Box jumps have grown in popularity thanks to the likes of CrossFit and J.J. Watt, and it's a worthy move for every gym program. Box jumps train explosiveness, which can boost your power in lifting and cardio exercise like running. They also increase fat loss by tapping into the anaerobic system and kick-starting your metabolism. But far too often, athletes screw up the box jump. It's not as simple as making it on top of a box and repeating. And because of the power the movement generates, there's extra potential for injury. Here are seven tips that will keep you safe and help maximize your gains for this essential exercise.
Land Like a Ninja
A box jump landing is even more important than its jump. The better you get at absorbing and decelerating force, the happier your joints and the more responsive your muscle tissue will be. If you can't land quietly on the box, it's too high.
Match Your Squat Angle
Try not to land on the box in a squat that is deeper than what you used to prep your jump. If you notice that you are, again, the box is probably too high.
This is an explosive exercise that requires each rep to be treated like its own set. If you don't take time between jumps to reestablish position and prepare for the next jump, rep quality goes down the drain.
Use Low Reps
The explosive energy systems used for this move require rest — the same reason you shouldn't rush — and pushing reps too high only trains your body to perform the jump incorrectly. When adding box jumps to a routine, shoot for 5 to 8 sets at 3 to 6 reps with generous rest. If you're looking for strength moves, you can roll into a high-rep, low-rest cardio circuit (because box jumps are one of them) and use compound movements like squats, overhead presses, and deadlifts at low resistance.
As the box gets higher, the tendency is to jump back down, rather than step off. But one slightly off landing can seriously injure the knees, ankles, or Achilles tendons. The training benefit of jumping back down from the box is not worth the risk — so no matter the height, always step off the box you jumped on. If the box is too high, set up a bench or lower box close beside it, and step down to it first.
Do Them Fresh
For your safety, program box jumps closer to the beginning of your workout rather than the end. You still need an adequate warm-up, but explosive movements require more from your nervous system, and fatigue of any sort is the enemy. Even if you're programming them as a superset in a conditioning workout, make sure they're done early.
Putting it All Together
The box jump can be summed up in four steps:
- Load slowly by squatting to just above parallel and bring arms back behind hips to help launch off the ground.
- Explode with a strong forward-arm swing, and tuck the knees after you've fully extended your legs.
- Land on the box softly, in the same squat depth you jumped with. Stand up tall, locking hips to finish the movement.
- Step down and rest.