Ever watch a Youtube video of some dude effortlessly leaping several feet and landing onto plyo boxes that look to be the height of a mini skyscraper? Getting that much air takes time, but the benefits of plyo box jump training can push the rest of your training into overdrive. Here are tips from exercise scientists and performance coaches on how to go from baby steps to going viral to build strength and improve your overall conditioning with a single jump.
Benefits of box jumps
The box jump has become popular for its do-it-all training modality. Plyometric movements “can increase power, reactive ability, jumping ability, and decrease injuries,” says Kim Goss, a former strength coach for the U.S. Air Force Academy. Executed well, the box jump will advance your training.
1) Get the right amount of impact
The impact that box jumps have on your joints can help boost much-needed bone mineral content and collagen. Both are important as you age. Yet, in comparison with other jumping exercises, box jumps are actually relatively low impact on the joints, according to verticaljumping.com founder and pro vertical jump and speed coach Jack Woodrup.
2) Boost your explosiveness
Performing box jumps trains your body to become more explosive, which will complement the raw strength built during a deadlift or squat. “Box jumps are great for building power and firing up the central nervous system,” Woodrup says, “and are therefore perfect to add prior to weight training. They are also an effective warmup before squats.”
3) Challenge hip extension and flexion
The goal is to fully and rapidly extend your hips at the top, when both feet have landed. Perfecting this cue will carry over to lifts like the snatch and the thruster, which require a similarly fast extension at the top of the movement.
4) Spark cardio conditioning
Another benefit of the box jump is the cardiovascular intensity it demands. Jumping, as opposed to more stationary exercises like leg presses and squats, uses a greater amount of oxygen. It effectively trains your heart to utilize oxygen more efficiently to pump blood to the muscles.
Best exercises to increase your jump
The following plyo and strength-training exercises, chosen by Jamie Hagiya, a former pro basketball player and co-owner of Torrance CrossFit, will help with power, speed, and explosiveness. The key is to stick with lowrep sets of high-quality reps.
- Low box jumps with hands behind the head. This variation forces you to use a lower box because you can’t use your arms to assist with the movement.
- Jumping with your hands behind your head also encourages you to develop a more powerful leg drive, plus it improves your balance, both of which will assist with so many other exercises.
- Two-legged box jumps that begin with a step/hop are also good conditioning.
- Box jumps from a seated position on a Bosu ball. This advanced variation increases the range of motion required and removes the countermovement benefits you get from a standing box jump. It also helps improve joint mobility and creates higher levels of glute involvement. You can’t jump very high from this seated position, so lower the box accordingly, but it’s a great way to build explosive strength and fire up the glutes.
- Box jumps with a weight vest.