The box jump is easy to love — and hate. It’s fantastic for building lower-body power, speed, and strength. As a test of plyometric prowess, it’s a high-level physical and mental challenge.
Still, this go-to plyo move has earned a bad rap, as it’s seen by many as an invitation to Achilles-tendon tears and shredded shins. The trouble comes when people push too hard, move too fast, or use sloppy form. Read on to learn how to box-jump safely, so you can make it a regular exercise in your strength routine.
- Stand with your feet at hip width, about a foot behind a plyo box or other sturdy elevated surface.
- Hinge your hips and lower into a mini squat, feeling the weight in your engaged glutes and heels as you swing your arms back.
- Explosively reverse the motion — extend your hips and legs as you swing your arms forward for added momentum to jump with a powerful hip pop onto the box.
- Land gently on the balls of your feet with knees soft, then plant your feet on the box. Don’t land with your heels hanging off the box or on your knees and hands.
- Straighten your legs and drive through your hips to stand tall.
- Step down one foot at a time, alternating legs after each jump.
- Perform eight jumps. Rest for one minute before repeating for two or three total sets.
To get the most out of the box jump and avoid injury, consider the following tips:
- Keep reps low. Two or three sets of eight jumps is on point for power training and will protect your joints and tendons.
- Take on box heights that you can confidently achieve, and give yourself time to get there. Plyo boxes range from 6 inches to more than 42 inches, so there is plenty of room to grow.
- Aim for perfection. This high-exertion move requires excellent form. Focus on proper technique — and stop if it starts to break down.
- Strengthen your hip pop by performing different power moves, such as jump squats and med-ball slams
This article has been updated. It originally appeared in the July-August 2018 issue of Experience Life.
If box jumps aren’t in your wheelhouse, try one of the following variations. The step-up in a modification that eliminates the jump without sacrificing strength-building. The lateral hop, squat jump, and med ball slam are plyo moves that keep you squarely on the ground.
Make It Easier
Step-Ups aren’t easier as much as they are more focused on building hip, leg, and glute strength while eliminating the high impact and fear factor of box jumps.
- Facing a box or step that’s 6 to 15 inches high, lift your left foot and step on the box, making sure the entire foot is fully planted and without dangling your heel.
- Exhale and engage your core. Then drive through the left heel to stand up completely on the box. Try to avoid propelling yourself with your right foot.
- Lift your right foot to the box to meet your left foot, then slowly reverse the movement: Count to two, then return your right foot to the floor.
- Repeat 12 times on each side. Rest for one minute before repeating for three sets.
Ground Variations to Try
- Stand with weight evenly distributed across both feet and a slight bend in the hips and knees.
- Push off from the balls of your feet to hop up and to the side — just a few inches is enough. You can use a small object as a point to jump over.
- Land with knees soft, then reverse the jump in the opposite direction.
- Repeat, jumping side to side for 10 to 12 reps. Rest for one minute before repeating for three sets.
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart, bracing your core and squeezing your glutes.
- Squat down, keeping your chest up and lowering your hips until your thighs are about parallel to the floor.
- In one explosive movement, jump up as high as you can.
- Land softly, then repeat for six to eight reps. Rest for one minute before repeating for three sets.
- Stand with feet shoulder width apart and knees slightly bent, with a medicine ball between your feet.
- Squat down to grasp the ball with both hands, then use the power of your hips to raise the ball overhead.
- In one explosive movement, throw the ball down on the floor as hard as you can.
- Catch the ball and repeat for six to eight reps. Rest for one minute before repeating for three sets.