Whilst many of us may associate jumping in puddles at five years old - jumping as an adult can actually strengthen your legs, giving you power, explosion, and speed like never before.
True plyometric movements consisting of hops, jumps and bounces (sometimes known as dynamic or explosive movements), can be the difference between good legs, and amazing legs.
However, many people shy away from them as they are very tough on the anaerobic system, and, if performed wrong, can seriously damage your joints and muscles. However, if performed correctly and with a sensible rate of progression, you could be on your way to some serious PB’s this season.
Plyometric box jump training will work on hip explosiveness and leg drive, utilizing body weight as the resistance.
What is a box jump?
In short, a box jump is a jumping exercise in which the athlete projects themselves upwards from the ground and lands, with two feet, onto an elevated box, and then jumps back off the box onto the floor.
Body weighted box jumps target your fast-twitch muscle fibers, which helps to improve explosive power, speed and functional strength - ideal for lower body toning and overall fitness.
Primary muscles on the explosive upward movement: glutes, quadriceps, gastrocnemius (calves).
Primary muscle controlling the downward motion and preparation of the jump: hip flexors, hamstrings.
Is box jumping suitable for beginners?
Like any form of physical activity, you must warm up before attempting a box jump, and stretch after your work out. However, I would also advise that your squats and lunges are the best they can be. Like every exercise, box jumps are a tool that must be treated carefully, not randomly thrown into your programming and conditioning; good technique is always advised.
How high should the box be?
You should focus the exercise on a quality landing and not box height. Start relatively low in height (around knee height), and perfect the technique described below.
To up the difficulty, you can either wear a weights vest, or raise the height of the box. It is worth noting that any box above 1 metre will mean you are focusing on projecting yourself up and onto the box rather than the quality of your jump and the landing.
How to perform a box jump perfectly:
• Leave approx. 2 feet between you and the box before you jump.
• Take your time - If you want to do it right, you must slowly squat down to parallel, before you jump, and pause. This reduces your stretch reflex, or the rubber-band-like qualities of your muscles and tendons. You should not let your body rely on momentum to jump, instead, force yourself to activate your fast-twitch muscle fibres to propel you to the top of the box.
• Brace your abdominals to keep a strong core. With any rounding of the back you will expose a power leak that will travel down the kinetic chain and lead to nasty joint pain and problems.
• Keep your eyes and chest up as you would in a squat. If your landing leaves you bent at the waist and looking to the floor, then reduce the height of the box.
• Ensure your feet are flat at landing, and ensure your entire foot is on the box- land like a ninja, not like an elephant!
• Drive your arms forward and up as you jump.
• Keep your knees neutral, rather than in valgus or varus (diving in or diving out).
• Pause at the top and momentarily hold the squat position to decrease injury risk.
• If you are prone to injury or have any previous joint, ligament or muscular injuries, step off the box rather than jumping backwards. Stepping off reduces the stress placed on the Achilles tendon, (safer option).
• For advanced plyometric jumps, jump backwards off the box then spring straight back up onto the box so that the feet have minimal contact with the floor. (a spring like movement) – please note this advanced exercise can cause injury if you are not significantly warmed up or have previous injuries.
• 5 Sets of between 6 and 10 reps with a 1 minute rest between sets