How to Do Box Jumps Properly

Posted by Jason Ferruggia on January 15, 2013

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 will always start people with one basic 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.

If you’re going to use a very challenging height, I’d prefer to use a padded box. 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 just for safety.

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. I enjoy doing that myself and with my athletes sometimes. But long term that’s not how you want to do it on a regular basis.

You never want to jump onto a box height that forces you to land deeper than a half squat. That’s the position of power.

Think about it- do you play linebacker with your knees bent 90 degrees or 45? Do you cover a guy in basketball at 90 or 45 degrees of knee flexion? What about the position that a shortstop stands in?  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, or deeper, to stick the landing the box is too high. It’s also significantly more dangerous for the knees and spine.

I cringe when I see people doing max box jumps and they land with their ass on their heels in a full squat. That will come back to haunt you down the road.

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 24″ and 30″ boxes 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 ones or two 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.

Sure, if you have the space and can afford it you can get more boxes. Or you can get creative and stack some stuff… just be careful.

Again, the deepest you want to be when you land is about 45 degrees of knee bend. Not much lower than that. If you’re at 90 degrees the box is too high for most people, other than very strong, experienced jumpers.

As an example, I jumped on a 50″ box a couple years ago in a challenge.

However that was by doing what you see glorified on YouTube. I had to put my knees in my mouth and go into extreme spinal flexion (rounding my lower back). My form was far from perfect jumping technique.

With proper form I think I can only get on a 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 to be done 1-3 times a week to start a full body or 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 Strength Club workouts.

Now you know how to do box jumps properly.

Questions? Let me know.

Train smarter.