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Box Jumping 101

Thinking Outside the Box Jump

by Rod DeLeon

You’ve probably seen those strange wood crates in the weight room. What are those primitive, unfinished boxes, and what are they for? The answer is box jumps, and they’re becoming increasingly popular. But why are people doing them, and are they doing them right?

What are these box jumps?

Box jumps involve jumping from the ground onto a wood box or step that is anywhere from 10 to 48 inches high. Many people believe doing box jumps will improve their aerobic conditioning and their performance for sports like soccer, hockey, and skiing. We see a lot of teens and young adults jumping simply because “their coach told them to.”

The reality is that there are mainly two benefits of doing box jumps. One is the “post-activation potentiation.” Huh? Basically, this means that box jumps cause your muscles to powerfully contract. This primes the muscles chemically and neurologically to enhance the performance of subsequent moves. So, “after activation” – after doing box jumps – your next set of deadlifts, squats, or thrusters can be better.

The second benefit is improving your vertical jump. With a box, you can practice jumping higher without adding stress on your connective tissues and joints – that’s all the stress you would experience if you were jumping all the way back down to the ground. Whew!

Box jumping for your health?

So with these benefits, it’s natural to think you should jump in (pardon the pun).

However, if you’re looking for aerobic exercise and metabolic conditioning, there are other exercises that are more effective – and safer – than box jumps. You have to do a lot of box jumps to get your heart rate up for a good workout, and this only adds stress to your joints and increases your risk of injury. Unless you want to improve your lifting or your vertical leap, it might be best to stick to running, walking, treadmills, and elliptical machines.>

Jump safely

But, if your heart is set on box jumps, please take steps to do them safely.

  • First, do not jump backward off the step. This adds stress on your body, and negates the whole reason for doing box jumps in the first place. Remember, you’re jumping onto a surface to decrease the pressure of jumping back down on the ground.
  • Do not jump to fatigue. You need coordination and control to safely do the jump. Adding exhaustion to the mix can increase your risk of injury.
  • Use the right height box. Keep in mind that the goal is not to jump on the highest box possible. Unless you are seven-feet tall, you don’t need any more than a 30-inch box. Using too high of a box will cause your body to compensate, and that can mean buckling knees or over-pronated feet.
  • Finally, for the love of all things good, do not stack the boxes. I repeat, do not stack the boxes. We often see people placing multiple boxes on top of each other to increase their challenge. This is not only ineffective, but also dangerous. 


Box jumps can look “cool,” and they can be an effective addition to your workout. But this is only if you’re doing them correctly, if you’re doing them for reasons that make sense, and if don’t stack the boxes. Did we mention that?

Also, always remember that we can help you evaluate your fitness goals and determine the best exercises and routines to reach them. Even if that means thinking outside of the box!

We’re here to help. Schedule an appointment with a YMCA personal trainer at your local branch.

About Rod DeLeon

YMCA personal trainer and group exercise instructor Rob DeLeon specializes in helping people achieve their goals for overall health and fitness, sports conditioning, rehabilitation, and bodybuilding. Winner of the 50-and-over-Masters Class at the Rocky Mountain Bodybuilding Championships, Rod has over a decade of personal training experience. He believes exercise is the true “Fountain of Youth,” and loves the Y for its culture of respect, kindness, and encouragement. Rod is a staff member at the Susan M. Duncan YMCA in Arvada. He can be reached at 303 422 4977.