How to Do Box Jumps Properly


how to do box jumpsQuestion: Jay, I know you are a big fan of box jumps. How do I incorporate them in my training and do them correctly?

Answer: Let me start by saying I rarely prescribe a bounding type of box jump where you jump on and jump off of the box, unless I’m, working with advanced, highly skilled jumpers.

If you have a very low (6-8″) box and are doing it for conditioning that’s okay for people with a decent level of athleticism.

But you can’t have unskilled jumpers and average people off the street jumping onto a two foot high box then launching back down to the ground. That’s a recipe for all kinds of injuries.

I only really prescribe one type of box jump. That’s where you stand in front of a box, take a quick, shallow dip and then explosively jump up on it. You stick the landing like a cat (meaning soft and quiet; not like the roof just caved in) then you step back down, reset and jump again.

Preferably the box should be padded with foam. If it’s not then you have to question if it’s even worth the risk of doing them. If you have to jump on wooden or steel boxes I’d err on the side of using an even lower box.

Everyone you seeing jumping onto 50-60 inch high boxes on YouTube is doing them incorrectly. Most people are going with a box that is at least a foot, if not two feet too high.

Even The Human Highlight Film, Dominique Wilkins who was the owner of a 48” vertical in his prime, could get away with a 24-30″ box if done the way I’m going to describe.

Once in a while working up to a max height with shitty form is fun for competition among experienced jumpers with a low injury risk. But long term that’s not how you want to do it.

You never want to jump onto a box height that forces you to land deeper than 135 degrees of knee flexion. That’s the position of power.

Think about it- do you play linebacker with your knees bent 90 degrees or 135? Do you cover a guy in basketball at 90 or 135 degrees of knee flexion? That is the position you want to jump from and land in. Do NOT go lower than that.

If you’re jumping on a box that forces you into 90 degrees of knee flexion to stick the landing the box is too high. It’s also significantly more dangerous for the knees and spine.

Remember, you always want to minimize the risk as much as possible in productive strength training. And if you are a trainer or strength coach the first rule is always- Do No Harm.

Sure, everything comes with a risk, but don’t stupidly increase the risk by doing the exercise incorrectly. 

We use a 24″ box all the time with groups and it works fine. If the box is too low for some people they simply jump higher and try to get full extension. You don’t need a thousand different height boxes. You could stick with one forever and be okay.

box jumps

Work on getting better extension instead of jamming your knees in your throat.

So if you get to the point where your 24 or 30 inch box is cake to jump on you simply start getting up higher.

You fully extend and jump straight up as high as you can and then land softly with as little knee flexion as possible.

The deepest you want to be when you land is 135 degrees. Never lower than that.

As an example, I believe I jumped on a 48-50″ box a couple years ago in a challenge. I can’t recall and could be wrong but it was somewhere in that range.

However that was with putting my knees in my mouth and extreme spinal flexion.My form was far from perfect jumping technique.

With proper form I think I can only get on a 30-32″ box or somewhere around there.

And that ends up looking like a jump in  most real life situations would. I’ve yet to see LeBron James dunk a ball or Derek Jeter jump up to rob a potential base hit with their spines folded in half and their knees up around their ears.

Don’t do that shit.

As for programming, I like them once or twice a week to start a lower body day. Three to five sets of 3-5 reps works for most people. That’s how we usually use them with our Renegade Inner Circle workouts.

Now you know how to do box jumps properly.

Questions? Let me know.

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One Response to How to Do Box Jumps Properly

  1. Sarah August 5, 2013 at 11:06 pm #

    Loved the article, thanks! Just wondering if you could list the specific reasons why you shouldn’t go past 135 degrees. You say it’s bad for knees and spine, but specifically why?