When House Of Pain exhorted the world to jump around, jump around, jump around, jump up, jump up, and indeed get down, they were almost certainly not lauding the benefits of adding plyometric exercises to your training regime. But that doesn’t stop the song being great workout advice.
Throwing a few jumps into your workout builds speed and strength, and is especially useful for people hitting the gym to improve their performance in sports. Plus, jumping as high or as far as you can is also fun and a great way to break any monotony that has crept into your workouts.
The box jump is a plyometric move that strengthens your main lower-body muscles – glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings. Box jumps will help make you faster, more powerful and springier than ever, and if you do them for more than a few seconds, they’ll raise your heart rate and burn calories like nobody’s business.
It’s a versatile move, too. “The beauty of box jumps is that you can adjust the height of the box so you can use it for a wide variety of fitness goals,”says personal trainer Joe Spraggan. “ So you can build explosive power and speed using a high box for low reps, or use a lower height to work on foot speed and improve cardio endurance with higher-rep sets. They can also be used, after a proper warm-up, as a great way to fire up your central nervous system ahead of a big legs session.”
“To build explosive power use a higher box and focus on quality reps over quantity. Do up to five sets of five reps – resting for three to five minutes between them – but stop as soon as your form fails,” says Spraggan. “To burn fat and build cardio endurance, use a lower box and do three to four sets of up to 20 reps, resting for up to 60 seconds.”
How To Do Box Jumps
First things first: find yourself a box. Start with a height of around 50cm while you work on getting the form right. Smashing your shins into the top of the box because you’ve aimed too high is no-one’s idea of fun.
Stand in front of the box with your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend into a quarter squat and swing your arms back, then swing them forward and explode up off the ground. Land on the box as softly as possible. You’re aiming to mimic your take-off position on landing – feet flat and knees slightly bent (don’t let them collapse inwards). If you land in a deep squat rather than a quarter squat, it’s a sign that you’ve picked too high a box.
Then jump back down. Again, you’re aiming to land as softly as possible. You can also opt to step down slowly one leg at a time, which will work the glutes even more and safeguard your joints.
To build power with box jumps aim for one to three sets of three to five reps, using as high a box as you can jump on without sacrificing good form.
To use box jumps for conditioning lower the height of the box. Try jumping up and down continuously for five minutes, maintaining good form throughout. You can also build them into a HIIT workout, as your heart rate will rocket if you keep jumping. For the ultimate challenge try doing box jumps until you can remember the name of another House Of Pain song.
Once you become a box jump master you can make it tougher by landing on one leg. This adds a substantial challenge to your balance. To push it even further, try taking off and landing on one leg.