Unless you’re regularly engaging in the activity of leap frog with your children or pets, you’re probably not propelling yourself into the air with all your strength on a daily basis. Nevertheless, exercises that challenge your capacity to spring upward — including the box jump — should not be omitted from your training routine simply because they do not replicate everyday movement patterns.
For example: The box jump can enhance your athletic performance (even if you only participate in a recreational sports league); enhance the health of your tendons, muscles, and cardiovascular system; and more. Convinced that this heart-pumping movement is worth your time and effort? Borrow these suggestions from professional trainers on how to safely and effectively execute the box jump and its variations. Additionally, discover more about the significant advantages offered by the box jump.
How to Perform a Box Jump
In the event that you were unaware, a box jump is an exercise that targets the lower body and involves leaping from the ground onto a box, according to Tawnya Nguyen, a certified personal trainer and co-owner of Movement Society in Los Angeles. In order to accomplish this, you will rely on your muscles’ ability to generate power, or rapidly produce large amounts of force, as she explains. Consequently, the box jump is classified as a plyometric exercise.
Struggling to visualize the exercise? Observe Rachel Mariotti, a certified personal trainer in New York City, demonstrate the box jump exercise in the video below.
A. Stand facing a plyo box with feet positioned hip-width apart and arms raised in front of the chest, with slightly bent elbows and hands in front of the face.
B. Gently bend the knees and swing the arms back and downwards, then exert force through the floor to propel yourself up onto the box, simultaneously raising the arms back in front of the chest.
C. Land softly on the box with both feet, ensuring that the knees are bent at approximately 90-degree angles and the chest is held high. Use your feet to push off and straighten your legs, returning to a standing position. Lower your arms to your sides, then step backwards off the box, one foot at a time.
The Primary Benefits of Box Jumping
By regularly completing several rounds of box jumps, you can attain various health benefits for your muscles, tendons, and cardiovascular system.
Enhances Athletic Performance
As a classic plyometric exercise, the box jump demands your ability to generate explosive power as swiftly as possible. This can assist in enhancing athletic performance, according to Nguyen.
It assists in acquiring explosiveness and acquiring the skill of exerting force into the earth and utilizing it as a springboard,” emphasizes Mariotti. In reality, studies indicate that plyometric training enhances leaping abilities in basketball, soccer, handball, and volleyball athletes. Moreover, engaging in merely two to three sessions of plyometric training each week for a duration of four to 16 weeks has been shown to enhance vertical jump height, sprinting, and agility performances among participants in team sports, as reported by the JHK data.
The exercise of jumping on a box can provide mental advantages as well. “It assists in developing your cognitive agility — the ability to think quickly, manipulate your body, and land gracefully,” states Mariotti. “Furthermore, it requires courage to leap onto an object and land correctly.” Translation: Integrating box jumps into your workout routine can enhance your mental and physical athleticism, which is crucial if you aspire to win your family’s annual volleyball match in the backyard or your town’s intramural basketball tournament.
Enhances Tendon and Muscle Well-being
To generate the power necessary to propel yourself onto a box, you will utilize the stretch-shortening cycle. According to research, during this process, your muscles are elongated to accumulate potential energy (the eccentric phase), and then swiftly contracted to release it (the concentric phase). “The elongation of the muscle followed by a concentric action where it contracts the muscle actually aids in enhancing the flexibility within your muscles and tendons in your lower body,” asserts Nguyen. “Box jumps are an exercise that can genuinely contribute to improved agility, quickness, and elasticity in your movement.”
Functions as Anaerobic Training
Although box jumps may not appear as exhausting as a 30-minute run, rest assured, they serve as a formidable cardiovascular challenge. Specifically, box jumps are a form of anaerobic exercise, as stated by Nguyen. During this type of training, your body utilizes ATP (also known as adenosine triphosphate, an energy molecule stored in your muscles) or glycogen (a stored form of glucose) as fuel, rather than oxygen, as previously explained by Rachel Straub, C.S.C.S., Ph.D., co-author of Weight Training Without Injury, in Shape magazine. Consequently, your body can only sustain this exercise for a limited period of time. The positive news is that regularly engaging in anaerobic exercise can contribute to an enhancement in cardiovascular health, as indicated by research published in the World Journal of Cardiology.
Box Jump Muscles Engaged
In order to undertake this plyometric exercise, you will engage most of the primary muscle groups in your legs, including the quadriceps (which flex the hip, aid in balance, and stabilize the kneecap), glutes (which assist in extending the hips and stabilizing the pelvis), hamstrings (which bend the knee and extend and rotate the hips), and calves (which flex the foot and ankle), according to Nguyen. Your core will also play a role, as it will strive to maintain stability and protect your spine while you execute each jump, as stated by Mariotti.
Variations of the Box Jump Exercise
The conventional box jump might not feel suitable for your body, objectives, and fitness level — and that’s acceptable. Instead of adhering to the classic version, experiment with these alternatives and progressions of the box jump to discover a variation that suits you best.
Adjustment: Vertical Leap
If you’re not yet prepared to propel yourself off the ground, consider scaling back your box jump to a snap down, as recommended by Nguyen. Initially, raise yourself onto your toes with your arms extended above your head. Then, swiftly lower your heels to the floor while swinging your arms downwards behind your posterior and descending into a squat. This low-impact alternative helps you practice the correct landing position, enabling you to feel confident when incorporating a plyo box, she explains. “If you’re unsure of how to effectively absorb force upon landing, it can potentially harm the joints, especially in the lower body,” states Nguyen.
Once you’re prepared to develop power, attempt a basic vertical leap — a modification without equipment that is slightly safer than jumping onto a box, according to Mariotti.
Progression: Box Jump on a Single Leg
Looking to intensify the challenge of the traditional box jump? Begin by increasing the height of the box. Once you’ve reached the maximum level in that aspect, consider holding a lightweight dumbbell (less than 5 pounds) in each hand while jumping, as suggested by Nguyen. Alternatively, give a single-leg box jump a try, which tests your stability and your ability to generate power (since you’re utilizing only one leg), states Mariotti. With this progression, you should lower the box to approximately half the height used in the traditional box jump exercise, according to Mariotti.
Common Errors in Box Jump Execution
Although it may be tempting to attempt box jumps for the first time using a two-foot-tall plyo box, starting off too ambitiously is a recipe for injury. Instead, begin with the lowest possible box height — or even utilize a workout step — and gradually progress from there, advises Nguyen. “Commence with something that doesn’t intimidate you, become accustomed to the motion, and then increase the height progressively,” adds Mariotti.
Incorporating the Box Jump into Your Exercise Routine
While anyone can benefit from – and simply have fun with – incorporating box jumps into their routine, the box jump is particularly advantageous for athletes, given the power generation involved, says Nguyen. “Every athlete needs to be able to sprint faster, leap higher,” she says. “And leap moves, especially box jumps, are so effective in that sense.” Athlete or not, you’ll want to consult your healthcare provider before attempting box jumps if you’re experiencing any persistent pain or injuries, adds Nguyen.
If you receive the all-clear, you’ll want to ensure you have a few prerequisites covered before you start leaping. First, you’ll want to build lower-body strength, particularly in your quadriceps, buttocks, calves, and hamstrings by performing squats, deadlifts, and other compound movements to ensure your muscles are actually capable of developing power, says Nguyen. (In case you didn’t know, muscle strength and muscle power go hand-in-hand, she explains.)
Having adequate ankle mobility, ankle strength, hip mobility, and knee stability are also crucial. “When you’re landing from a jump, the first thing to hit the floor is the foot and ankle, and if you can’t sustain impact through there, your body’s going to find another strategy and it’s usually going to travel upward toward the hips, lower back, and trunk,” explains Nguyen. “You want to make sure you have the proper foundation so that your body can actually handle the landing.” To determine if your ankles are ready for the box jump, do a simple bodyweight squat; if you need to raise your heels or your calves feel tight, take it as a sign to work on ankle mobility, says Nguyen. Practicing those squats and deadlifts can also give you an idea of your hip mobility and help you improve it, she adds. “Strength training is always going to help improve mobility in a significant capacity,” she says.
Once you’re ready to give box jumps a try, avoid doing too much too soon: Start with just two to three sets of three to five reps and place them at the beginning of your workout, suggests Nguyen. “Box jumps are very demanding on your nervous system,” she says, and performing more than necessary when your body is already fatigued can put you at risk for injury (e.g. slamming your shins against the box or falling on your face). If you want to increase the volume as you progress, increase the number of sets and make sure you have sufficient rest time between them, she notes.
Most importantly, remember to have fun with it. As an adult, “you forget to embrace your inner child,” says Mariotti. “And the best benefit of the box jump is overcoming the fear of jumping you develop as you get older.