Box jumps for explosive strength?
Recently made famous by CrossFit, the box jump is an exercise that comes from plyometrics.
Useful in the physical preparation for sports, it’s a great exercise that helps increase explosive strength, and it’s also used by weightlifters.
By jumping (and landing) on a box, you’ll drastically reduce the stress of landing that you would have in a normal jump.
It’s not recommended for beginners, because their prime focus should be on the landing portion of the jump, rather than the jump itself.
To jump over an obstacle, like a wooden box, we take advantage of the stretch-shortening-cycle.
The most frequent mistake is to think that everyone can start doing it without adequate preparation.
Box jump requires coordination, a decent strength base, coordination abilities, and general physical preparation in order to be executed correctly.
We should first learn to land, and then learn to jump.
Muscle being used in the box jump
The downward movement that we do before we jump allows us to generate power, thanks to the active participation of the muscles mentioned above.
The faster we descend, the more energy we accumulate so that we can then “explode” quickly when jumping over the box.
Why you should do the box jump
Any kind of jump (Vertical, on a box, forward etc) allows us to increase our explosive strength.
Explosive strength is the ability to exert maximal force in minimal time, and it’s essential in every sport.
Are you a basketball or soccer player?
You need explosive strength to jump and dunk, or to jump and hit the ball with a header.
Are you a football player?
You need maximum explosiveness and acceleration.
I can go on forever, because every sport – fighting sports included- need power.
A common mistake that a lot of people do is to think that the box jump has the ability to dramatically increase your leg strength.
The box jump increases the rate of force development, acceleration, power and speed, but there is no carryover to maximal lower body strength, especially in trained and strong subjects, the only ones who should do plyometrics at certain levels in the first place.
Box jumps also help recruit more motor units, like in strength training, and stress type II muscles fibres.
How to do box jumps
- Place your feet at the same width of a normal vertical jump
- Lower yourself like in a squat by bending your knees and loading your hamstrings and glutes
- At the same time bring your arms back
- Charge energy throughout the lower body
- Jump toward the box
- Land on the box
The correct motor pattern allows us to concentrate all the energies (included the elastic ones) so that they can be released in a fluid and explosive movement .
If done correctly, there is no dispersion of energy.
The most important thing is to land in the exact same position in which we made the jump.
How many box jumps in a workout?
The best thing you can do is learn the movement on low boxes with low repetitions, so that you can optimize the motor pattern and the landing on the box.
If you want to develop explosive strength, keep the volume low.
- 3 to 5 sets per workout
- 2 to 5 reps per sets
- 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between sets
For endurance/conditioning, repetitions can be raised to 6-12, with less rest between sets (60 to 30 seconds).
Personally, I do not like box jumps for conditioning.
I like playing the actual sport as the best form of conditioning, period.
High box or low box? / What’s the correct box height?
Generally speaking, boxes of 12 to 24 inches (and more) are used.
It can be different based on the level of physical conditioning of the athlete and by his goal.
In commercial gyms or in CrossFit boxes, you can see people practicing the box jump with high repetitions, which will increase the metabolic demands of the exercise.
In this specific case, it’s preferable to use a low box.
Instead, if we want to use the box jump to increase explosive strength, and we have the prerequisite for it, the high box with low volume is the best choice.
Box jumps and plyometric exercises need to be programmed correctly, with the right intensity, volume and frequency.
Box jump variations
As we can use variations in the squat, we can also vary the box jump.
We can use a weighted vest in order to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Or we can simply start the box jump by being seated on a bench, in order to cancel the stretch-shortening cycle.
Or we can do a single leg box jump.
Of course, there are many possibilities, but relying on a coach that knows how to teach you the different progressions is fundamental.
The box jump is a great plyometric exercise to develop explosiveness, acceleration, jump, sprint.
Make sure that you are physically ready for it and that is programmed correctly.
Before you do it, make sure that you have a great squat, both in terms of technique and 1RM (a 2x bodyweight squat is usually recommended).
More often than not you can see people practicing exercises like the box jump when they are not ready for it, or that could get more benefits by doing different exercises.
The box jump can be a valid exercise for athletes provided they have adequate motor skills and a solid strength base.