As a strength coach and a personal trainer, your number one responsibility is to keep your athletes and clients in a safe environment. That also means that you must know their abilities and understand what movements and intensity levels they should be going at. There are situations where you may need to get creative with a movement, ramp up the intensity or just plain make it more fun and interesting. This should not be done at the cost of the safety and health of the individual.
In the last 5-10 years, I would bet that videos of people doing box jumps (good and bad) have been posted more often than any other exercise. I get it; the movement looks awesome and does show someone expressing his or her athletic abilities. I just don’t see the benefit outweighing the risks. We can improve fitness qualities such as power development in many other ways that are just as, if not more effective and much safer.
There is nothing cool about posting your bloody shins from biffing your last box jump. It does not make you look any tougher or in better shape. One of the trainers at my facility once hit her shin pretty hard when she fell doing box jumps. At first, she shrugged it off and even posted about it. Then, it got way worse as time went on. I felt very bad for her as it hindered her ability to function for quite sometime. Not to mention having to go to the hospital to get it drained of fluid.
Since then, we very selectively have people do box jumps. As time has gone on we have simply adapted better ways to improve power and jumping ability. They are just not worth it. But besides the injury prone part of box jumps, it really isn’t that great of an exercise. It looks way cooler than it produces results and here is why.
The Don’t Do Much For Body Composition
Box jumps really don’t help build muscle or increase strength. While they do get your heart rate up after you do a ton of them, say 20 or more, they don’t do a lot for fat loss either. By the time you are really getting things going after 10-20 perfect reps, you will get too tired to do them well. So doing 5-10 with a sufficed break in between is best. The real goal anyway with box jumps is to increase performance, not help fat loss. So, if changing the way you look is your goal, ditch the box jumps and pick up something heavy.
They Don’t Improve Jumping Ability
I am sure if anyone that really has no idea about strength and conditioning watched someone jumping on a box and then was asked if they think doing that would make them jump better, they would probably say yes. It makes sense, right? Jumping up onto something will help make you jump better. Well, there is more to it than that.
If you look at someone land on a box after they jump, you will notice that their knees are very tucked as they land. You are not supposed to land with straight legs and if you did, the box is not very high. One key attribute you must posses to jump on a high box is the ability to land in the tucked position. This takes true jumping power out of the question since it will also be a large test as to how well you can land in the tucked position.
What To Do Instead
There are endless options when looking to improve power output and jump better. If you are looking to measure true jumping ability and also train to improve it, the standing vertical jump and standing long jump are the tried and true methods. I also feel the Olympic lifting family and medicine ball throws can be done safer and seem to be more effective than box jumps anyway.
If your goal is to gain muscle, get stronger and drop body fat, stick to a fundamental strength and conditioning program. Squats, deadlifts, pull-ups and presses along with various cardiovascular activities (walking, HIIT, Met-con) will be much better options.
About the author: Justin Grinnell is a strength coach, personal trainer, nutrition enthusiast and owner of State of Fitness in East Lansing, Michigan. You can follow him on Facebook, on Twitter@JustinGrinnell4 or check out his website grinnelltraining.com