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Why You Shouldn’t Perform Box Jumps As A Conditioning Drill

Why You Shouldn’t Perform Box Jumps As A Conditioning Drill

  1. Are you incorporating more athletic based drills into your strength and conditioning workouts? 
  2. Are you performing box jumps during some of your athletic workouts? 
  3. Do you execute box jumps like a conditioning drill? 
  4. Are you performing box jumps in a way to maximize benefit and minimize stress on your joints? 

So today I decided to get away from improper squatting, improper deadlifting, and improper kettlebell swing technique and switch over to another problem and address the improper use of the box jump exercise. Today I’m going to hit on why box jumps shouldn’t be used as a conditioning drill in your strength and conditioning program. If you’ve been using box jumps as a conditioning drill then make sure you take a minute to pump the brakes and read this article. You’ll be thanking me for it later.

Box Jumps

First of all, what are the benefits of performing a box jump and are you currently using box jumps in your training?

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Box jumps are a wonderful drill for you to program into your training in order to help you to develop athleticism, explosive power, and for helping you to develop a respectable level of relative strength. To potentiate your nervous system for strength and performance you want to properly implement box jumps . This will benefit you for both athleticism and day to day functional life.

If you’re including box jumps into your current strength and conditioning workouts it will undoubtedly help to make you stronger, thus allowing you to put more weight on the bar to further enhance your other strength gains. Since the name of the game is force production then the box jump is a great drill for helping you to develop significant force production moving off of the ground. If they are done properly box jumps can be a hell of an exercise to include into your program.

Why Box Jumps Shouldn’t Be For Conditioning…

First of all, when I make the statement that box jumps shouldn’t be used for conditioning I’m referring to the issue where people tend to hurry through, or stampede their jumps by rapidly jumping from the floor to the box and back to the floor again. Many trainees in various health clubs and box gyms will tend to perform box jumps in this way as they race against the clock.

Once again, box jumps are primarily designed to potentiate your nervous system. This results in greater power gains by increasing neural drive and more rapid muscular contraction. The mistake that many coaches and trainers make is throwing box jumps right into the middle of a cycle of conditioning exercises without any further thought. By hurrying through the drill in a giant circuit you are at greater risk for creating a lot of problems by rushing the drill.

For starters, when using box jumps for part of athletic development I prefer using a box height roughly between knee and hip height for an experienced athlete. The reason here is that I want the athlete to be able to jump and land in a quarter squat position on top of the box.

In addition to this I also want him or her to land softly as if they are jumping up onto a glass surface. This ensures a controlled landing by the individual trainee.

The main reason I am strict on executing and stressing a controlled landing is because I’m aiming to reduce the amount of  compressive forces that can be driven down onto the ankles, knees, and hips along with teaching the athlete the proper way to absorb the impact of landing. The benefit of the box jump for you lies in the jump up onto the box as you don’t have as far to fall back to the ground. The elevated surface of the box absorbs much of those compressive forces on your ankles, knees, and hips.

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If you’re rushing, or stampeding your jumps by performing them in a hurried manner this will be negated. By doing this you would be defeating the purpose of the drill.

Another point worth mentioning is that by stampeding the box jumps and treating them like a conditioning drill fatigue may bring on other unwanted problems. Some examples here might include a few things. Excessive and repetitive knee valgus upon landing, missed jumps, and sloppy jumps may end up in falls and busted shins.

If you’re rushing to perform this drill with the goal to be about cardio conditioning this additional fatigue may lead to such failed jumps. Remember the emphasis of the drill should be to perform it with control and mastery.

Box jumps should also be programmed with great care. This should be the emphasis of any strength drill. You want to allow for a limited amount of contacts, or jumps. The individual trainee, or athlete should be assessed to determine how you should progress this drill. Make sure you’re programming and executing your box jumps with good quality. To help I’ve included a few things here to keep in mind when executing a standard box jump.

  • Begin about 2 to 3 feet away from the box.
  • Start with your arms up overhead.
  • At the start of the movement your arms should swing back.
  • You should  hinge your hips and flex your knees producing a countermovement to load the hips and hamstrings.
  • Upon ascending out of this countermovement your arms should swing back up.
  • You should execute triple extension of your ankles, knees, and hips.
  • Upon landing you should absorb the landing by landing softly and flexing back into the quarter squat position.
  • From here your feet should be flat and about shoulder width apart.
  • A sound squat position is crucial involving proper knee and ankle position.
  • Your knees should not overly buckle inward or outward.
  • Once you have stuck the quarter flexed squat position you should stand tall.
  • Finally, step down (NOT jump down) off the box.

The box jump drill requires a bit more skill and attention than many trainers, or coaches care to emphasize. As a result many coaches end up programming the box jump as a “conditioning” drill. This potentially and unknowingly can cause many of the problems that I’ve outlined here in this article. Sure box jumps can certainly be more idiot proof. This is especially true compared to other more complex lifts. However the drill must be respected.

On a side note (as I mentioned in the previous video) excessively high box jumps aren’t really the goal either. There is a time and place for higher jumps. However many of these also cause poor landings. In many cases much of the true emphasis of “the drill” is lost and many cheat high jumps for the sake of ego. Let’s try to focus on the quality rather than trying to make some YouTube highlight.

Remember that the true purpose of the box jump should be about honing your skill development. The design of the box jump is to increase your force production and overall athleticism. By using the box jump exercise as a conditioning drill you aren’t going to be achieving either one of these.

The most capable athletes need to know these details. So for the sake of today’s discussion I hope this helped to clear up any questions.

What do you think? 

Are  you performing box jumps in your current strength and conditioning program? 

What do you do to intensify your box jumps? 

Please post up and share in the comment section here below. 

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I'm a Certified Strength And Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and author. I have had over 17 years experience in MMA fitness, strength and conditoning, and athletic performance for most every sport. As an author and specialist I've written close to a million words on fitness and strength. I'm also a Muay Thai practictioner and enjoy helping others to reach their peak potential through fitness and performance.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Fantastic article! I love box jumps, people just dont get the importance of a vertical jump and the impact training for it has on their explosiveness. I use them as a staple in my MMA training and I find that it really helps me when I go for the takedown and gives me that extra strength i need to follow through with the movement.

    Thanks for sharing the article!

    1. Thanks for the feedback my friend. I’m so glad you enjoyed the article! Yes, I’ve often found that box jumps are abused in a big way by a lot of trainers in box gyms. To me it’s all about an understanding of what the “purpose” of an implement is used for in a given situation…and to me there is no situation where a box jump should be used as a conditioning drill for the purpose of “stampeding jumps” as I mentioned here. I may have some coaches/trainers disagree, but I’ve yet to see a counter to it that is logical to me. Thanks again my friend. Please don’t be a stranger to the blog.

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