Exercise Rescue: Stop with the Box Jumps Already!!
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Exercise Rescue!....No, I won't be screaming, getting in your face, and dropping F-bombs like some of those reality TV show goons. But hopefully, I'll be dropping some knowledge. I consider this my personal Ignite PSA!!
Working in the fitness industry allows me the opportunity to see a variety of clients and learn about a variety of gym routines and exercises. What I tend to see, is that there are a number of common exercises that people often do incorrectly. This series is meant to educate and inform about some of these common gym errors. So without further a do, I present to my first exercise....
...The Box Jump
Oh and this one makes me cringe! A little piece of me dies every time I hear someone thud on a plyo box from improper landing mechanics. Well it is my mission to stop this at once!!...Crossfitters, I apologize in advance, please look away.
WHAT IS A BOX JUMP?
Box jumps are an exercise, where the athlete (you, this case) starts on the ground in a static position, and proceeds to jump onto a box of pre-determined height. There are endless varieties of box jumps, but we won't be getting into all those today. The particular variation that we will be addressing today, is a countermovement box jump. It's the most common type, and the one you've probably seen before. It's where the athlete, bends there knees to squat down, before jumping directly onto the box. Here is a well executed box jump from one of my clients.
As you can see in this video, the athlete uses his arms to help initiate the jump and lands in almost exactly the same position he took off from. His landing is very efficient. That didn't happened overnight , as we spent several sessions working on his technique. Now, if you're landing doesn't look, and sound very similar to this, then it might be time to revisit your form.
IS A BOX JUMP RIGHT FOR YOU?
If you're considering adding box jumps to your program, you need to ask yourself 3 important questions. These 3 questions can be adapted to any exercise you are considering adding to your program:
1) What are my fitness goals?
2) Are box jumps appropriate for me?
3) Does the benefit of this exercise outweigh the potential cost?
Lets take a closer look and dissect these 3 questions...
1) What are your fitness goals?
This is one is pretty simple. What do you want out of your fitness experience? Most people want to feel better, get stronger, lose weight, or some combination of the three. Can box jumps help assist you in reaching those goals? Sure. But If you fall into any of those categories, then its highly debatable if box jumps are necessary to achieve those goals. When done properly, box jumps are a highly technical exercise. If your goals are more related to athletic performance, than box jumps take on a little more significance.
2) Are box jumps appropriate for me?
This is one where you must be honest and realistic with yourself. Box jumps take a lot coordination, a base level of strength, and proper training. You have to determine if you have the capability and time to execute them properly. Also consider if you have a history of injury or any other limiting factors. An improper landing on a box jump can wreak havoc on the knees and spine.
Example: .Say you are an untrained individual who has been sitting on the couch watching The Bachelor for the past few months and all of the sudden are inspired by your favorite InstaTrainer to try 3 sets 0f 20 box jumps....Yeah, not the best idea!
**3) Does the benefit of this exercise outweigh the potential cost?**
Question 3 is starred because it is the most important question of the 3. Look, I love box jumps. I frequently do them with my athletes because of their many benefits. A few of which are increased power production, increased explosive ability, and increased postural control. Landing on a box also reduced the impact on the joints when compared to a regular vertical jump, due to the elevated landing. All that being said, I rarely do them with my adult, general fitness clients.
I mentioned some of the benefits of box jumps, but with those benefits there are potential costs. If you are untrained, then box jumps can be a dangerous exercise. The majority of gym goers utilize box jumps as a conditioning exercise, often doing 10 and sometimes 20 reps. Utilizing them as a way to keep their heart rate up and to look cool...But is it worth it? Is it worth the scraped knees or potential injury? I say NO. And If you don't believe me, just YouTube "Box Jump Fail" and see what comes up...I present you one of my favorites.
What Should You Do?
Look, jumping is cool, I get it. I've played sports all my life, and I love the feeling of being an athlete. But this is where we have to exercise some discretion. If you are insistent on doing box jumps, then be smart. If you are inexperienced with them, then hire a good personal trainer, preferably one with a sports performance background (hmm..anyone come to mind??). If you are experienced with box jumps, then start with a lower box height and focus on your landing mechanics. You can gradually increase the box height (not too high) while maintaining proper form. Keep the reps low as well (no more than 6).
However, in my opinion, box jumps should be reduced or eliminated entirely from most peoples programs. There are plenty of lower risk exercises that get you heart rate up and make you sweat. Try burpees or a squat jumps instead. These exercises that have a much lower injury risk, but will still kick your butt and leave you crawling out of the gym. And above all else, please, PLEASE don't end up on any "Box Jump Fail" videos.