If you’re not one to shy away from a challenge — and a little fun — in your workouts, get ready to jump around!
Box jumps are perfect for seasoned exercisers looking for a challenge.
If you’re a beginner or have any injuries, take pause before incorporating box jumps into your routine.
In this case, be sure to consult a doctor and an experienced personal trainer on form and technique prior to diving in.
Plyometrics, or jumping exercises, push your muscles to the max, helping increase your power, strength, and speed.
Box jumps are a quintessential plyometric move where you jump from the floor up onto an elevated surface, like a box.
This exercise is high impact, targeting your:
You’ll see quite a few benefits when you incorporate box jumps into your routine, including:
An increase in your power and explosiveness
Look at professional sprinters and football players — they focus on quick, explosive movements and rely on the power in their legs to make it happen. Box jumps will help you get there.
An increase in your vertical jump range
How high can you jump? By practicing box jumps, you’ll gain more “hops.”
An increase in output and calorie burn
Box jumps require a lot of energy, which means a killer calorie burn.
There are two ways to approach box jumps — with a focus on power or a focus on conditioning.
If you’re looking to increase your explosiveness, aim for 3 to 4 sets of 5 reps with several minutes rest in between sets.
If endurance is your goal, choose a lower box. Complete 3 sets of up to 20 reps, resting for only up to 1 minute between sets.
As a beginner, choose a box that’s on the shorter side until you get the hang of things:
- For folks up to about 5 foot 4 inches tall, that’s a 14- or 16-inch box.
- For folks who are 5 foot 9 inches or taller, that’s a 16- or 20-inch box.
- Stand with the box one short step in front of you and your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Bend your knees slightly and drop down, bringing your arms out behind you.
- Use the momentum from your quarter squat to propel you upward as you jump onto the box, allowing your arms to swing out in front of you.
- Land softly on both feet with a slight bend in the knees.
- Step back and down and repeat.
You can incorporate box jumps into your workout regimen in a few different ways.
For example, you could start with box jumps (and any other plyometric moves) after your warmup but before the strength portion of your workout. This way you’ll still be fresh and able to take them on at peak performance.
Or you could complete box jumps in between your strength training sets.
A concept called postactivation potentiation describes the enhanced performance of explosive movements — like box jumps — after you complete a heavy resistance exercise that targets the same muscles.
This means that completing a set of box jumps after a set of squats has been shown to maximize power and athletic performance.
Start by adding box jumps to one to two workouts a week, giving yourself a 2- to 3-day break in between. Remember, your body needs time to recover when working at maximum effort.
Box jumps are only beneficial when performed efficiently. Avoid the following:
Choosing a box that’s too high
If your box is too high, a couple of outcomes can occur:
- You won’t make it to the top, potentially causing injury.
- You’ll land in a deep squat instead of more of a quarter squat position, which is what you should be striving for in a box jump.
Jumping off the box
Although your body can efficiently absorb the landing of a box jump, the same is not true of jumping backward off of the box. Doing so will increase your chance of injury.
A soft landing on the whole foot, in a slight squat with knees slightly out, is key to a proper box jump landing.
Adding weight to a box jump will make this already challenging move even more so. If you feel solid in a regular box jump, considering adding:
A weighted vest or ankle weights
Securing weight to you will allow the mechanics of the box jump movement to stay the same, which is an appropriate progression from a normal box jump.
A dumbbell in each hand
Progress to this move, holding a dumbbell in each hand while jumping.
Once dumbbells are easy, hold a kettlebell with both hands at chest level and complete the box jump.
There are regressions and progressions for a box jump that can add variety to the exercise.
If box jumps are still a bit too challenging, start with step-ups. Add weight and go faster as they get easier, then progress to a true box jump.
Jump off of two feet, but land with one foot on the box. Alternate legs as you go.
Position the box in front of a bench. Sit on the bench, then jump right up onto the box from seated.
Stand sideways next to the box and perform a quarter turn in the air as you jump up onto the box.
If you’re looking to gain explosiveness and power, or even more endurance, box jumps could be a valuable addition to your workouts. So grab your box, plant your feet, and jump in!
Nicole Davis is a writer based in Madison, Wisconsin, a personal trainer, and a group fitness instructor whose goal is to help women live stronger, healthier, happier lives. When she’s not working out with her husband or chasing around her young daughter, she’s watching crime TV shows or making sourdough bread from scratch. Find her on Instagram for fitness tidbits, #momlife and more.