We see it everywhere on social media or ESPN. We’ve all tested the waters and attempted to go as high as possible, but is it really beneficial for us?
Let's talk about the box jump. Box jumps are the staple in most sports performance training programs and a wonderful exercise for athletes to increase vertical power production (see my previous blog on the top three plyometric exercises). It causes a relatively low amount of stress on the joints and helps strengthen tendons, but do we really have to go to a maximal height in order to see benefits? Yes … and no. It’s all relative to the individual’s ability to create hip displacement from the ground. The higher your hips can be when you land on a box should be the focal point of the drill, not how high the boxes are.
The picture on the left shows the landing position on a 36-inch box jump. The displacement from the hips to the ground is ~ 48 inches. The picture on the right shows the landing position on a 24-inch box jump. The displacement from the hips to the ground is ~ 52 inches.
Yes, the picture on the left is more impressive because the athlete is landing on a higher platform, but when it comes to a pure power production standpoint, the athlete on the right produced more force because they were able to land higher. Also, the athlete on the right is able to land in a safe athletic position instead of landing awkwardly and potentially missing the box completely.
So, when should an athlete push the boundaries and raise the box? I believe the height of the box should be raised slowly over time when they can show they are proficient in the drill. Each individual is different, some workouts they will easily clear the 24-inch box and some days it might be a struggle. If the athlete can perform 3 sets of 5 jumps with ease, next workout raise the box a couple of inches. If the athlete performs 2 sets of 5 jumps with ease but the last set is a struggle, use your judgment, keep them at the height and reassess next workout,
Next time you have your athletes perform box jumps, take a step back and observe how your athletes are landing, is the height of the box really benefiting them or is it their ego taking over?