If you’re looking for a way to spice up your training with a variety of different movements that will leave you hands-on-your-knees tired while still developing some serious power and strength, look no further than the plyometric box.
A good plyo box — whether purchased online or made at home if you’re handy enough — will enable you to perform full-body workouts without the need for extra equipment or a pricey gym membership. With a plyo box and the right exercises in your repertoire, you can improve your power, endurance, and stability all at once.
Below, we’ll explore the eight best plyo box exercises you can start implementing today for more effective training and faster results.
Best Plyo Box Exercises
- Front Box Step-Up
- Lateral Box Step-Up
- Box Jump
- Box Jump-Over
- Decline Push-Up
- Box Dip
- Bulgarian Split Squat
- Decline Mountain Climbers
Stepping to an elevated surface is an easy way to challenge your body by increasing the balance and stability demand. The unilateral (single-leg) aspect can refine muscular asymmetries and iron out inconsistencies in your overall movement patterns, while also strengthening your glutes and quads.
Benefits of the Front Box Step-Up
- Convenient and quick to set up for easy use as a warm-up or finisher.
- Single-leg training is fantastic for muscle growth and joint prehab.
- Provides a compound (multi-joint) alternative to barbell squatting if you’re working around an injury.
How to Do the Front Box Step-Up
Stand facing a plyo box with your toes a few inches away. Lift the working leg, place it fully on top of the box, and press your body upward until your knee and hip joints are fully locked out. Slowly lower yourself by reversing the motion under control until the toes of your free leg graze the floor, then repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Make sure you’re stepping fully onto the box or you can injure yourself — it’s easy to scrape your shins if you aren’t careful.
The Lateral Step-Up is similar in form to its forward-facing brother but comes with its own distinct benefits, particularly for knee stability and hip health. The lateral step-up is especially potent for training the hip adductor and abductor musculature which allows your leg to move away from and towards your midline.
Benefits of the Lateral Box Step-Up
- Targets a plane of motion that many standard leg movements don’t adequately stimulate.
- A high degree of application to sports performance, especially for sports that involve quick changes in direction such as basketball or rugby.
- More demanding on balance and awareness than a standard side-step exercise.
How to Do the Lateral Box Step-Up
Stand perpendicular to a plyo box — aim for a lower-height one if you don’t have exceptional hip mobility. Similar to the front step-up, place the foot of the working leg fully onto the box and drive yourself upwards to a fully extended posture. Lower yourself slowly to the ground without dropping your full weight onto your free leg and then repeat.
Coach’s Tip: Stand up fully at the top and take care to not let your torso list to one side. Performing the fullest range of motion possible will ensure you reap the full benefit from the exercise.
If there’s a sure-fire way to increase your lower body power, the box jump is the tool for the job. It requires you to exert a high amount of force into the ground to perform correctly. Your quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes will all have to work together to make sure you’re jumping high enough. There’s no external load required, either, so while the joints still experience some impact, they won’t be under the stress of a loaded barbell.
Benefits of the Box Jump
- It’s a fantastic beginner’s exercise for power development.
- The box jump requires no equipment to perform, making it convenient to integrate into any routine.
- It’s easily customizable in terms of sets and reps depending on the stimulus you’re after.
How to Do the Box Jump
Stand facing the box with your feet under your shoulders and arms raised overhead. Descend into a partial or quarter squat position while sweeping your arms back behind your torso. From this position, extend forcefully and jump onto the box, landing in a slight crouch to minimize the impact force on the joints.
Coach’s Tip: If you’re looking to increase your vertical hops, do fewer (three to five) reps and make your jumps more explosive. On the contrary, if you’re looking to improve the conditioning of your legs, reduce the height of the box and do more volume by increasing your reps and sets.
The box jump over will send your heart rate through the roof. The temporary discomfort and inevitable gasps for air will be worth it, though — you’ll improve your overall endurance, burn more calories, and enhance your coordination. No, you’re not actually clearing the box (though, if you can, we say go for it). That said, the double jump — once onto the box, and one jump that you rotate during to get off the box — will challenge your body awareness and overall athleticism.
Benefits of the Box Jump Over
- More demanding on the cardiovascular system than standard box jumps.
- Adding a directional change will improve bodily coordination and agility.
- The hop off the box is a low-intensity method of improving your body’s capability to absorb force.
How to Do the Box Jump Over
Perform a standard box jump as described above. Instead of stepping back down, hop-forward off the far side of the box. Turn around and initiate another jump as fast as possible while avoiding instability or wobbling. Ensure that your feet make solid contact with the box each jump.
Coach’s Tip: Adding burpees to the end of each “jump over” once you reach the other side of the box will make this exercise all the more challenging. The box jump over is well-suited to being performed on timed intervals.
Not every movement involving a plyo box is centered on developing the lower body. While it obviously isn’t the best way to train the back, you can get in a decent upper body push session with exercises like the decline push-up. By elevating your feet on a plyo box (or a bench if you have access to that), you’re increasing the load on your chest and triceps while still only using your body weight.
Benefits of the Decline Push-Up
- Targets the chest musculature in a different way than a standard push-up, providing a novel stimulus.
- More challenging than a standard push-up due to the alteration in leverage.
How to Do the Decline Push-Up
Place your feet together on the end of the box, legs extended, and torso suspended by your arms. You should be mimicking a standard push-up posture, with the significant exception of your head being lower than your feet. From this position, perform a push-up and focus on lowering yourself under control and squeezing your chest throughout the concentric portion.
Coach’s Tip: Substitute decline push-ups with incline push-ups — which have you rest your hands on the box or bench — if you’re a beginner. This will relieve stress on the shoulders and make the movement much easier since you don’t have to support as much of your weight.
If you’re trying to put on size without access to a gym, hitting your muscles in new ways is probably one of the biggest challenges. Push-ups are all well and good, but switching things up can keep you engaged while also spurring new growth. The box dip is a stellar substitute for chest, shoulder, and triceps training, without needing a large station to perform properly.
Benefits of the Box Dip
- Provides an alternate avenue for hypertrophy training beyond yet another push-up variation.
- Conveniently loadable by placing a weight plate or any heavy object in your lap.
How to Do the Box Dip
Sit on the edge of the plyo box with your legs extended together in front of you. With your palms securely on the edge, scoot your butt off and lower yourself slowly. Descend under control, only as far as your shoulder mobility permits — stop if you detect any noticeable discomfort. Press your torso back up until your elbows are straight.
At this point, it’s clear that the plyo box is a great exercise accouterment as opposed to a tool you actually hoist. It provides a way to elevate your body and offers stability during single-leg movements. One of the best examples of the utility of a plyo box is the Bulgarian split squat, where you elevate your rear leg to perform a single-legged squat with an extra range of motion. This quad-focused exercise can be done free of load, with light weights, or if you’re experienced enough, a heavy barbell or set of dumbbells. Good luck finding a better move to isolate the front of your thighs.
Benefits of the Bulgarian Split Squat
- One of the best single-leg exercises for growing the glutes, quads, and hamstrings.
- Isolating one leg allows for targeted stimulus in the glutes especially.
- Suspending your body on one limb will test your proprioception and core stability.
- The depth required to perform the exercise correctly will increase the flexibility of your hips.
How to Do the Bulgarian Split Squat
Place your non-working leg on the box behind you, either by pressing your toes against the top or allowing the edge of the box to rest in the “nook” of your ankle and shin. With the working leg set roughly two feet away from the box, break at the hips and knees and descend as far as your mobility permits. Press through the working leg while keeping pressure light on the back leg and return to the starting position.
Coach’s Tip: If you’re going to load this movement, starting with a pair of dumbbells before moving on to a barbell will be safer and easier, allowing you to get used to the form. You can also hold kettlebells or wear a weight vest to add weight to the movement.
When it comes to core training, endless planks and crunches can rapidly become mind-numbingly boring. Standard mountain climbers make for a great ab workout that also works up a sweat, but performing them at a decline — similar to the decline push-up — incorporates a shoulder endurance element that will leave you taxed from head to toe.
Benefits of Decline Mountain Climbers
- A core-focused exercise that also stimulates the shoulders, lower back, and upper back simultaneously.
- Far more challenging than the standard or incline mountain climber, making it a great option for athletes with some experience under their belt.
How to Do Decline Mountain Climbers
Assume the same starting position as in the decline push-up. Instead of bending at the elbows to lower your body to the floor, pull one knee up to your stomach, return your foot back to the box, and lift the opposite leg in the same way. Avoid rushing through your reps, but try to lift the second leg as soon as the first one makes contact with the box again.
[Related: 4 Ways to Make Bodyweight Training Harder]
Why Train With a Plyo Box?
At a glance, the plyo box looks like an unassuming piece of gym equipment. However, there are a variety of reasons you’ll want to start training with a plyo box — its simplicity is actually one of its biggest assets.
While a plyometric box can’t hold a candle to something like a Bowflex gym when it comes to all-in-one exercise selection, you can definitely get more value out of it than meets the eye when it comes to switching up your standard workouts. There are more than enough lower and upper body options available to make or modify a routine centered around the box itself.
Plyometric boxes will help you to improve your power and endurance above all. You’ll be able to do explosive lower-body exercises that can train your force development skills in a way that transfers over to other athletic domains. Plyo boxes see particular usefulness for sport training due to this — if you’re a recreational or competitive athlete, you could be leaving gains on the table if you aren’t using a plyo box at all.
Perhaps more than anything, the plyo box wins out for ease of use. There are no screws to screw, no cables to hook, and no moving parts to get your clothes — or a finger — caught up in. A good plyo box will last you years and fits snugly just about anywhere in your home gym, giving you easy access to a workout in mere minutes.
How to Program Plyo Box Training
Typically, you can include a plyo box exercise in any part of your workout routine since it enables you to work out both your upper body and lower body. If you’re working your chest, triceps, or shoulders, then end your workout with a decline push-ups burnout set.
If you’re doing a leg session, throw in some plyo box Bulgarian split squats, and if you want a cardio workout to spike your heart rate and build your core, do a short AMRAP (as many reps as possible) for five minutes of box jump overs with burpees superset with decline mountain climbers at the end of your workout.
If you want to improve your explosiveness and power, start with a few sets of plyo box jumps at the beginning of your workout. When you’re trying to improve your vertical jump — or overall power output — you need to have as much energy as possible.
Plyo boxes are an excellent tool for a full-body workout that you can do from your home or at the gym. They will allow you to do an array of upper and lower body exercises — and there are a lot more than the ones recommended in this article.
If you’re looking to take your explosiveness or endurance to the next level, are just getting started in the gym and aren’t ready to hit the iron, or just want to break a sweat at home, give some of the workouts above a try. You won’t be disappointed.
Featured Image: Leszek Glasner/Shutterstock