So today I decided to get away from improper squatting, improper deadlifting, and improper kettlebell swing technique and switch over to another problem and address the improper use of the box jump exercise. Today I’m going to hit on why box jumps shouldn’t be used as a conditioning drill in your strength and conditioning program. If you’ve been using them for that reason then make sure you take a minute to pump the brakes and read this article.
The Box Jump…
First of all, what are the benefits of performing a box jump?
Box jumps are a wonderful drill for you to program into your training in order to help you to develop athleticism, explosive power, and for helping you to develop a respectable level of relative strength. When implemented properly box jumps can be utilized as a preparatory mechanism to potentiate your nervous system for strength and performance.
A well executed program including box jumps will undoubtedly make you stronger, thus allowing you to put more weight on the bar to further enhance your other strength gainzzz. Look at it this way…if the name of the game is force production then the box jump is a great drill for that very reason. The simple answer is that box jumps can be a hell of an exercise to include into your program if they are done properly.
Why Box Jumps Shouldn’t Be For Conditioning…
First of all, when I make the statement that box jumps shouldn’t be used for conditioning I’m referring to the issue where people tend to hurry through, or stampede their jumps by rapidly jumping from the floor to the box and back to the floor again. By doing this all while generally being in a race against the clock is not a good idea.
As I stated earlier box jumps are primarily designed to potentiate the nervous system for greater power gains by increasing neural drive. By aimlessly throwing the box jump into a cycle of conditioning exercises without any further thought you are at greater risk for creating a lot of problems that can easily be avoided in terms of an injury.
For starters, when using a box height roughly between knee and hip height for an experienced athlete I want the athlete to be able to jump and land in a quarter squat position on the box. I also want him or her to land softly as if they are jumping up onto a glass surface. This ensures a controlled landing so that the individual is focused on both the jumping and landing portion of the drill.
The main reason for this is because we want to aim at reducing the compressive forces that can be driven down onto the knee joint along with teaching the athlete the proper way to absorb the impact of the landing. Because the box jump allows us to jump up onto the box we don’t have as far to fall to absorb those compressive forces at the knee.
This is the case unless of course we’re stampeding the jumps by performing them in a hurried manner. By doing this we’re defeating the purpose of the drill.
Another point worth mentioning is that by stampeding the box jumps and treating them like a conditioning drill fatigue may bring on other unwanted problems. Some examples of other problems that can be brought on by fatigue is excessive and repetitive knee valgus upon landing, as well as missed jumps and sloppy jumps which may end up in falls and busted shins. Remember the emphasis of the drill should be to perform it with control and mastery.
As with the emphasis of any strength drill box jumps should also be programmed with great care allowing for a limited amount of contacts, or jumps. This particular drill should also be progressed by assessing the ability level of the individual trainee, or athlete. To do this I’ve included a few things here to keep in mind when executing a standard box jump.
- Begin about 2 to 3 feet away from the box.
- Start with your arms up overhead.
- At the start of the movement the arms should swing back as you hinge the hips and knees producing a countermovement to load the hips and hamstrings.
- Upon ascending out of this countermovement the arms should swing back up and you should execute triple extension of your ankles, knees, and hips.
- Upon landing you should absorb the landing by landing softly and flexing back into the quarter squat position.
- From here your feet should be flat and about shoulder width apart.
- Your knees and ankles should be positioned in a sound squat position, not overly buckling inward or outward.
- Once you have stuck the quarter flexed squat position you should stand tall then step down (NOT jump down) off the box.
Once again the box jump drill requires a bit more skill and attention than many trainers, or coaches care to emphasize. As a result many coaches end up programming the box jump as a “conditioning” drill while potentially and unknowingly causing many of the problems that I’ve outlined here in this article.
On a side note (as I mentioned earlier in the previous video) excessively high box jumps aren’t really the goal either. There is a time and place for higher jumps, but many of these also cause poor landings, much of the true emphasis of “the drill” is lost, and many cheat high jumps for the sake of ego. Let’s try to focus on the quality rather than trying to make some YouTube highlight.
Remember that the true purpose of the box jump should be about honing your skill development and to increase your force production. By using the box jump exercise as a conditioning drill you aren’t going to be achieving either one of those characteristics.
As a strength coach I’ve found that even some of the most capable athletes need to be made aware of the details that are outlined here in this article. So for the sake of today’s discussion I hope this helped to clear up any questions, or issues you might have had with this particular drill.
What do you think? Feel free to post up in the comment section below. Stay strong and keep training smart.
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