While static squats are great for building strength, Emily Samuel, a trainer at New York City’s Dogpound gym, says box jumps help build and develop explosive power. “The power you develop from plyometric moves like box jumps will increase your vertical jump, improve your athletic performance, and enhance your overall functionality,” she says. “The dynamic movement also helps increase your heart rate, which adds a cardiovascular component.”
The only problem? If you don’t perform them correctly, you could wind up really hurting yourself. “A lot of people, rather than jumping high, they jump and then tuck their knees up really fast,” says Julia Avery, an instructor at The Fhitting Room. “They land in this low-squat, hunched-over position. They’re not jumping high enough to shift their mass.” Many people also let their knees collapse in when they land, which can put them at risk for injury.
Since you’re likely to come across the move in a class at some point, there’s no better time than now to master the technique. And don’t forget: If you can’t nail the proper form from the get-go, switch to a lower box or start with easier exercises—like a single-leg step-up—to build strength in the lower body first.
Here’s how to properly perform a box jump.
1. Prepare to jump
Stand in an athletic position, with your feet shoulder-width apart, at a comfortable distance from the box. To initiate the movement, bend your knees and push your hips back while swinging your arms behind you. Push your feet off the floor explosively to propel yourself onto the box.
2. Jump and land softly
To absorb the impact into your glutes and hamstrings, land in a partial squat, with your back flat, chest up (don’t round!), and your knees tracking over your toes. If your feet are making a lot of noise, something’s wrong—and you likely need to back up and try a lower box or strengthen with step-ups first.
3. Carefully step down
While it’s tempting to jump down, don’t. Instead, stand up tall and step down one foot at a time.
“Jumping down will put a tremendous amount of stress on your achilles, hips, and lower back. It’s totally unnecessary and creates a high risk of injury for no reason,” Samuel says. “For the general population, it’s not worth the risk. Rebound jumps are more of a sport-specific training method intended for professional athletes because they can help with landing mechanics.”
This story was originally published March 17, 2016; updated March 8, 2019.
Next up: Try these three smart, creative ways to do a deadlift. And did you know that increasing weights by just a few pounds can seriously up your fitness game? You do now.
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