Jumping, including box jumps, is a plyometric movement, a movement where you stretch a muscle before contracting it. You’re probably familiar with plyometric moves such as lateral jumps, tuck jumps, squat jumps, lateral jumps, and, of course, box jumps. You can even do plyometric movements for your upper body, such as plyo push-ups and medicine ball throws against a wall. All of these movements enhance power and explosiveness, the ability to generate force quickly.
Athletes that take part in certain sports include plyometrics in their training. For example, athletes who jump improve their vertical jump height through plyometric training. Examples of athletes who can benefit from plyometrics are volleyball players, sprinters, and basketball players–but so can you! The eccentric component where you stretch the muscle and its muscle spindles allow the muscle contraction that follows to be more powerful. The initial pre-stretch primes the muscle so it can develop more tension and contract with more force. Therefore, plyometric training can improve vertical jump height.
When you start out, it’s safest to master static jumps such as the jump squat before jumping onto a box. Even when you start, the box height should be low for safety reasons. You can always increase the height as you get more comfortable with the movement. To get familiar with working with a platform, start with single-leg step-ups before tackling box jumps.
So, why should you include box jumps in your training routine? Let’s look at some ways box jumps can upgrade your fitness and improve your health.
Box Jumps for Boost Cardiovascular Health
Any repetitive jumping, including jumping onto a box, increases your heart rate and enhances cardiovascular fitness, assuming you do it without pausing long between jumps. Over time, jumping on a box will increase your endurance and stamina for better sports performance. However, you must jump at a fast tempo to boost your heart rate enough to gain cardiovascular benefits. The downside is increasing the tempo can lead to sloppy form and injuries. For that reason, try jumping rope if cardiovascular gains are your objective.
Box jumping is an effective calorie burner too. You burn 800 to 1000 calories per hour with this explosive exercise. When you’re tired of doing aerobic exercise to burn calories, try box jumps instead. It’s a challenging movement with multiple fitness benefits.
Box Jumps Increase Vertical Jump Height
One of the biggest benefits of box jumps is how they improve your vertical jump height. If you play sports like volleyball or basketball, improving how high you can jump can enhance your performance. You’ll also develop greater strength and explosiveness in your lower body.
It’s important to build strength, but we also need power capabilities to do daily activities. Even getting up from a chair requires explosiveness to push your body off the seat. One reason the elderly become chair bound is they lack sufficient power to propel their body forward and upward. Box jumps is one of the best exercises for building explosive power.
Increase Bone Density
Jumping onto a box is a high-impact movement that stimulates the laydown of new bone tissue. That’s important for preventing osteoporosis. One study in men that looked at resistance training and jumping found both increased bone mineral density in men with reduced bone mass over a six-month period. However, jumping was most effective for increasing bone density in the lumbar spine. Only resistance training improved hip bone mineral density. So, box jumps are a good addition to a resistance training program for bone health.
How to Get Started
Jumping on to a box can intimidate at first, so don’t be a hero. Start with a low box. Also, master jump squats and other plyometric movements, like tuck jumps, before progressing to box jumps, a more advanced move. Start with a 14-inch or 16-inch box in the beginning until you get comfortable. When you jump, the goal is to land on the box with both feet and then jump back down. The faster the pace, the more of a cardiovascular workout you’ll get. Once you’re comfortable jumping on to a 14-inch or 16-inch box, graduate to an 18 or 20-inch box.
How to Do a Box Jump:
- Stand in front of the box. Your body should be around 10 inches away from the edge and your feet shoulder-width apart
- Keeping the weight in your heels, descend into a quarter squat.
- Jump on to the box. Your hamstrings, not your knees should absorb most of the landing force.
- Jump back to the starting position, as you land softly on the balls of your feet with your knees slightly bent.
Another tip: Use your arms. When you propel your arms up toward the ceiling when you jump, it helps generate more force and burns more calories. Use good form when you land. Too often, people let their knees collapse upon landing, increasing their risk of a knee injury. Land softly with a slight bend in your knees.
There are a variety of ways you can structure box jumps. If your goal is to get the most cardiovascular benefits, jump up and back as quickly as you can for 5 minutes without stopping. You can lower the height of the box to make it easier. If the main goal is to build power and explosiveness, choose a higher box height and do fewer reps. Complete 2-4 reps before taking resting for 15 seconds.
More Advanced Box Jumps
Once standard box jumps become too easy, you can make them harder by holding a dumbbell in each hand for added resistance or by increasing the height of the box. Some people also wear a weight vest when they jump for more resistance. Another more challenging variation is to jump onto the box on one leg and land on both.
The Bottom Line
Whether you want to get fitter, stronger, or more powerful, box jumps can help you do it. Take advantage of this phenomenal exercise.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association. Volume 27, Number 2, pages 78-80.
- Davies G, Riemann BL, Manske R. CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015;10(6):760–786.
- Hinton PS, Nigh P, Thyfault J. Effectiveness of resistance training or jumping-exercise to increase bone mineral density in men with low bone mass: A 12-month randomized, clinical trial. Bone. 2015;79:203–212. doi:10.1016/j.bone.2015.06.008.