The box jump is one of the simplest, most rudimentary exercises known to fitness. You’ve probably seen ‘exercise demonstrations’ of people leaping onto a 12″ box and you might also have seen the likes of Evan Ungar perform the same exercise onto a 63″ box.
Clearly, a box jump can be a pretty magnificent display of one’s vertical leaping ability, but just how useful is this exercise for developing that spring in the first place?
Box jumps do increase your vertical jump by training your central nervous system to more efficiently develop force in a short amount of time. While they won’t develop much in the way of strength, they will increase your rate of force development which is a crucial component of the vertical jump.
The rest of this article will discuss exactly how effective box jumps can be, if you should incorporate them into your training, and how and when they can be implemented for maximum vertical jump gains.
Will Box Jumps Make You Jump Higher?
Undoubtedly, box jumps are going to help you jump higher, absolutely. Let me quickly explain what they are and how to perform them and what their purpose is.
How To Perform A Box Jump
Quite simply, a box jump is a plyometric exercise where the athlete begins from a standstill and performs a countermovement jump onto a sturdy box or platform. That’s it.
Why They Make You Jump Higher
The reason they’re so good for the vertical jump is because they are a vertical jump. As you know, when it comes to plyometrics, specificity is king. You want to perform exercises that closely replicate a vertical jump. The box jump literally is a standing vertical jump!
Differences Between Box Jump & Regular Vertical Jump
The difference, however, is that there’s virtually no concentric component to the jump. Because you’re leaping onto an elevated surface, you greatly reduce the landing forces when compared to a typical standing vertical jump.
Benefits Of Box Jumps For Vertical Jump Training
- Allows High Plyometric Volume – Because the landing component is effectively removed, you can perform lots of repetitions without much fatigue. In a regular vertical jump, the landing forces are extremely high and this impact will wear you down.
- Protects Knee & Ankle Joints – When jumping, the overwhelming majority of the strain on your ankles and knees comes from landing. By elevating your landing, you’re massively reducing joint pain and discomfort. This can be great for athletes with jumper’s knee.
Drawbacks Of Box Jumps For Vertical Jump Training
- Less Plyometric Load – The reason depth drops are such a good exercise is because simply landing from a height is an excellent way to increase your explosive ability. By using a box, we’re taking the depth drop portion out of the movement and removing this benefit.
- Slightly Dangerous – If you use a box that’s too high, or a box/platform that’s unstable, it will topple and you’ll fall. If you manage to miss the box, it’s possible to hurt your shins or knees on the edge.
When & How To Use Box Jumps To Jump Higher
Box jumps should be performed towards the start of a session while you’re relatively fresh. This is true of all plyometric exercises. The last thing you want to do is get through some heavy squats and then attempt to jump onto a relatively high box while you’re overly fatigued. That’s a great way to get injured.
Use box jumps if you suffer from patellar tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, or any other inconvenient leg injuries. As I mentioned earlier, box jumps are a good way to practice generating maximum force without the impact of a regular jump, so your joints and tendons can cope with the training volume much easier.
You can use box jumps throughout all phases of your training. I use them as a reactivity maintenance exercise while on a strength phase. I also use them as a pure plyometric exercise when I’m in a reactivity phase.
I find they’re most beneficial when you need to get some plyometric volume in but are in the middle of a really strenuous training block and you’re possibly under recovered or sore.
How To Box Jump Higher?
There’s quite a few cues you can use to increase the height of your box jumps which I’ll get to shortly. But just remember this isn’t a competition to see how high you can box jump. Take the ego out of training.
Your focus should solely be on jumping as powerfully as possible – it doesn’t actually matter how high the box is and it’s far better for the box to be too low than too high. The box can never really be too low – a lower box simply means slightly more impact forces upon landing, which isn’t inherently a bad thing.
By studying world record holder Evan Ungar’s form and approach to training, I’ve come up with a list of cues to help you box jump higher.
- Completely relax during the eccentric – The key to box jumping really high is to not use your muscles to control yourself on the way down. By completely relaxing and allowing your hips to sink down into a deep squat and then firing up your muscles for the concentric portion of the movement, after the amortization phase, you’re able to generate significantly more power.
- Sink deep into the hole – If you study the footage of Evan jumping, you’ll notice he gets extremely deep almost into an ATG position. At some point you’re unable to go any lower and your tendons and ligaments will naturally bounce you back upwards. I believe Evan is using this natural recoil from the amortization phase to help him generate force. Most people when testing their standing vertical jump never get anywhere near this low!
- Squat, a lot – The bulk of Evan’s training is heavy squats. He does occasionally do some plyos but says his focus is primarily on lifting really heavy. This makes sense because a box jump is essentially a standing vertical jump which requires more raw strength and less springiness compared to an approach jump.
Frequently Asked Box Jump Questions
I’ll quickly address a few questions I’ve seen online regarding box jumps and vertical jump training.
Is A Box Jump The Same As A Vertical Jump?
Nope. In the above video, Evan jumps 63.5 inches. But because he’s lifting his feet up towards his hips, he’s not actually jumping anywhere near that high.
A vertical jump measures the distance from the ground to the bottoms of your feet at the peak of your jump, while in a completely outstretched position. A box jump simply looks at what height you can physically clear and isn’t the same thing as the vertical jump.
Is The Box Jump A Bad Test Of Vertical Jump?
A box jump doesn’t test your vertical jump at all. While having a really high box jump and high vertical jump may be correlated, they are completely different things. Taller athletes naturally have an advantage in box jumps as they can ‘lift’ their feet up a greater distance.
The box jump isn’t a bad test of lower body power, but it’s not an accurate or fair measure of vertical jump. For that, use the Sargent vertical jump test.
How Many Box Jumps Should I Do To Increase My Vertical?
A few sets of 5-6 reps is usually plenty. Exactly how much plyometric volume you should do will depend on multiple other factors including training frequency.
Can I Do Box Jumps Every Day?
It’s not recommended to do box jumps every day, unless you plan on doing only a couple sets. It’s important to keep plyometric training frequency relatively low depending on overall training volume.
How To Make Box Jumps More Challenging?
Here are a couple ways you can make box jumps harder.
- Increase the box height – Within reason, it’s important to make sure you’re always jumping a safe height.
- Transition into a depth jump – Start by jumping off a box before immediately jumping up onto another box. This will train your ground contact time and reactive strength. Check this post out for more information on depth jumps.
Parting Thoughts On Box Jumps
I seriously think box jumps are one of the best plyometrics you can do, purely because they’re a really low impact option which can come in handy for so many different reasons.
You should obviously include various other plyometrics that do involve the absorption of force when landing, as this concentric movement is very important for developing explosiveness, but box jumps really are a perfect choice when your joints need a bit of a rest!