Box Jumps: How To Do Them & What Muscles They Work

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March 7, 2023

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If you’re a fan of high-intensity training or enjoy working out in the gym, you’ve probably no stranger to the almighty box jump. As long as your joints are happy with jumping movements and you’ve mastered your form, this is an exercise that can elevate your fitness in more ways than one. 

Here is everything you need to know about the benefits of box jumps, how to get started, common mistakes, plus alternative exercises and progressions. 

Soon enough, when we say jump, you’ll be saying how high?

What are the benefits of box jumps? 

Box jumps fall into the plyometric training category, aka jumping exercises, and are an amazing way to build explosive muscle power, muscular endurance and cardiovascular fitness, as well as improving other components of your fitness such as balance, mobility, coordination, stability, agility and speed. 

If your fitness goals are geared towards building muscular or cardiovascular endurance, the best way to perform box jumps is to use a medium-height box and a higher number of reps. To focus on building muscular power and strength, you could try using a higher box and a lower number of reps. Either way, box jumps are an excellent form of cardio conditioning - you’ll be puffing in a flash! 

No matter what kind of training you’re into, including box jumps in your routine can help improve your overall athletic performance.

  • Following a HIIT program? The explosive power from box jumps will support other movements like squat jumps, burpees, tuck jumps and lunge jumps

  • Perhaps you’re a keen runner? The same thing applies here! This powerful exercise can support your endurance and speed

  • Love strength training? Box jumps can add power to lower-body movements such as squats and deadlifts

  • Part of a sports team that requires you to move fast, jump and be agile on your feet? You guessed it - box jumps are a great movement to add to your repertoire. One 2016 systematic review found that doing a couple of sessions of plyometric training for 4-16 weeks improves jump height, sprint and agility performances in team sport players!

Which muscles do box jumps work?

Box jumps are primarily a lower-body exercise that targets your quads, calves, hamstrings and glutes as you bend into a squat position, jump high into the air and then land softly on the box in a squat before stepping down. 

Because they require balance, stability and control to make sure you land safely and with good form, box jumps also engage your core muscles, and swinging your arms for momentum can recruit some upper-body muscles.

How to do a box jump

Before we even get into the nitty-gritty of this powerful exercise, let’s get one thing straight. Make sure you are properly warmed up first. Performing plyometric exercises without a good warm-up can increase your risk of injuries such as sprains or muscle strains. There’s nothing explosive and powerful about being injured, so always prioritise your warm-up.

Secondly, it’s important to make sure you can perform a squat with proper form and feel comfortable with the movement as it’s an essential part of a box jump. Performing a box jump for the first time can be nerve-wracking, so make sure you feel confident before attempting one and don’t be afraid to use a low box.

  1. Set up your box in front of you. If you’re a beginner, start with a low box - about 12 inches is great and you can progress upwards as you get the hang of it.

  2. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then bend at both the hips and knees into a squat position, keeping your knees in line with your toes and your back within a 45- to 90-degree angle to your hips. Let your arms swing back behind you in preparation for the jump.

  3. Swinging your arms up into the air for momentum, jump both feet off the ground and draw your knees up to land softly in a squat position on top of the box. Your feet should both land at the same time and be fully on the box - you don’t want your heels hanging off the edge! Make sure your knees are in line with your toes when you land rather than opening outwards or bending inwards. 

  4. Push through your heels to stand up straight on the box.

  5. Carefully step backwards off the box, one foot at a time, to return to the starting position.

  6. Repeat.

Common box jump mistakes

There’s quite literally a big jump between a squat and a box jump, so it pays to know what to focus on or avoid to get it right. Some common mistakes include:

  • Not warming up beforehand

  • Not having enough mobility for a squat

  • Starting with a box that’s too high, which can impact your form and increase your risk of injury

  • Jumping off the box rather than stepping down one foot at a time - this can be hard on your joints and isn’t a safe dismount, especially if you’re in a busy gym environment

  • Landing with your heels off the edge of the box

  • Landing with your knees bowed apart or turned inwards

  • Landing with one foot before the other - they should connect with the box at the same time

  • Overdoing it - introduce box jumps to your training gradually if you’re new to the movement or high-impact exercises in general

  • Performing box jumps at the end of a lower-body workout when your legs are already fatigued - this can increase your risk of jumping with poor form or injuring yourself

Box jump progressions

  • Start small: Begin with the lowest box possible then level up when you feel ready and have nailed your form! In the video above, Kayla demonstrates this process. 

  • Practice squat jumps or tuck jumps without a box and focus on landing softly with bent knees, as well as getting enough height to clear the box

  • Practice step-ups where you step onto the box one foot at a time

Box jump alternatives

As fun and powerful as box jumps can be, they’re not for everyone. Some people don’t have access to a suitable box, others prefer to avoid high-impact exercises, or maybe you just don’t want to do them. Fair enough! All of these are more than ok. Fitness should always be something that makes YOU feel good.

For a lower-body plyometric exercise that doesn’t require a box, squat jumps, tuck jumps, broad jumps or lunge jumps all make great options. 

If you have access to a box but want a different option or a joint-friendly alternative, step-ups are fantastic. You can also add extra weight to make them more challenging, with dumbbells, a kettlebell, a medicine ball or a weight plate. 

Can’t get enough of box jumps or want to try them? 

Heck yeah, let’s get you in the air! The following Sweat programs all feature regular box jumps:

Work out anywhere, anytime with Sweat

Ready for your first workout?

Make a flying leap in your training and fitness with the explosive power of box jumps. When we say jump, you say…?

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.

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