How To Conquer the Box Jump

How To Conquer the Box Jump
[Meredith Sell]

What does it take to jump just two feet off the ground AND land on a box with your balance (and shins) intact?

The box jump is a plyometric exercise that, when done quickly, can get all cylinders firing and lead to serious strength and overall fitness gains.

But it can also be intimidating.

If you’ve never successfully done a box jump — whether because you were too afraid to try or you just couldn’t get your feet high enough off the ground — here are a few tips to take you higher than you’ve gone before.

One: Jump — with or without a rope.

Get used to having both feet leave the ground at the same time. Jump up, up, UP. Imagine Tigger on his tail and do likewise.

As you do this, pay attention to your feet. I prefer to jump in lightweight shoes like indoor soccer flats or Reeboks, as opposed to heavy duty running shoes. (I also find that it’s easier to stick a steady landing on a box with flat, lightweight shoes than it is with a brand new pair of Brooks.)

Two: Activate your hips with some high knees and deep squat holds.

It’s not good to go straight from sleeping on the couch to trying to jump the backyard fence. The same concept is true in the gym. Warm up. It makes a difference.

High knees: You can do these either in place or moving forward, but simply take an upright standing position and move into a quick jog bringing your knees as close to your chest as possible with every repetition.

Deep squat holds: With your feet shoulder-width apart, squat down as low as you can (you can turn your toes outward if necessary — but only slightly). Hold this position for 10-20 seconds. Stand. Repeat.

Three: Skip. And skip tall.

Rather than just barely leaving the ground as you might when skipping down the street to the park as a child, push off with as much force as possible and bring your front knee high up to your chest. (Your knees should be able to reach higher than previously with the high knees.)

Four: Tuck jumps.

You don’t need much floor space for this, but if you’re tall, make sure there’s plenty of space between you and the ceiling.

With your feet hip-width apart, dip slightly with your arms behind you and then drive yourself up and bring your knees to your torso. Your arms should whip forward on your way up.

This may take a few repetitions to get your knees up quickly enough to beat gravity but keep at it. If you can do a decent tuck jump, you are plenty ready for a box jump.

Five: Conquer that box jump.

Wear long socks over your shins if you have to. Then, step up to the box. Dip, with your arms back and your weight in your heels. Drive yourself up, pull up your knees, and stick your landing on the box. Then, stand straight. Hop or step down and do it again.

If at this point the height of the box is still getting to you, try working up by jumping onto lower surfaces. Some gyms have shorter boxes. Others will let you use bumper plates. You can also jump onto curbs or steps — I did my first “box” jumps on the front steps of my parents’ house.

Practice, step (or jump) out of your comfort zone, and build up to that 20-inch box. You’ve got this.

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