Box jumps are a form of plyometric exercise, a type of training that develops strength, power, and general fitness. When you do a box jump, you tap into the stretch-shortening cycle and, over time, this system becomes more efficient. How does it work? When you lower your body before jumping onto a box or platform, the muscles in your calves lengthen or stretch. During the stretch, your muscles store “elastic” energy that they quickly release when you jump into the air. This release of the stored elastic energy in your muscles allows you to spring into the air with greater force.
By doing box jumps, you can improve your vertical jump height, boost your heart rate, burn calories, and become more powerful in your lower body. Plyometric training can also improve your speed when you run or sprint. With box jumps and other plyometric exercises, you can develop strength and power while getting cardiovascular benefits.
Box jumps are not without some risk of injury, so it’s important to do them with good form and avoid the pitfalls that can lead to an injury. Let’s look at how to do one properly and mistakes to avoid when doing a box jump.
How to Do a Box Jump:
- Start with a sturdy platform or box around 4 to 6 inches (for beginners) in height. Choose a box that won’t slide or move.
- Stand around 6 inches from the box with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Lower your body by bending your knees and extend your buttocks behind you as if doing a squat. As you lower your body, bring your arms back behind you.
- With your weight on the balls of your feet, push off the floor and jump straight into the air while swinging your arms up into the air in front of you.
- Land on the box on both feet with the balls of your feet hitting first. Let your knees bend as you land to absorb some of the force. Your feet should be hip-width apart when you land.
- Carefully step off of the box on to the floor.
Common Mistakes When Doing Box Jumps
When you do a box jump, form matters, and impeccable form can save you from an injury. Let’s look at some of the most common things people do wrong when they do box jumps.
Not Building Up Glute Strength Beforehand
Before attempting box jumps, strengthen your glutes. Why are strong glutes important? If your glutes are weak, you’ll have more trouble landing correctly on the box. When you land, your feet should be roughly hip-width apart. If you have weak glutes, you’re more likely to land with your feet closer together or have your knees cave inward as you land, increasing the risk of a knee injury. Work on developing glute strength before attempting box jumps by doing lunges, hip thrusts, and other glute-focused exercises.
Not Building Up a Baseline Proficiency with Plyometrics Before Doing Box Jumps
Box jumps aren’t the first plyometric exercise you should tackle. Start by doing plyo exercises where you don’t have to deal with a platform such as jump squats, lateral hops, and switch lunges. Doing this will help you get familiar with plyometrics in a safer way. Once you’re comfortable with these exercises, you’re ready to tackle box jumps. Take it slow!
Using a Box That’s Too High
Some people approach box jumps by using a box or platform 12 inches in height. If you’re just starting, that’s too high and places you at risk of injury. Start with a lower box of around 4 to 6 inches until you master the mechanics of the exercise. You can always increase the height of the box over time but you’ll still get benefits even if you use a lower box or platform. Keep the box low at first and focus on the mechanics of the movement.
Jumping Rather than Stepping Off the Box
You may have seen people jumping onto a platform and then jumping back off. One problem with doing this is you can’t see where you’re landing but there’s another issue. Jumping off a box places greater force on your muscles and joints. Talk about high impact! You gain benefits by jumping up on the box but no added benefit from jumping backward off the box. So, reduce the stress on your joints by stepping back down and resist the urge to jump backward.
Doing Box Jumps Too Often
Box jumps will help you build power but don’t do them every time you train, even if you love doing them. Unless you’re using impeccable form, the repeated impact, using improper landing techniques, can overstress your joints and surrounding structures, like your ligaments and tendons. The riskiest way to land is on your heels rather than the balls of your feet, especially if your ankles or knees cave when you land. Keep the volume of box jumps low and don’t do them at the end of your workout when you’re fatigued. Don’t forget to warm up with active warm-up exercises before doing plyometrics though and cool down afterward.
The Bottom Line
Box jumps are one of the best exercises for building lower-body power and upgrading our performance in sports that require jumping or sprinting. Plus, the impact of plyometric exercises stimulates bone-producing cells called osteoblasts that build and maintain healthy bone tissue. Plyometric exercises also help combat the loss of muscle power that comes with aging. Studies show we lose power faster than we do muscle strength and box jumps help to slow this loss.
So, add box jumps to your training but do it safely and with good form. Start with a low platform or box and stick with it until you’ve mastered the mechanics of jumping on to a box or platform. Ask someone to videotape you while you do the exercise to ensure you’re doing it right. Then you can increase the height of the box or platform. Keep at it and you’ll get better at box jumps over time.
- com. “3 Box Jump Mistakes That Can Ruin Your Vertical Jump”
- June 2015. “Explosive Plyometric Training”
- J Hum Kinet. 2016 Dec 1; 53: 231–247. Published online 2016 Oct 14. doi: 10.1515/hukin-2016-0026.
- Physiol., 05 March 2019 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00178.
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(Last Updated On: November 8, 2020)