Box Jump Exercise Guide

The box jump is a plyometric exercise that can increase maximal power output, improve rate of force development, and enhance loading mechanics for movements like jumping, landing, and more dynamic strength, power, and fitness exercises.

In this article we will discuss:

  • Box Jump Form and Technique
  • Benefits of the Box Jump
  • Muscles Worked by Box Jumps
  • Box Jump Sets, Reps, and Programming Recommendations
  • Box Jump Variations and Alternatives
  • and more…

How to Do the Box Jump

Below is a step-by-step guide on how to properly set up and perform the box jump.

Box Jump Start

Step 1: Start with the feet about hip width, so that the ankles, knees, and hips are nearly stacked above on another.

Generally, lifters should use a jumping stance that is roughly a few inches inside their normal squat stance. This position may be custom the the athlete.

Step 2: Find a box (or other stable yet released surface), and place the lifter roughly 1-2 inches away from the box, with their toes facing forwards.

This stance is often individual, however it is typically an inch or two narrower than the lifter’s squat stance.

Box Jump Load

Step 3: With the feet planted, the lifter should take the hands back towards the heels and push the hips back to load the hamstrings and glutes.

It is important that the lifter does not let the head or chest collapse forward in this position. Additionally, the lifter should not be falling backwards, but rather displacing pressure across the entire foot (balance).

Box Jump Flight

Step 4: Once the lifter feels a large stretch in the hamstrings and glutes, they should immediately extend the ankles, knees, and hips while throwing the hands in front (to about chest/head level) to further increase momentum.

If the lifter fails to have a smooth and fast change between loading the jump and changing directions to jump, some energy may be lost as heat, which can be a waste of an athlete’s power.

Box Jump Finish

Step 5: Upon landing on the box, the lifter’s ankles, knees, and hips should be flexed to allow the muscles to absorb the body weight and force.

The lifter should do their best to not lose balance, lose a good upright positioning, and to not land loudly (as this can be very jarring on the body).

Muscles Worked – Box Jump

The below muscles groups are targeted with box jumps. Note, that box jumps do not necessarily increase muscle hypertrophy or strength, but rather are used as a plyometric exercise to increase explosiveness and power output of the lower body.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are one of the predominant muscles involved in the posterior chain, and are active in the box jump. Increased activation and explosiveness of the hamstrings can increase jumping ability, sprint speeds, and maximal force output for hamstrings centric movements. Note, that the broad jump, another variation of this plyometric movement, does target the hamstrings slightly more due to the increase hip flexion in the loading of the jump.

Quadriceps

Like the hamstrings, the quadriceps are involved in the force output necessary for the box jump, as they promote knee extension that propels the lifter’s body upwards away from the floor. In unison with powerful hip and ankle extension, the lifter is able to use the quadriceps to contract at increased speeds to promote large amounts of force downwards into the floor at higher rates of muscle contraction (increase power output).

Gluteals

The glutes are responsible for powerful hip extension and supporting the hamstrings, and quadriceps in forceful lower body joint extension. The glutes are involved in squats, deadlifts, and most other strength/power lifts, making the box jump a good movement to pattern powerful extension while also increasing the muscle’s ability to promote high amounts of power.

Calves

The calves, which are responsible for ankle plantarflexion, are key to increasing a lifter’s ability to jump, sprint, and perform more explosive movements. Strong, stable, and power calves can increase stability and help lifters reach a more force triple extension in most explosive movements (like cleans, snatches, jerks, etc).

3 Benefits of Box Jumps

Below are three benefits of the box jump that coaches and athletes from most strength, power, and fitness sports can expect when implementing box jumps into a training regimen.

Increase Rate of Force Production

Increased force production can come from a variety of methods, such as building stronger legs with squat, deadlifts, and other forms of resistance training. However, in most sports, such as weightlifting, strongman, functional fitness, and more formal athletics; the ability to promote force at increasing rates is a key indicator of athletic potential. Power output is influenced by both the ability to increase force (at whatever speed) and the athlete’s ability to promote fast twitch muscle fiber responses to increase the speed of the forceful contraction.

Box jumps can be used to increase athletic potential, increase lower body explosiveness, and have direct carry over to other forms of jumping, squatting, deadlifting, sprinting, and weightlifting.

Proprioception

The ability to control one’s body in space, without having to physically see the movement of a limb occurring can be referred to as proprioception. Box jumps, like other plyometrics, can help lifters establish better body awareness and control in other forms of movement like jumping, running, and even explosive lifting like snatch, cleans, etc.

Powerful Hip and Knee Extension

Hip and knee extension is key for most movements in the strength, power, and fitness sports world. Movements like squats, deadlift, running, sprinting, jumping, and weightlifting rely on powerful posterior chain muscles and quadriceps to increase muscle explosiveness, force output, and performance. Box jumps can be a good way to induce neurological adaptations to improve rate of force development, increase landing mechanics under high impact situations, and increase overall athletic potential.

Who Should Do Box Jumps?

The box jump is often found across all strength, power, and fitness sports programming, and rightfully so. Here’s how athletes of various groups can benefits from utilizing box jumps on a regular basis.

Box Jumps for Strength Athletes

While maximal power output may not be the highest priority for more strength-based athletes, the ability to increase power output and muscle recruitment via box jumps can aid (even in small doses) in overall force production. This can be helpful for increasing pulling power off the floor in a heavy deadlift, producing greater hip extension in a push press, and or increasing a lifters ability to accelerate through a sticking point in a squat.

Box Jumps for Weightlifters

Box jumps for Olympic weightlifters can be helpful for increasing eccentric strength, elasticity, and power output for movements like snatches, cleans, and jerks. The neurological adaptations that take place from performing box jumps can be applied directly to most of the weightlifting movements.

Box Jumps for CrossFit/Competitive Fitness Athletes

Aside from the strength and power benefits mentioned above, box jumps are highly utilized in most competitive fitness WODs and competitions, and should have their place in most competitive fitness programs to increase sports performance.

Box Jumps for General Fitness

The box jump can be a useful plyometric exercise to develop power output, increase landing mechanics (helpful for other high impact movements like sports, running, life), and can be a useful exercise in most regimes. It is important that coaches and trainers properly progress fitness goers programming as well as spend time teaching them proper joint mechanics, muscle loading, and technique to minimize unnecessary strain and stress.

How to Program the Box Jump

Below are three primary training goals and programming recommendations when utilizing the box jump into specific programs. Note, that these are just general guidelines, and by no means should be used as the only way to programm box jumps.

Movement Integrity – Reps and Sets

This should be done with lower box heights, making sure that the lifter can perform a stable and controlled landing and takeoff prior to increasing the impact via increaseb box heights or training with too many repetitions/sets.

  • 3-4 sets of 3-5 repetitions, resting 2-3 minutes

Power – Reps and Sets

For more power-explosive focused work, lower reps with more sets can be used, allowing the athlete to rest adequately in between sets.

  • 3-4 sets of 2-3 repetitions, resting 2-3 minutes

Muscle Endurance- Reps and Sets

Some lifters may want to train more repetitions to increase training volume, and muscle power endurance. The below rep ranges can work best for this type of goal.

  • 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, resting 60-90 seconds between (this is highly sport specific)

Box Jump Variations

Below are three (3) box jump variations that can be used by coaches and athletes to keep training varied and progressive.

Seated Box Jump

The seated box jump is done by simply having an athlete start from a static, seated position, often with varying starting heights to then go directly into a box jump. This can be done with or without arm involvement, with the main purpose being to increase (1) concentric power output, and (2) increase neural activation, due to the lack of a pre-load phase.

1-Step Box Jump

1-step approaches to a box jump (rather than starting from a standing position) can be helpful for those individuals who may need to increase jumping ability for sport specific purposes. This also allows an athlete to gain momentum as they go into the jump, often increasing jump height max.

Single Leg Box Jump

The single leg box jump can be done by jumping off a single leg (unilateral box jump) and land on either the same foot or by placing both feet down and landing on two legs. This is a movement that can increase unilateral strength, power, and balance.

Box Jump Alternatives

Below are three (3) box jump alternatives coaches and athletes can use to increase explosiveness.

Depth Drop to Box Jump

The depth drop is an exercise that can develop elasticity, increase landing mechanics, and improve muscle eccentric strength. When paired with the box jump (assuming the athlete can already perform a proper depth jump), these two potent movements can be used together to create a highly effective jumping protocol.

Broad Jump

The broad jump (mentioned above) is a plyometric movement that has the athlete jump on a more horizontal trajectory, primarily due to the increased hip flexion and decreased knee extension needed in this movement. Therefore, the hamstrings and hips (glutes) are slightly more involved, with direct application to running and sprinting.

Squat Jump

The squat jump is a plyometric movement that can be useful to increase load (often light loads) to induce greater muscle activation, and power output. This is common in most Olympic weightlifting and formal sports programs during power and explosive phases.

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

Mike holds a Master’s in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor’s in Exercise Science. He’s a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.

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