How to Do a Box Jump Safely and Effectively

Learning how to do a box jump with proper form is the key to staying safe — and getting the most out of the plyometric move.
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As far as badass gym moves go, the box jump certainly tops the list. But the gravity-defying move is more than just for show — mastering it offers major pay-offs outside the gym.

"It could be considered the 'gold standard' for lower-body plyometric exercises because you can easily scale back the difficulty or progress the exercise depending on the height of the box you use," says Katie Prendergast, CPT, a NASM-certified personal trainer and strength coach.

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Plus, it's one of the best ways to train your lower-body power without putting as much impact on your joints as some other plyo exercises. That's because while you jump high, you only "fall" a couple of inches before landing on the box, Prendergast explains.

  • What is a box jump?​ It's an advanced plyometric, or jump-training exercise. It involves jumping onto a box from the floor and landing with both feet.
  • What muscles does it work?​ Like any jumping exercise, it mostly targets your big lower-body extensor (joint-straightening) muscles like your quads, glutes and calves, says Jack Craig, CPT, a certified personal trainer with Inside Bodybuilding. Your core, lower back and stabilizer muscles assist.
  • Are box jumps safe?​ If you do them with proper form, focus and listen to your body, jumps are a safe exercise. However, they aren't right for everyone.
  • Who shouldn't do box jumps?​ If you have a history of ankle, knee or hip injury, get an evaluation from a physical therapist before adding them (or other plyos) into your program, Prendergast says. You should also talk to your physical therapist if you have joint or bone issues, such as arthritis or osteoporosis. The exercise is higher-impact and requires a lot of balance, coordination and strength to do safely.

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How to Do a Box Jump With Perfect Form

Box Jump

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Type Strength
  1. Stand facing a sturdy box or step with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees into a quarter-squat and bring both arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump onto the middle of the box or step.
  4. Land softly with your knees bent.
  5. Straighten your legs before stepping down from the box. Repeat.

What Equipment Should You Use?

The only box jump equipment you need is a plyo box. These come in foam, wood and metal varieties. Soft foam pads are best for minimizing impact, but all types work well and are common in gyms. Before starting, make sure your box doesn't slide around on the floor.If you're trying to do box jump exercises at home, you can use any elevated surface that is strong, stable and has a large enough surface that you won't risk missing the center or falling off the edge. However, those can be hard to find. Workout benches and stair steps are both too narrow, while a chair is not sturdy enough.

Here are our favorite plyo boxes for at-home workouts:

  • Yes4All Wooden Plyo Box (starting at $49.95 Amazon.com)
  • Rogue Foam Plyo Box (starting at $175, Rogue.com)
  • JFIT Plyometric Box (starting at $85.50, Amazon.com)

4 Tips for Strong, Safe Reps

1. Start Short

Box jumps are hard, and most exercisers need to build up to them.

"To get people used to jumping, I like to start with broad jumps," Craig says. "These are low, forward hops that get people used to what it feels like to explode off the ground." (See the below how-to video under regressions.)

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If you're ready to add height, start with a low surface like a 6- or 12-inch box. Once you graduate to a low box, first make sure it's sturdy and on level ground. Perform a few step-ups to ensure the box is stable and that you're positioned an appropriate distance away, Smith says. Then, jump!

Over time, aim to work your way up from an 18- to 24-inch box, says Dasha Maslennikova, co-owner and clinical director of Symmetrix Exercise & Rehab in Vancouver, Canada.

2. Stay Focused

One roadblock many people face is a fear of over- or under-shooting the box during the jump.

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"This is a real concern and shouldn't be taken lightly," says Tami Smith, CPT, a certified personal trainer and CEO of Fit Healthy Momma. If you don't nail your approach, you could wind up slamming your shins or knees into the box, or falling over the box entirely. Similarly, if you don't stick your landing, you may lose your balance and take a tumble.

So approach them with care and attention to detail. Minimize distractions and stay focused on what you're doing.

3. Listen to Your Body

If you feel any pain when landing on the box, you may need to tweak your technique or switch from box jumps to step-ups.

Your best move is to get a personal trainer to assess your mechanics, she says. And if that doesn't do the trick, take a trip to a physical therapy office.

4. Step (and Slow) Down

Always, ​always​ step down from the box after landing. Don't rebound by jumping down backward off the box.

"This is often done in an attempt to do more box jumps, faster, but the goal of the exercise is to generate explosive power — it's ​not​ about how many you can do," Prendergast says.

This warrants repeating: The box jump is not an endurance or cardio move to rush, speed through or do reps of until you're completely out of gas. Give yourself a bit of rest between each rep so that you approach each jump like a max squat or deadlift.

If your goal is to build power, limit your sets to 5 reps, Maslennikova says.

3 Box Jump Benefits

1. Lower-Body Strength and Power

Launching yourself from the floor all the way onto a higher surface calls the powerful fast-twitch muscle fibers in your glutes and legs into play.

"They challenge you to exert your muscles to their max potential for a short period of time," Smith says. When practiced repeatedly, this trains your lower-body muscles to fire faster and more powerfully. These are must-have skills for any athlete or weekend warrior.

2. Injury Prevention

Many athletic injuries tend to occur when the body isn't prepared to absorb force, Prendergast says. Jumps train your body to produce more force, but more importantly, to absorb it when you land on the box.

By emphasizing the landing portion of the jump (remember, land quietly with soft knees!), you can train your lower body to absorb force safely and effectively. This may help you avoid pain and injury during high-impact exercises like running, or when you land hard after spiking a volleyball.

3. Balance and Coordination

Jumping onto a box and landing on your feet calls for a great deal of balance and coordination. "In fact, many people find that when they first start out with jumps, they're a little shaky on their feet when they land on the box," Smith says.

In spite of the shakiness, the muscles in your core and lower body are learning how to stabilize once you hit the surface. Over time, as you get stronger and more familiar with the move, your body will get used to the work, too, resulting in greater balance and coordination, Smith says.

2 Regressions to Work up to Full Jumps

Move 1: Squat Jump

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Skill Level All Levels
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees into a quarter-squat and bring both arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump into the air.
  4. Land softly with your knees bent.
  5. Immediately go into your next rep.

Body-weight squat jumps are a great entry point, or if you don’t have access to a plyo box or stable platform to jump on, Prendergast says.

“Squat jumps train the same movement, but without the risk of missing the box,” she adds. Focus on jumping as high as you can and landing softly.

Move 2: Broad Jump

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Skill Level All Levels
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Bend your knees into a quarter-squat and bring both arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump forward.
  4. Land softly with your knees bent, then stand up.

Broad jumps are another good box jump alternative. They require you to produce force horizontally, as opposed to vertically.

However, this could be helpful if your sport calls for more horizontal power (for running or sprinting) than vertical jump height (for basketball or volleyball), Prendergast says.

2 Progressions to Make Your Jumps Harder

Move 1: Seated Box Jump

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Skill Level Advanced
  1. Stand in front of a sturdy box or step with your feet hip-width apart and face another box or step.
  2. Sit onto the bench and bring both arms behind you.
  3. Swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump onto the middle of the box or step.
  4. Land softly with your knees bent.
  5. Straighten your legs before stepping down from the box. Repeat.

For an added strength challenge, try this progression. According to Prendergast, it requires you to produce force from a dead-stop (seated) position, which is more challenging than initiating a jump from a squat position.

Move 2: Depth Jump to Box Jump

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Skill Level Advanced
  1. Stand on top of a sturdy box or step with your feet hip-width apart and face another box or step a couple of feet in front of you.
  2. Step off the bench and bend your knees.
  3. Land on the ground in a quarter squat with both arms behind you.
  4. Immediately swing your arms forward and quickly drive through your legs to jump onto the middle of the box or step.
  5. Land softly with your knees bent.
  6. Straighten your legs before stepping down from the box. Repeat.

This is known as a “multi-response” plyometric exercise, and it’s especially beneficial for athletes looking to improve their reaction time and power for sports, according to Prendergast.

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