Boxes are normally tucked away in the corner of your gym, waiting to be used. They’re a simple piece of equipment that can help you jump higher and run faster, as long as you know how to properly use them.
Box jumps are mostly used for jumping, which is a plyometric exercise. Plyometric exercises, according to a study published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, are fast exercises that improve both speed and power. You can use plyometrics to jump higher and run faster. They also help prevent injuries by strengthening your tendons and ligaments. In some cases, plyometrics are even used during rehabilitation from an injury.
Box jumps are a popular plyometric exercise. The boxes come in a few different shapes and sizes. Some have hollow metal frames and a flat surface on top. Others are made of wood. The safest kind is wrapped in a thin cushion, which is helpful if you miss during your jump.
BOX JUMP TECHNIQUE
To do a box jump, start standing behind the box. You can either start a few steps back and step forward before you jump up or start close to the box and jump up from where you’re standing. To jump, throw your arms down and quickly squat down, then throw your arms up and jump up to the box. Try to land softly by bending your legs. You can either step backward or turn around and jump to get back to the ground.
Like most pieces of equipment, there’s a correct and incorrect way to use a box. You can either use them as a target or a cushion for your jump. The incorrect way to use a box is as a target. You shouldn’t increase the height of the box as a goal to jump higher. This is not only dangerous but might encourage you to cheat during your jump.
Using a box that’s too high is risky because your feet might not clear the box as you jump up. It’s not uncommon to smack your shins against the box or catch your toes and fall. For that reason, using a smaller box is much safer.
CHEATERS NEVER WIN
High boxes encourage you to cheat during your jump. While you might jump higher to land on the box safely, chances are you’ll cheat by bringing your feet up higher. It’s scary to think you might miss the box, which is why you’ll think more about landing the jump than using proper technique or leg power. If that’s the case, you’re simply lifting your legs up higher than you would with a lower box instead of jumping higher. Rather than using the box as a target to try to jump higher, use a lower box and work on the quality of your jumps.
If you watch someone jump onto the box, your eyes should follow their hips, not their feet. The higher your hips go, the higher you’re truly jumping. Since you’re not using the box as a target, it’s meant to soften your landing.
When you’re training to jump higher, there’s a lot of impact on your legs and the rest of your body. Each time you jump and land on the ground, it sends a shockwave through your body that stresses your ankle, knee and hip joints. Without a way to soften your landing, you might get injured or tired quickly while practicing your jumps.
DEPTH JUMPS FOR EXPLOSIVENESS
Once you get comfortable with box jumps you can make things more difficult. Depth jumps increase the intensity of jumping and increase the impact, so they shouldn’t be used by beginners. A study from the Australian Journal of Strength and Conditioning says depth jumps can improve your sprint speed and vertical jump, so athletes or even weekend warriors can benefit from these, however it’s not recommended to do depth jumps unless you’ve had at least three months of weight training.
To do a depth jump you’ll need two boxes. Neither box should be very high, especially if you’re new to the exercise. Start with a height of 18 inches for women and 24 inches for men. Set the boxes 3–4 feet apart. Stand on one box, facing the other box. Step off and land, dropping down slightly into a squat position while throwing your arms down. Immediately start jumping up, throwing your arms up. Land on the box in front of you.
This is basically a supercharged jump that takes advantage of something called the stretch-shortening cycle. As your muscles lengthen they tense up, similar to a rubber band. When you do a depth jump you start by dropping off of one box and landing. Your muscles tense to absorb the impact of landing. Then, you use that tension in the muscles to jump up to the next box. This is similar to running or jumping in a sporting event.
FITTING BOX JUMPS INTO YOUR WORKOUT
To get the most out of your box jumps, or plyometric training in general, you should follow a program. Box jumps are different from weight training or cardio workouts because they’re very high intensity. You have to focus on being as explosive and powerful as possible each rep to train your muscles to jump higher or run faster.
That’s why the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends you only do plyometric training, such as box jumps, a maximum of 2–3 times per week. You should do plyometrics after a warmup but before you do any weight training or cardio so your muscles are still fresh. See how long it takes you to finish your set, and rest five times that length before the next set.
Even though box jumps take away most of the impact from jumping, it still takes a toll on your joints. To avoid injury, count the amount of reps you do per plyometric workout. For example, if you do 5 sets of 5 reps, you’ve done 25 total reps. Slowly increase the number of reps you do per workout. If you suddenly do 100 reps in a workout, your body might not be ready for the sudden shock.