If you want to build strength, athleticism, and muscle, you need to include power training into your program.
The first place to start with jumping is the box jump.
The purpose of jumping on a box is twofold:
All you need to do is stand in front of a box, take a little dip with the hips, arms back, and jump as high as you can, landing softly on the box. You should land in the same position as you started your jump.
Like kids from the 80’s were told, you should be seen, not heard.
Then step off the box, and repeat for 3-5 jumps.
Do not jump off.
When you jump, you’ll start accelerating back to the ground once you reach your highest point. By jumping onto a box, you have less time to accelerate than if you landed back on the ground.
This is why the box is such a great tool-it minimizes the stress on your joints and tissues while maximizing your explosiveness.
If you jump off the box, then you eliminate it’s entire purpose. Plus, it’s a really awkward jump back off it, but a really good way to blow out your achilles.
There are usually 2 other ways that box jumps get butchered:
If you’re landing like the top example, then the box is too high, and all you’re doing is tucking your knees up in your chest to get over the lip of the box. This forces you to land in this ugly position that places all of the stress on your joints instead of your muscles.
Remember, you should start and finish your jump in the same athletic position.
Crossfit has made this popular, but it’s a terrible idea. Jumping needs to be explosive, so if you do too many reps, fatigue sets in and you can’t jump as high anymore.
Moreso, landing under fatigue increases injury risk. And doing these for time or high reps means you have to jump off the box, (which I already explained is a bad idea.)
Just because something makes you tired doesn’t mean it makes a good conditioning tool. If I chased you around with a baseball bat, you’d get tired and sweaty, but that doesn’t mean it’s a productive way to build your conditioning.
Stick to 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps, generally sticking to 10-15 total jumps/session. Do them either first after your warm up and before your strength training work, or, if you’re more advanced, you can pair them between sets of your first heavy lower body exercise as a contrast.
95% of people never have to go above a 30 inch box, so be very conservative with the height you choose. Realistically, 20-24″ is probably where you should be. Remember it’s not a vertical jump test, the box is just a tool to reduce the force you have to absorb on landing, so you can keep your athleticism without wrecking your joints.