It’s a daily occurrence now for us to see NFL players, NBA players, or other professional athletes jump up to a height that’s damn near eye level with them. Because it’s the off season these dudes are doing some crazy things in the gym, and if one guy does something, these hypercompetitive dudes need to top it.
We love seeing freaky things like this happen. It’s like a raw display of these dudes athleticism. I mean what’s more primal and athletic than just leaping up onto a tall platform like a jungle cat?
We also love trying to imitate these guys, which brings us the hilarious box jump fail videos, busted up shins, and bruised egos.
Box jumps can work really well for athletes, and people who are capable of doing them safely. What you don’t see in the Youtube videos is the level of training these athletes usually put in, and how they’re program is intelligently designed.
The biggest benefit to the athlete with a box jump isn’t the fact that they train explosion. It’s that they can help “trick” the nervous system into helping you get more strength and size. It’s also the heavy emphasis on training hip extension, the same focus of doing a deadlift, squat, hip thrust, or kettle bell swing. Hip extension = explosive athletes.
The average bro needs to quit doing box jumps, though.
The bro who knows everyday is arm day, and the most cardio he gets in is his beer league softball game? Box jumps are the last thing this bro needs to be doing. The same can even be said for the bro who takes care of his body, walks around as lean as an anatomy chart, and pays close attention to training.
Box jumps don’t provide a ton of upside, and there’s plenty of downside. There’s too much that can go wrong and not near enough training benefit. Box jumps don’t really elicit a major strength gain, run you through the stretch shortening cycle, or cause micro trauma to the muscles. They do none of the things we look for when choosing exercises to size or strength.
When it comes to picking exercises to work into a program there are a few basic rules that govern exercise selection.
- Is it safe?
- Can you actually do this exercise?
- What will be gained from this?
When box jumps get run through those questions, they don’t stand a damn chance.
For the average bro, box jumps are not safe, nor are they smart. They’re an easy way to look like an idiot and eat shit in a crowded gym, or rip a nice chunk of flesh off of your shin.
Box jumps are also a little deceptive, those lying bastards.
Box jumps also don’t really train you to jump as high as the platform you’re jumping on. You know those Youtube videos of kids jumping onto 50-60 inch platforms? That’s a pretty good jump, but it’s a more impressive display of hip flexion, or the ability to get your knees close to your chest.
In case you weren’t aware, that isn’t a display of jumping power. If you remove the hip flexion and the legs stay straight, you’re not jumping any higher than normal.
We really don’t need to work on our hip flexion more. If he we have one thing covered, it’s hip flexion. We spend most of our days sitting down at a desk, in hip flexion, and don’t do a ton of walking around or focusing on hip extension except for those lucky nights we do the no pants dance.
Chronic hip flexion leads to tightness of the hip flexors, which can manifest in an aching lower back, weak quads, and male pattern pancake ass.
What do you do instead?
Say you really want to do “explosive” training, and you’re not sold on the idea that box jumps just aren’t for you. That’s fair. You can lead a horse to water, but can’t make him drink.
Depth jumps are a badass alternative. With a depth jump you basically step off a smaller box, and as soon as your feet hit the ground you explode up as high as you can. It’s not near as sexy, but it’s effective because it focuses on decelerating rapidly and then immediately accelerating.
Another option would be just start lifting some heavy ass weights on the squat and deadlift, if you aren’t already. Those two lifts train hip extension, power, and explosiveness better than any others. Add in some kettle bell swings and weight hip thrusts to the mix, and suddenly we’ve got ourselves 4 exercises that’ll do a damn good job of building size, strength, and athleticism.
If you want to do box jumps, go ahead. Just don’t trick yourself into thinking that your ability to jump on a 40-inch box means you’ve got a 40 inch vertical or anything like that. When you wind up eating shit, and you will – get it on video.