Many exercises have become synonymous with a CrossFit WOD: muscle-ups, burpees, and wall balls, to name a few. However, the box jump is perhaps the most prolific of all.
Regardless of your chosen training style, box jumps are a powerful addition to your workout routine. Here's everything you need to know about the benefits of box jumping and some fantastic box jump workout variations to take your fitness to the next level.
Benefits of Box Jumping
Box jumps are a plyometric movement that trains the body for impact, power, and explosiveness. Plyometric training, often called shock training, combines strength and speed by applying force against a surface with the body. In simple terms, when you jump or skip, you're engaging in plyometric training.
One of the benefits of plyometric training is that it helps improve explosive power. This benefit carries over into various types of training— especially running. If you're trying to beat your record for a running WOD, plyometrics can help.
These explosive movements also improve weightlifting efforts, carrying over into snatches, clean and jerks, deadlifts, and squats.
Additionally, some plyometric exercises can help improve balance and coordination. Box jumps are one of these plyometric movements. These exercise types also help prevent injuries by training these shorter ranges of motion and improving bone density.
So, runners who have a strong foot strike or basketball players who need to change directions quickly are less likely to hurt their ankles or knees. You'll also notice an improvement in other exercises, like your squats and bodyweight lunges.
In essence, box jumps will improve your overall athletic performance. While box jumps primarily work the calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes, they also keep your heart rate up so that you get the most out of your workout. Consider adding box jump variations to your workout at least once per week.
8 Best Box Jump Exercises
For a simple, straightforward exercise, box jumps have numerous variations worth trying to change things up. Changing up your box jump workouts can help refine your coordination, balance, and agility.
Here's how to do a conventional box jump and a comprehensive list of variations to try.
Conventional Box Jump
There are two key components to box jumping: the take-off and the landing. When you box jump, you're not running and jumping to the box; you're starting with your feet planted and building momentum using your entire body. Here's how:
- Stand in front of a plyo box with your feet set at hip-width. You should be approximately six inches from the box.
- Hinge your hips back and bend your knees as though you're preparing to squat. Pull your arms back behind you to prepare for the swing.
- Explode upward with force, pushing through the balls of your feet and swinging your arms forward for momentum. You should fully extend as you come toward the box, then draw your knees up to land.
- Land with both feet on the box, letting your knees soften to absorb the impact— channel your inner ninja or Cat Woman here.
- Return to standing and carefully step back down off the box.
The hardest part of learning how to box jump is trusting yourself. Choose a box with ample clearance and increase the height as you become more confident. Many Plyo Boxes are made so that you can get three different heights out of one box simply by turning them to one of the sides.
If you have underlying knee issues or pre-existing conditions limiting your mobility, consider starting with a simple step up.
One of the most important things to remember when doing box jumps is to step rather than jump off the box. Jumping mindlessly backward puts you at risk of injury.
However, you can improve your box jumps by practicing box drops. This box jump exercise will help you learn to land softly if you struggle with that aspect of the box jump.
Start by standing on top of the box with feet shoulder-width apart. Gently jump off the box and soften your knees to land on both feet simultaneously. Many people who struggle to train this skill while jumping up can break through that barrier by jumping down safely and intentionally.
Weighted Box Jump
Once you've accomplished the basic box jump, you can take it to the next level by adding weight. Repeat the steps for the conventional box jump while holding dumbbells or kettlebells in each hand. Conversely, you can wear a weight vest.
Adding weight to your box jumps will help strengthen your muscles and create more power to support other strength training exercises.
Single-Leg Box Jump
Unilateral training can help you correct imbalances in both strength and mobility. Single-leg box jumps are a great cross-training exercise to support your pistol squats.
As the name implies, you can complete a single-leg box jump by following the same steps as the conventional box jump while balancing on one foot. Start with a low plyo box to practice the movement before increasing the height.
Burpee Box Jump
This combination box jump workout is a powerful addition to any lower body calisthenics routine. The intensity of this exercise will challenge you to push yourself to the limit.
Start by doing a burpee while facing the plyo box. As you come back to your feet at the end of the burpee, you'll transition directly into the box jump from your quarter squat position. This movement should be fluid from one exercise to the next. One burpee plus one box jump equals one rep.
Jumping Jack Box Jumps
Another great way to add intensity to your box jump workouts is to combine the movement with jumping jacks. Stand facing the plyo box, and perform a jumping jack. As you bring your feet back together, allow your knees to bend and transition into the box jump movement.
Again, this intense cardio exercise will torch calories and challenge both your body and mind.
Read Also: Best HIIT Cardio Workouts you can do at home
For a simple way to make your basic box jumps more explosive, do box jump overs. The benefit of this variation is that you keep moving, lacking the brief pause between reps.
Follow the steps for the conventional box jump until you land on the box. Instead of stepping down backward, step forward off the other side of the box, turn around, and repeat the process.
Rotational Box Jumps
Incorporating trunk rotation into your workouts will help boost your coordination and balance. Rotational exercises engage the core and help combat low back pain outside of the gym.
Start by turning 90 degrees so that your shoulder and hip are facing the plyo box. This time, when you jump up, you'll also turn to land on the box facing forward once more. Practice this motion without a box, and start with a lower height to perfect the movement.
Considerations When Doing Workouts with a Plyo Box
Having the right plyometric box can make or break your workout. One of the top considerations is the height of the box. As a rule, you should start with a shorter box and work your way up. Boxes often come in 12", 16", 20", 24", and 30" height options. CrossFit often prescribes 24" for women and 30" for men.
Consider purchasing a 3-in-1 box that has height variations. Don't feel bad about starting with a lower box— everyone starts somewhere.
Another important consideration is the material. While most plyo boxes are wood, there are also metal and foam options. If choosing wood, look for something with padded or sanded edges to prevent injury. Selecting a foam plyo box can help soften the impact if you have knee problems while also protecting your shins.
See the full guide for choosing a plyo box on our guide of the Top 6 Best Plyometric Boxes For Home Workouts.
Adding box jump workouts to your HIIT training, weightlifting or running cross-training, or as a standalone exercise can help boost your performance in other sports and movements. This form of plyometric training is versatile, accessible, and easy to modify for athletes of all levels.
Add these box jump exercises to your workout to get faster, stronger, and more agile.