Can’t Do a Box Jump? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You

Box jumps are an advanced exercise that take a lot of strength and power.
Image Credit: Vladimir Sukhachev/iStock/GettyImages

Box jumps appear to be pretty straight forward — just jump up and land gracefully on top of the box. However, if you can't do one, you've realized this activity isn't quite as easy as it might look.

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Box jumps are a plyometric exercise that require significant strength and power. Deficits in either of these areas can prevent you from successfully performing a box jump, Chris Shaffer, CF-L2 trainer and owner of Shaffer Strength and Conditioning, LLC, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

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So if your goals is to master this move but you keep getting hung up on the execution, here are some things that might be going wrong — as well as how to fix them.

1. You're Overthinking Things

Jumping on a box can be intimidating. Maybe you've watched too many "box jump fails" on your favorite social media platform or maybe you've even hurt yourself attempting this move in the past. Whatever the cause, fear can get in the way of a successful box jump.

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Fix It

First, lower the height of your box. "Pick a stable object that you know you can jump onto — such as a large bumper plate — even if it's only a few inches off the ground," Shaffer says. Practice this a few times, then increase the height little by little. If you stack objects on top of each other, be sure they won't slip out of place.

You can also add some padding. "Failing" a box jump on a padded surface can save you (and your shins) from significant pain. Practice jumping onto a foam plyometric box until you've mastered your technique.

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2. Your Calves Aren't Strong Enough

In order to complete a box jump, you have to have adequate vertical clearance. For shorter people, this can be an even bigger challenge, as the standard box jump height in CrossFit is 20 inches for females and 24 inches for males.

So strong calf muscles are key for getting you off the ground and onto the box. Perform strengthening exercises and jumping progressions to improve your clearance.

Fix It

Move 1: Calf Raise

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  1. Stand with the balls of your feet on the edge of a step.
  2. Lower your heels below the step.
  3. Push down through the balls of your feet and raise up onto your toes as high as possible.
  4. Hold for 1 to 2 seconds, then lower back down.
  5. Repeat 10 times, working up to 3 sets in a row.

Tip

Make this exercise harder by standing on one foot at a time or by holding a pair dumbbells during your calf raises.

Move 2: Double Under

  1. Begin jumping rope with single unders. Keep your arms next to your body and use your wrists to spin the rope.
  2. Push into the ground as hard as you can and lift your legs as high as possible with each jump.
  3. Land on the balls of your feet and jump again.
  4. Progress to double unders — practice spinning the rope faster as you jump higher until you are able to pass the rope under your feet twice with each jump.

Tip

Jumping rope also builds strength in your calves. Double unders — passing the rope underneath your feet two times with each jump — require you to jump even higher, helping to improve vertical clearance for box jumps.

Move 3: Broad Jump

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Squat down and lift your arms straight out behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forcefully in front of you. At the same time, push off the ground through your feet as hard as possible and straighten your hips and knees.
  4. Keep your knees in front of your body as you jump.
  5. Land with your hips and knees slightly bent to help absorb shock.

Tip

"Although a broad jump won’t specifically increase the height of your jump, it will improve your take-off and landing — both of which are key for a successful box jump," Shaffer says.

Move 4: Cone Jump

  1. Place a cone on the ground, approximately 6 to 12 inches in front of you.
  2. As you jump over the cone, tuck your knees up toward your chest as high as possible.
  3. Repeat this exercise with progressively taller cones.

Tip

If a small cone is still too tall for you to jump over, lay it on its side.

3. You Lack Explosive Power

Box jumps are an explosive movement that require your glutes and hamstrings to fire quickly and strongly. To improve your explosiveness, Shaffer recommends including exercises such as hang power cleans and kettlebell swings in your training.

Move 1: Hang Power Clean

  1. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet about hip-width apart.
  2. Hinge forward at your hips and bend your knees slightly, bringing the dumbbells just above knee-height. Keep your back straight.
  3. Forcefully straighten your hips and knees. At the same time, shrug your shoulders while pulling your body under the dumbbells.
  4. Catch the dumbbells on your shoulders with your elbows pointed forward and knees in a quarter-squat position.
  5. Stand up fully, then repeat.

Move 2: Kettlebell Swing

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width.
  2. Hold the kettlebell handle with both hands, maintaining a tight grip throughout this exercise.
  3. Bend your knees slightly and hinge forward at your hips, bringing the kettlebell back between your legs.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and quads and stand quickly, swinging the kettlebell up to shoulder-height. Keep your elbows straight.
  5. Allow the kettlebell to swing back to the starting position and repeat. Keep your spine straight throughout this movement.

Test It Out

Once you've built up enough strength and power (and confidence) to try box jumps, get ready to test it out your new skill. Perform box jumps at the beginning of a workout — before your muscles are fatigued — and use proper technique.

  1. Stand one to two foot-lengths away from the box with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees, hinge forward at your hips and bring your arms straight behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and explode through your legs, pushing into the ground as hard as possible.
  4. As you jump, tuck your knees up toward your chest.
  5. Aim to land on the middle of the box with your feet hip-width apart and in line with each other. Both feet should land at the same time.
  6. Bend your knees and push them apart as you land on the balls of your feet first.
  7. Stand up fully on the box.
  8. Step down off the box one foot at a time.

Warning

Always step down from the box — jumping off a box significantly increases pressure through your joints and can lead to injury.

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