The plyometric box is a form of plyometric developed to improve explosiveness and speed but the term “plyometric” is actually used to describe any jump training. Plyometrics translate well to improved squatting, sprinting, and even throwing – not to mention a ton of real world applications. The question really isn’t if box jumps are useful – we really need to ask if there are alternatives that are easier on your shins!
Here is a list of variations and alternatives you can do that won’t leave you clutching your ankles for dear life:
Beginner Movements & Modifications
1. Step-ups. I do step-ups on occasion but let’s be real here; they are not a plyometric movement at all. That said, they’re a great remedial variation. Some WOD’s don’t lend themselves to the other options and when everyone else is on a box doing step ups might make some sense.
2. Foam box “jump-overs”. At Regionals this year they had soft plyoboxes for the “box jump overs” but at $285 to $320 a pop that can get expensive quick and I have yet to see a gym in real life have these. A more common alternative is to stack up foam mats that people use for things like sit ups or deck squats. Even though you need a lot of them to have an adequate “alternative” box at our gym people don’t tend to use them like that. Also because they are typically bigger 4 people can use them at a time pretty comfortably. More importantly, they’re safe on your shins! If you miss, you don’t have to go to the hospital.
3. PVC paralette bar jumps. I don’t know why these aren’t more popular. You can adjust the height on most of these. They aren’t great for testing how high you can jump, but they’re great for WOD’s and once again, there’s more room for error compared to a wooden box.
4. Tuck Jumps. If you are looking for something explosive and risk-free, tuck jumps are where it’s at.
To perform a tuck jump, jump as high as you can, tuck your legs into your chest, then extend them and land.
We use them mostly for warm ups but of you don’t have the implements I mentioned earlier, it’s a good modification to consider.
5. Seated box jumps. Jumping from a seated position forces you to use dynamic movement to overcome static resistance, resulting in greater peak force production. Of these advanced movements, this is probably the easiest on your body. Games athlete Dani Horan demonstrates below:
6. Rebound box jumps. This is basically where you jump onto the box, jump off, land with knees slightly bent, and immediately rebound back up – you spend almost no time on the ground, and the quicker you rebound the better. Check out the video below of Dani performing a 30″ rebound box jump:
This is a form of the Russian “shock method” defined by Yuri Verkhoshansky. It’s differs from plyometrics in that the movements are executed in quick succession – landing and immediately rebounding generates a shock to the muscles and tendons that develops greater elasticity and agillity.
It’s a deceptively athletic movement that requires a good strength base to perform safely. If you are a beginner and you like the way your Achilles tendon functions at the moment, you might want to avoid this movement. If however the difference between you making it out of your region and onto the Games is the difference between whether or not you are getting back up on the box quick enough then it might be something you would want to consider. For most of us, the risk isn’t worth the minimal reward.
7. Depth jumps. Depth jumps are the pinnacle of explosive jump training – they’re the original shock method.
To perform a depth jump, first stand on a box. Next, lead with one foot and drop off the box. Land with bent knees and immediately rebound as high as possible. Don’t pause on the ground – springboard off the balls of your feet!
Gradually work your way up to taller boxes to impart greater forces to your body – there’s a great benefit to your performance if you can get good at these but please, start off with shallow depths for your safety.