The Dangers of Box Jumps

Dec 12 / Build Muscle

Every guy wants strong, athletic muscles. But you won't get them by just picking up and putting down iron. You need to train powerfully and explosively, too. One of the best ways to do that: box jumps. They target your fast-twitch muscle fibers—the ones that have the greatest potential for size and strength gains—which will ultimately improve your lifts and make you a beast on the field.

Unfortunately, most guys do box jumps wrong. In fact, most guys do them dangerously wrong, setting themselves up for a stint on the DL. So if you're interested in increasing your gains without increasing your risk of injury, follow these 5 rules when box jumping.

Perfect your setup.

If your new to box jumps or just warming up, start with a box no higher than knee height. Then stand with your toes against the front of the box, and take one large step backward. You should be about two feet from the front of the box. If you don't give yourself enough clearance, you'll trip on the box or your hands will smack into it as they drive forward. (Trust me, I've seen some serious finger injuries from this mistake.)

Concentrate on your landing.

It's thrilling to launch yourself up on top of a high box. But the landing impact can wreak havoc on the connective tissue in your knees if you aren't doing it correctly. The key: Don't "stomp" when your feet hit the box. Instead, try to land like a ninja, making no noise whatsoever. It also helps to imagine the box is a couple inches higher than it actually is. This gives you more time to prepare for the landing, and helps improve coordination.

Drive your arms.

Many men will throw their arms behind their bodies as they jump. In reality, your arms should shoot overhead like you're catching a basketball rebound. This motion effectively transfers energy throughout your body so you can jump as high as possible.

Practice your exit.

When you jump off a box—especially a high one—your weight and gravity pull you toward the floor. This drastically increases the impact on your knees. And if it's done over and over again, it can lead to painful tendonitis and ligament stress. Exit the box by stepping to the floor. If the box is too high to do that, set up a bench next to it so you can step down on it first.

Take your time.

Box jumps shouldn't be rushed. If you want to do it right, you must slowly squat down to parallel, and pause. This reduces your stretch reflex, or the rubber-band-like qualities of your muscles and tendons. Now, your body can't rely on momentum to jump. Instead, it's forced to activate your fast-twitch muscles fibers to propel you to the top of the box.

Treat each rep as its own set. Rest between reps, take your time setting up, and never do more than 6 box jumps in a row.

Lee Boyce is a fitness writer, strength coach, and owner of Boyce Training Systems in Toronto, Canada. Check out musclemorphosis.com for more fitness advice and training tips.