Tp Blog 540763613

6 Steps to Master the Box Jump

BY Lily Frei

Box jumps are a nemesis for many newer athletes. The potential pain from missing a jump is very real. But plyometric movements like box jumps are a cornerstone of athleticism — read on if you’re ready to work on your jumping confidence.

Unlock Your Vertical Potential: Conquer the Box Jump

For many athletes, the box jump looms like a formidable adversary. The fear of failing a jump and getting injured holds back even more experienced endurance athletes. It’s a common sentiment that as we age, our risk aversion grows, shaped by the scars of past injuries and experiences. The daring acrobatics of youth become distant memories, replaced by cautious calculations of risk and reward.

But defying gravity by jumping up onto a higher surface is essential to athleticism and a key feature of being an athlete with legs. From the courts of the NBA to the fields of the NFL, and the grand stages of the Olympics — all athletes train the vertical leap. There’s major carryover to Olympic weightlifting, where power reigns supreme. Top weightlifters have incredible verticals. The correlation between explosive verticality and success is undeniable.

Plyometrics are exercises that train your jumping power by conditioning your muscles to exert maximum force in a short amount of time.

Enter the plyo box, a modest yet mighty tool in the arsenal of athletic development.

It’s exciting to watch someone stand nervously in front of a knee-high plyo box, fighting their fear impulses and psyching themselves out to attempt the jump. They pace and bounce in front of it, bending their knees and sizing up the leap over and over. When they finally hit the launch button and stick the landing? Cheers and high-fives all around. It marks a significant milestone, especially for those on a weight loss or strength journey.

The trick is to remember this: you’re never going to be totally sure you can make the jump that first time. Not until you commit to the scary part and actually land it. 

As always, the journey begins with a single step – or in this case, a controlled ascent.

How to Land Your First Box Jump

1. Step-Up to Success

The best place to start is by building confidence in your leg strength and coordination by stepping up and down one foot at a time onto a stable, elevated surface like a staircase. Emphasize the pressing motion through your foot to create stability up your body’s kinetic chain. 

Remember: step-ups are a slow movement. While they’ll build your overall posterior chain strength, they won’t train the explosiveness you need to jump high, or the timing and spatial awareness it takes to land a jump. Try not to linger on step-ups forever and move on to step two as soon as you can.

2. Practice Your Technique

This video shows the correct box jump movement standards. The key takeaways here are the two-feet takeoff and two-feet landing.

Set your stance at about hip-width apart, and initiate the movement with a squat-like motion. Bend your knees and sit your hips back, then launch upward using the momentum generated by your arms. Aim to float on top of the box into a controlled landing with bent knees, maintaining your hip and spine integrity. Stand up tall once you’re on top. 

Your landing position should look just like your starting position — hips higher than your knees, like the start of a squat. Practice nailing this form with small jumps on even ground.

3. Move Up to Plate Jumps

Start slow with just a solid 15lb rubber plate (one without holes) or a low platform flat on the ground. Work on jumping on top of it daily until it feels easy. Focus on your two-feet takeoff and landing technique with each jump. Pretty soon it’ll start to come naturally. Remember, your body is meant to do this!

As your confidence grows, work in other challenges like line hops (hopping left-to-right and front-to-back over a line on the floor) or jump-rope sets for extra credit. When you’re ready and that 15lb plate feels easy, add a 10lb plate on top of it and drill the new jump height. Keep adding small increments of height until you find a sticking point. Then work that sticking point and move on when it’s less intimidating. This is called progressive overload.

When you’ve made it to a stack of 3-4 45lb plates, about a 20-inch box height, it’s time to…

4. Embrace the Fear!

Set the plyo box up to its lowest height and confront it with logic: if you can jump onto plates stacked to the same height, you’re ready for the box. Use the plates to get over your mental blocks, then commit to the box, letting each successful rep bolster your confidence.

Many strength coaches would say you’ll never feel 100% ready to tackle your first Mt. Everest. The self-preservation will have you staring at that grainy wood cuboid like it’s filled with spiders. Do it scared!

5. Try Rebounding

Generally, you’ll be stepping down onto the floor one foot at a time to get off the box or plate stack. But it’s worth learning a technique called rebounding if you want to level up your box jumping skills. 

Rebounding means jumping down to the ground, then back up onto the box as soon as your feet touch the floor. Rebounding saves time by making your reps faster, but it’s a more advanced skill that requires practice and high power output to avoid injury. 

6. Rise to the Tall Box Challenge

Once standard height box jumps feel good and you’ve got more power underneath you, it’s time to make the plyo box scary again. Turn the box on its end and try the 30-inch height. Do a few high jumps next to the tall box to get a feel for how explosive you need to be to land on top of it.

For high jumps relative to your height, your body will need to fly into full extension then tuck your legs and land in almost full flexion. Consider yourself a solidly skilled athlete if you can jump onto a tall box (unless you yourself are very tall, then add a few plates to the tall box). 

Avoid Missed-Jump Injuries

Box jumps are intimidating because you can hurt yourself. Your chances of strained calves, scraped shins, or a torn Achilles tendon increases if you become careless with your reps. 

Try not to round your back, stomp hard or land lazily. Rest when you’re tired instead of struggling to make another jump and missing it. (Hopefully you’ll only need to miss once to learn that lesson.) Use the soft boxes instead of the wooden ones if your gym has them.

Push yourself just the right amount and pay attention to your body. Before you know it, you’ll be firing up onto a tall box like you’re wearing a jetpack.

Image Of A Runner Using The Trainingpeaks App To Train

Start Your Free Account

TrainingPeaks App

TrainingPeaks offers the world’s most powerful training app, allowing you to plan, track, and analyze your training all in one place. Connect your free trial account with your favorite apps and devices for real-time workout guidance and watch your fitness progress with powerful data tools.

Screen Shot 2021 10 05 At 8.45.05 Am
About Lily Frei

Lily is TrainingPeaks’ Marketing Content Creator and a CF-L1 with an English background. She’s been a successful freelance marketer for the functional fitness industry, specializing in strength and conditioning. An uncommon combo of bookish nerd and athlete, Lily is devoted to weightlifting, CrossFit, yoga, dance, and aerial acrobatics.

Visit Lily Frei's Coach Profile

Related Articles