Updated: Jun 23, 2019
When we are talking about central nervous system (CNS) activation firing the type 2 fibers and all things “explosion”, the box jump is one of the best movements for developing these characteristics.
Your CNS is the nerve center that signals your body to perform a task. If you train your CNS through proper signaling you can increase your ability to apply force rapidly. Strength coaches, weightlifting coaches, and even to a degree Crossfit coaches can all agree that being more “explosive” is desirable. One of the best ways to develop this is by doing box jumps properly.
Below I will describe what constitutes proper.
Why You Should Box Jump
You should do them to improve your overall force production. When the body is tasked with producing force rapidly (jumping), you learn how to activate more type 2 fibers.
You should do them to feel your quad in the power position. Your quads play a vital role in force production. Don’t get tricked into thinking you are quad dominant. You just need to know how to use your quad.
You should do them to strengthen your quad. As much as you squat, your quads may still be weak in certain positions. Jumping will expose this. (Ask RGIII)—zing.
Why You Should Not Box Jump
You should not do them for conditioning AKA high repetitions. That’s it. You ask why? Simply put, your body is not designed to produce high amount of force for long periods of time. It is designed to produce low amounts of force for a long period of time. That is why nearly everyone can jog a slow pace mini-marathon despite not being in “good shape.”
You should not jump on a box with the “shitting dog” position. I will talk about this at the very end, but if you can not maintain tension in the landing position, you are doing yourself a disservice.
There are a few types of box jumps that we use at Lift Lab.
The Basic Box Jump
In this box jump we only focus on extension and soft landing. Typically, this is the first step in getting people to jump properly. We are trying to get them to focus on extending hard at the top of the jump. This starts training to body to recognize that we are asking it to produce a lot of force quickly.
When the athlete lands on the box we are asking them to land with a “soft knee”. That is, we do not want the knees locked when the athlete lands. We want a soft knee to act as a shock absorber.
This about how the shocks work on your car, we want that.
The Box Jump and Land in Power Position
Let’s talk about power position. Power position for us is the point in the squatted position where maximal tension is achieved. This will be different for every single person, based on quad strength, mobility, and stability. For example, you can squat ass to grass, but if you round your back and look like a shitting dog it is going to do you no good to be in that position. Likewise, if you land and you are almost standing tall the load is not transferred into your legs.
Remember you are trying to do these box jumps to gain something. So why not do it right?!
The landing position on the box jump is just as important as the take off. Both reinforce proper use of the quad.
And remember, in this jump you are going to land in the power position. You should feel maximum tension in your quads when you land in the power position. You should feel stable and you should feel like you could be explosive and fast from this position. IT IS NOT A POSITION TO BE IN YOUR HEELS!
The Depth Jump
The depth jump is more advanced. You do depth jumps to improve reaction time. In this depth jump you are trying to minimize the amount of time you spend on the ground. By the time athletes move to the depth jump they should be able to land comfortably and stable in the power position. Because this jump is designed to decrease reaction time (IE make you react faster) you as a coach will have to train your eye to make sure that when the athlete hits the ground they are in a good position and in no danger of letting the knees slide in.
Depth Jump with Pause
If you are unsure of what you are seeing in a depth jump you can slow it down for you and the athlete. This may seem odd because I just told you above that this jump was designed to make you faster. Remember, safety first. Use the pause in the depth jump to reinforce the power position in landing and double check that the athletes don’t have bambi knees.
Also, when the athlete jumps to the second box they have to transfer force again and land on the second box where you have another opportunity to check the landing in the power position.
The Jumps We Don’t Want
The Shitting Dog
The shitting dog is a yoga term. OK no not really, but my little Italian Greyhound Rocco is the inspiration for this. I watch him shit in the neighbors flowers and he always looks so ashamed and the reason is because he is not in the power position when he does it.
Rocco lets his hips round underneath him and positions his intestinal track completely vertical for maximal gravitation affect on his waste material, which is fine for eliminating. However, Rocco is built for speed and power. And he knows the value of the power position. When he shits, he’s not powerful thus he feels ashamed.
This is what the position looks like. So let’s remember the landing position from above and keep that tension in the hips so we can be more powerful.
Box Jumps for Conditioning
No need to blow the ol’ Achilles. It is as simple as that. Remember when I said above that your body is not designed to produce large amounts of force for a long time. Box jumps over 6 reps with no rest is probably too much.
Remember why you are training.
More than likely if you are doing repetition box jumps you are at a Crossfit box. You are probably there to be healthier, the risk vs. reward of this exercise just is not there. Twenty box jumps in a row can easily lead to a strained or ruptured Achilles, both of which are going to put you on the shelf for quite some time, only moving you farther from your goals.
Please take the time to look at these drills carefully and analyze how you are performing these jumps. If you are just getting into it, take your time, start with the basics, build yourself up, then
move on to the more advanced stuff!
And as always if you want help, please feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org I answer questions for free ALL DAY!