Box Jump variations are among the best-known and most widely used types of exercises for improving athletic performance. However, athletes often get stuck doing standard Box Jumps; other variations are the key to improving their performance.
How to Do Box Jumps
The Box Jump in its most basic form should be executed from a standstill onto a box that is not so high that it requires a significant amount of knee bend. The key phrase to think of is hip displacement, or how far can you make your hips travel during this exercise. Assuming the exercise is performed correctly, most athletes will be fine using a 24- to 36-inch box.
The real value of a Box Jump is not the jumping. Since we land on the box, we take away all of the stress that is created by landing from a jump. This means we can jump more often with less pain and discomfort. This brings me to my last point: step down off the box! When you jump back down you incur all the stress you are trying to avoid.
Check out the video above to see proper Box Jump form.
Box Jump Variations and Alternatives
Like other exercises in your arsenal, once you've mastered the basics, you're ready for some variations that will keep your mind interested in the training by presenting new challenges and force your body to adapt to a new stimulus.
I like to remind people there is no championship of Box Jumps, so trying to max it out and jump on the highest box is a waste of time and a good way to end up online in a "gym fails" compilation video when you miss the box and land on your dome. Cycle through variations and come back to the traditional Box Jump every once in awhile, and take note of the effort and technique changes at various box heights.
Here are a few variations you probably haven't seen before, which I've had great success with lately.
Seated Dumbbell Vertical Jump With Box Jump
This one is a mouthful but is one of my favorite variations for a couple of reasons.
Seated Box Jumps are a great way to work on true power since you're starting from a dead stop. Adding light weight forces you to increase the amount of force you actually put into the ground. Jump as high as you can, and just as you hit the ground, release the weights and land with just your body weight.
As soon as you hit the ground, absorb the force and immediately redirect it into a Box Jump. Your unweighted Box Jump should feel super explosive and "poppy." This variation works well because of the variety of impulses and stimuli your body is being fed and forced to process. I typically use it with intermediate and advanced athletes. Please remember to keep the weights on the light side.
Eccentric Overload Box Jumps
This is a newer exercise I've been using a lot lately and have found that it's got some really good benefits.
The execution is really simple. Start by holding a heavy kettlebell or dumbbell in a standing position in front of a box. Very slowly, start lowering yourself into the takeoff position for your jump; this should take 5-8 seconds. As soon as you get into the right position and the weight touches the floor, immediately take off and jump onto the box.
The weight of the implement should be heavy relative to your strength, but not excessive. I find that most male high school athletes can use 50-70 pounds and females 35-60 pounds.
This works in fashion similar to the first variation, by creating a feeling of overload on your body. It also creates a ton of elastic energy in your hips and lower-body musculature, which means your jump should feel very explosive. I use this exercise with younger athletes who need to work on their body positioning when jumping. But they need to have the basic strength to be able to hold these positions when loaded with a weight. The exercise won't work if you can't get into a good jumping position.
Box Jump With Straight-Leg Landing
I picked up this variation a few months ago and was blown away byits simplicity. I couldn't stop wondering why I hadn't come up with it years ago!
A key phrase that I used at the beginning of this article was "hip displacement," and that's the name of the game with this variation. You jump normally, but as soon as you take off, you do not bend your knees again. If you are using the right height box, you will have a very small clearance over the top of the box and will land softly and gently with no excessive crashing.
Since you can't use your hips and knees to alter your landing, you propel your body as high as it can go onto a box. With that being said, this is the most advanced variation I'm providing today. It's an exercise I give only to a select few athletes whom I can trust to land correctly and are strong enough to absorb the impact.
Remember, the Box Jump is only one part of a complete athletic performance program. Haphazardly doing any of these variations will not provide a ton of benefit. Make sure to get a good overall program and include these where applicable! Find a good coach in your area and keep jumping!
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