towards the bottom of this post.
In case you didn’t know, for a standard box jump the box should be in front of you.
The Triple Extension – It is vitally important to coordinate the use of your hips, knees and ankles during take off. When jumping you will extend all three joints simultaneously in what is called a ‘triple extension’. Mastering the triple extension has direct impact in sports performance and dynamic weight training exercises such as the weighted jump squat.
Mid-air – In the air you should focus on tucking your knees into your chest if you are attempting a high box jump. This might not be necessary if you are using low box jumps for cardiovascular purposes in HIRT or WOD circuits.
Arm swing – When using box jumps for NAT training or when training a max effort box jump, or any other high jump, you might want to swing your arms for added momentum. You should start with your arms straight down at your sides, fingers pointed at the floor. Your arms should swing in a semi-circular arc straight out in front of you so that they are extended straight up, with fingers pointed towards the sky at the top of your jump.
Landing – Land with both feet at the same time. Be sure to stand up completely on top of the box, to fully open your hips. This same movement is used at the top of a squat, deadlift, clean, hang clean, or snatch. You should perform a full landing even if you are using speed box jumps solely for cardiovascular/HIIT purposes.
The descent can vary based on the purpose of the exercise:
- NAT – requires a full reset, step down but alternate legs with each rep
- HIRT circuits – these are often speed jumps, so you’ll want to jump up and jump down rapidly
- HIIT circuits – HIIT training should be maximal speed, so jump up and jump down as fast as you can
- cardio training – similar to HIRT circuits, not usually max effort, usually based on a target heart rate
- WODs - ask your CrossFit instructor if you jump or step down, it depends on the WOD
- Plyometrics - usually training a max effort jump, you’ll probably only perform one rep at a time so you can step down
If jump back down you should land in an identical position to that which you used to start the initial jump. Often you can use this position to start the next jump, instead of resetting before each attempt.
Benefits of Box Jumps
Box jumps will help to increase all of the skills I mentioned before:
You will improve all of those skills for the following muscles and joints:
Common Box Jump Mistakes
Beginners and even experienced weightlifters might not be good box jumpers at first. You need to practice to learn how to use your body to master those athletic skills I keep mentioning.
Here are some common box jump mistakes that you should always be conscious of:
- Jumping or leading off with only 1 leg.
- Landing with only 1 leg.
- Not bending properly at the knees and hips so that you only use your ankles to propel you off the floor.
- Landing, losing your balance, and falling off.
- Using a box too high for your skill level.
- Using a box too low for developing your desired skill.
- Being too nervous. You need to believe in yourself and have confidence in your jump.
- Landing on flat feet and straight legs. It’s hard to do this when jumping up, but when jumping back down be sure to cushion the landing with bent knees and hips.
Box Jump Variations
Like I mentioned before, box jumps can be performed on a wide range of equipment, including:
Bleacher Box Jumps
- boxes of varying height
- weight bench
- an aerobics step
- stack of rubber weight plates (metal plates usually slide, it’s dangerous)
- any kind of ledge
- sidewalk curb
- park or sidewalk bench
- stadium bleachers
- stone wall
- sturdy chairs
- any other sturdy platform from 6 inches to 3, 4, or even 5 feet
Because the height of your box, bench, or step can vary, box jumps can be used with a high box to train a max effort, with a medium height box to train max power without risk of injury, or at a lower high for cardio or speed training.
You can also vary your stance by using close stance box jumps and wide stance box jumps. This can sometimes put the integrity of your form and your balance at risk, so I recommend only using a regular/medium stance for all your standard box jumps unless you are an experienced box jumper.
Here are some box jump variations that you can use, as long as you are using them on purpose:
- double or single leg standard box jumps
- double or single leg box jumps to either side of the box
- double or single leg box jumps with the box behind you