Box jumps are a mainstay of most CrossFit programs and many people have trouble making the smooth landing. No matter the height, it can be scary to try and leap off the ground and safely make it to the top of the box.
Luckily, there are many ways to adapt box jumps to any ability level. Performing a step-up, for example, is a great way to make a slight modification yet still achieve the end goal of getting you up on the box. You can also modify by reducing the height of the box to make it more manageable. Many facilities also have soft boxes in order to save your shins – have you ever missed a box jump and left some DNA on the edge of a wooden box? I sure have and hope it never happens again.
This all being said, there are a few ways that you can help get better at this powerful movement. It is not just about practicing more, it has a lot to do with basic strength and turning that strength into power!
Each area being worked on below helps the process of jumping and clearing the box. You need strength in the lower abs, hip flexors and ankles to get everything flexed enough to clear the box. In addition, quad and calf strength helps power you high!
Box jumps require strength in a few areas that will be explained below. The exercise will be featured within each section. Now… working on these exercises once won’t get you the results you are looking for. This program takes time to take effect and each exercise should be performed at least 2-3 days per week.
- Hip flexors! The muscles on the front of your hips that help to bring your knees toward your chest. Many strength programs do not have a focus on hip flexor strength but training this muscle group has many benefits (not only for box jumps). They are helpful for running performance as well as for treatment of lower back pain.
The hip flexor march is a great initial exercise to begin work on this muscle group.
- Begin by lying on your back with a medium resistance band around the tops of your feet.
- Spread your feet apart approximately hip width and flex your ankles to keep the band in place.
- Draw your knee towards your chest, pulling against the resistance band.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite leg.
- Lower abdominals! The muscles in the lower abdominals help to pull your knees toward your chest and flex your torso. Not only will strengthening this area help with box jumps, but it also has a benefit on improving hamstring flexibility as well as lower back pain.
The double leg lower exercise is an intermediate movement that really can torch the lower abs.
- Begin lying on your back with your arms overhead holding onto a weighted object. The object should weight at least 10 pounds.
- Draw your knees toward you chest and have your knees and hips bent to 90 degrees.
- Inhale through your nose and tighten your abdominals as you lower your legs towards the floor.
- Lower your feet towards the floor but keep your knees bent to 90 degrees as you lower them – if this is not maintained it will either become very easy or too hard.
- Return to the starting position
- Quad strength! The muscles in the front of your thighs are your quads and they help you jump because they work to quickly straighten your knees. Working on these muscles can also help knee pain.
The weighted ball squat is a specific squat that targets the quads compared to other types of squats (ie. Goblet squat) because it keeps the torso and shins vertical during the entire movement. Using a ball is the easiest way to perform this type of squat without the need for much gym equipment. This can also be effetely performed at a gym that has a smith machine, but that is not necessary for a beginner.
- Begin by holding a weight at your chest while learning against a ball on the wall.
- Slowly squat down until your thighs reach parallel to the floor.
- Stand back up without completely allowing your knees to lock out – this will keep tension on the thighs and make it harder.
- Ankle strength! You have some muscles on the front of your shins that work to flex your ankle up. Training these muscles will not only benefit box jumps but they can also help with rehab from an ankle sprain or prevent running-related injuries.
The toe raise exercise targets the muscles in the front of your shins and if you do it correctly, you will really feel its effect.
- Begin standing about 3 feet from a wall.
- Flex your ankles upward and slowly lower them without allowing them to completely rest on the floor
- Don’t let your entire body rock back and forth as you perform this because you will take away from isolating the area.
- Calf strength! Your calf muscles in the back of your lower leg are the last piece of the puzzle to get you off the ground. Not only do these muscles help with jumping, but they are incredibly important with running.
The heel raise is a very basic calf exercise that works to strengthen the entire calf muscle complex.
- Begin by standing at the edge of a step.
- Raise up onto your toes slowly and go as high as you can.
- Slowly lower yourself down to allow your heels to drop off the back of the step.
I hope that you learned something from the article. As I stated in the beginning, do not anticipate getting better after doing this once. I would suggest finding where you feel you are the most limited and focus on that movement. If you try and take on too much, it can be overwhelming!
Questions about which exercise is right for you? Leave a comment below!
Thank you for reading 🙂