Let’s face it: box jumps look way cooler than they feel. Those springy gym dudes can make it look so easy, while you feel like you’re struggling to leave the floor. Let me let you in on a secret:
Like everything, it’s mostly a matter of practice.
The great thing is, box jumps are a full body exercise that actually burn a whole lot of calories. And your body is super fine-tuned at adapting to them. What does this mean? With a little bit of training, you can be jumping around the gym with the best of them.
The following 6 benefits of box jumping are more than just about boosting your vertical. From encouraging lean muscle development, to improving your overall speed, this article will tell you all the great things you need to know about box jumping.
Box jumps belong to a larger group of exercises known as plyometrics. Plyometric exercises, while often simplified as ‘jump training’, are actually an entirely distinct method of working out your body. They are all about speed, elasticity and power in the working muscles.
What does this have to do with burning calories? There are two great things about box jumps and plyometrics in general:
They get your heart rate up rapidly, therefore burning major calories; and
They demand longer rest periods.
Fortunately for you, longer rest periods don’t need to mean less calories burned. And it isn’t a case of things just evening out over time--plyometric exercises like box jumps have been shown to burn up to 25% more calories than aerobic exercises (like jogging), and this includes the rest times.
If you play basketball, volleyball or any other jumping-focused sport; you may have already heard about plyometrics. When it comes to the best vertical boosters, box jumps are right up there. There are plenty of variations on box jumps; most significant of which being the height at which you set the box. You can jump up onto the box, which is a high-intensity, power exercise. Or you can jump down from the box, and practice your landing.
The cool thing is, practicing your landing will actually help you improve your vertical almost as much as jumping. When you land from a high box (above 35 inches), you train your body to absorb the force of a massive jump. This stretches the tendons and builds up elastic tension in your muscles. While you don’t actually need to explode up into the air again (and tire yourself out), you can still get an awesome workout for your lower body and your vertical. (Read more)
Another awesome way that box jumps can help you is by boosting your overall speed. Have you heard about slow and fast-twitch muscle fibres? Well, if you haven’t, let’s break it down like this:
Fast-twitch muscle fibre athletes: Michael Jordan, Usain Bolt & any other speedy, bouncy athlete out there.
Slow-twitch muscle athletes: Marathon runners and endurance athletes.
When you train with low box jumps, you are able to teach your muscles to react faster than usual. Bouncing up and down from a low box will force your tendons and muscle fibres to switch on and switch off rapidly, encouraging your body to produce more of these fast-twitch, speedy muscle fibres. Ever wondered how kangaroos are able to jump so high? Well, it has a lot to do with the fact that they spend all of their days bouncing around the Australian outback!
While you may not be as fast or bouncy as a kangaroo, consistent box jump training can have a similar effect. This improvement extends beyond jumping to cutting down your 40 yard dash time, 100 meter sprint, and boosting overall acceleration speeds. For dynamic sports like basketball, american football and volleyball, these fast take-offs are vital.
It isn’t all about speed and explosivity--although those are the key selling points to box jumping! Box jumps also do a great deal to strengthen your joints and tendons, serving to prevent injury and reduce chronic pain syndromes. You need to be a bit careful about this though:
I’m not saying that jumping from the highest box in the gym will help your knee pain!
I am saying that if you build up from lower boxes to a height that is comfortable, you can do a lot to strengthen your ankle, knee and even hip joints. Our knees are made up of a few key ligaments and tendons which hold everything in place and make sure we can move in straight lines, side-to-side, as well as bending down and standing up. When we box jump at different angles, we encourage our body to strengthen these tendons; giving more support to the joint and actually serving to relieve chronic pains. Like our muscles, tendons and joints abide by a ‘use-it-or-lose-it’ mantra, and box jumps can be a great way to keep these often idle tendons busy.
When you do box jumps, your body is alternating between intense work and rest periods. This flip-flopping between high-intensity stressors and low-intensity rest phases will encourage your body to find new recovery solutions. Our bodies are masters at solving the problems we throw at it: box jumps are just another dilemma to handle.
Unlike aerobic exercises which allow you to gain some sort of rhythm, anaerobic workouts can be a little more difficult to slip into. Have you ever noticed that the first mile of a run is incredibly difficult? You imagine what it would be like if you were three times as sore by the end of it, and suddenly it seems like the pain would be unbearable. Nevertheless, you reach a threshold where your body is able to cycle and recycle energy to your muscles at a rate that keeps you jogging along. You get into a rhythm, and it is manageable.
There are no such luxuries with box jumps. You will feel basically twice as fatigued after twenty box jumps as your would after ten. Increase that to thirty or forty and your legs will be like jelly beneath you. It’s simply impossible for our bodies to recover and provide enough energy to keep up such high-intensity exercise for a long period of time.
However, when we speed up the rest intervals between sets, we encourage our bodies to find faster recovery solutions. This isn’t always the goal (sometimes it’s better to just sit out for a couple of minutes and come back with full power), but it’s just another way to change up your routine when things are looking a little dull. Try 30 seconds on, 45 seconds off, with low box jumps and cycle through that for 5 sets. That’ll get your blood pumping and the calories truly burning, while increasing your body’s recovery skills.
My final reason for adding box jumps to your workout: change things up. If you’re tired of your current routine, feel like you’ve hit a standstill, or you just want to try something new; box jumps will give your body and workout the shock they need.
Even if your current routine already hits all the main muscle groups, your body responds best to variety. Ideally, you want to be working in 4-6 week phases. That means, changing your workout regime every month to month and a half. You can still set-up the same schedule (maybe one day upper body, one day lower body and one day full body), but you need to be changing the actual exercises being performed. This has to do with your muscle fibres and how they respond to new stressors. Muscle growth and development is all about sending your body the right signals. When you box jump, you are sending your body all sorts of new and exciting chemical signals, which in turn stimulate new opportunities for growth and maintenance.
For the best results, consider changing up your box jump routine every few weeks. That may mean starting with some low box, high repetition exercises: like 3-4 sets of 20 back-and-forth jumps on a 12-inch box. Then change up the height and intensity. Try 5 repetitions at your maximum jump height for a few weeks. Then give your body something new with side-to-side medium box jumps. Or practice sticking the landing from any height you are up for (if you’re really game, practice sticking the single-leg drop jump landing).
For all varieties of plyometric jump boxes you could need to mix up your workout, check out: https://kickasshomegym.com/best-plyometric-jump-boxes/.
Adding box jumps to your workout is an easy way to burn calories, while boosting your speed and power. Did I say easy? Well, it’s easy if you consider the increased rest periods and the enjoyment of jumping around the gym. Plyometric routines like box jumps mean working for about 45-60 seconds, then resting for 2 minutes. That means you’ll be resting twice as long as you’re working, but still burning more calories than if you were running continually.
This has to do with the fact that box jumps boost your working heart rate up to nearly 85% of its maximum--and this stays relatively high even during your rest times. It’s a rapid battle between work and recovery, and your body may hate you for it at first, but soon you’ll begin to reap the rewards.
If you enjoyed this post, go ahead and share it with your friends or on social media. Otherwise, leave a comment below with your thoughts; then get back to the gym with a new tool under your fitness belt.