Box jumps are a staple of CrossFit and group fitness classes, but is the up-and-down exercise really worth all the effort?
Probably not. In “Overrated,” Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S. and MH Advisory Board member David Otey, C.S.C.S., P.P.S.C. debunk questionable workout moves that aren’t worth the hype—at least not in the ways that most people use them in their training plans. Here’s why the box jump doesn’t stack up on the fitness front.
How the Box Jump is Overrated
“The main thing that people don’t understand, is when it comes to plyometric exercises— anything that’s explosive from the lower body perspective—the general recommendation is that you’d be able to squat 1.5 times body weight with a squat before going into something explosive because of the amount of power, stress, and demand that comes from that,” explains Otey. In other words, you need to be able to build a baseline of strength before taking on the box jump, and lots of people who wind up doing box jumps in group fitness classes or other settings haven’t done that. Because of that disconnect, we see a lot of trainees struggle with the move.
Samuel agrees, and says that the box jump is doled out as an exercise that beginners can tackle, when in reality it’s not something novices can handle properly.
Another reason the box jump is overrated? There’s no clear goal for what you are training with the box jump. “Instead of creating all this upward energy with a true jump, you get people landing on the box and all they’ve done is really bend at the hips as much as possible.” Before considering any workout move, zoom in on what area of your body you’re targeting. “If you’re trying to train hip flexion, then sure the box jump is a good choice,” says Samuel, noting that not many people are focusing on this goal in the standard fitness routine.
Last but not least, Otey and Samuel both note that this exercise simply isn’t worth the risk of injury. Along with the matter of landing properly, the ever present specter of scraped shins has become almost a trope amongst CrossFit devotees. But you shouldn’t have to risk your lower legs for your workout.
Box Jump Alternatives
Watch the video above for a full demo of the moves that you can swap in to develop athleticism, power, and jumping ability.
Do 3 sets of 3 to 6 reps
This move teaches landing mechanics. It brings you from an elevated height, and then you step off a box or other platform and learn how to land properly from different heights. Samuel stresses the art of deceleration, and says you should think about pushing your butt back and opening your knees during this exercise.
Do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
“So now we’re just working on elevating as high as we can, and all of our energy is straight up,” says Samuel, adding that this jump will help train the explosive response you’re looking for if you want to enhance your jumping prowess. You also have more time to extend your legs back down before the landing than you do with the box jump.
Trap Bar Jump
Do 3 sets of 4 to 6 reps
Another solid jumping option adds weight to ramp up the challenge. “The trap bar jump is a great way to load the vertical plane where you don’t have to worry about getting your legs up,” says Otey. “You don’t have to worry about landing on something properly other than the ground, You could just strictly focus on the power output of getting off the ground, and you can aggressively load in a very safe way.”
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