Whether you are a box spring legend or have stayed away from this exercise machine altogether, the same general principles can be applied to improve your performance. While higher jumps are undoubtedly great for the ego, the right technique to get those extra inches brings significant fitness benefits for everyone.
Christopher Spell is 25 years old and, at 67 inches, holds the Guinness World Record for the highest standing box jump. A native of Cortlandt, NY, credits his football experience at the University of Buffalo as a great stepping stone to a jumping career.
For Spell, much of his success was due to his lower body strength. “On my first day, I was able to jump 60 inches because of my solid base of strength and explosiveness,” he says. But regardless of your starting level, “a beginner should just start,” he adds.
For the purposes of this guide, we’ll focus on higher jumps to work on your explosive power and speed. If you’re looking for box jumps that are beneficial for endurance, aim for a lower box with higher reps and shorter test times.
Choosing the right time to jump
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Since high box jumping takes full effort and effort, there is little point in trying it at the end of your workout. “I suggest doing high box jumps before training because this exercise requires maximum effort to be effective,” says Spell.
Don’t forget to warm up
Good body mechanics require you to be ready to perform, so make sure you warm up with easier, less challenging stretches and jumps. Calf stretches, kettlebell swings, and stepping on and off the box are great ways to activate the muscles that are recruited from jumping. For serious athletes interested in a more detailed warm up, Spell is a NASM CPT and PES certified trainer and offers a world record jump program.
Work on your core strength and stabilization
“Core training should always be part of any training program,” says Spell. A stable core is necessary to hold your start and end position during a jump. Likewise, your core is used to propel your body skyward. The plank is a great exercise for building core strength and stability and will add a lot to your box jumping efforts. Strengthen your back and glutes with exercises like single leg, back extension.
Master the basic box jump
candidphotos / GettyStand shoulder width apart and step back about 2 feet from the box. “Load” by lowering yourself into a quarter squat and bringing your arms behind you. Jump with your feet, knees, and hips while vigorously swinging your arms forward. Land on the crate in a quarter crook to mitigate the impact.
As kids, we jumped up and down without fear, and while the average box might not look too imposing (often between 3 inches and 2 feet), the process of actually putting your adult body on one can be more difficult than initially thought.
For many of us, sedentary lifestyles with luxuries like elevators and escalators has only served to rob us of balance and coordination. It’s not uncommon to question yourself and make wrong or half jumps at takeoff. To top it off, some boxes are made of hard wood and can take a dent out of your leg if you get it wrong. So use a sturdy foam-based box to combat the fear of harming yourself. “Start with a softbox and start at a lower, reasonable height,” says Spell.
Once you’ve committed to taking both legs off the floor for a few reps at the same time, your mind and muscle connection should make future jumps far less intimidating. This was a journey that even Spell had to undertake on his own. “This went away as the pattern built up, making the jump every time,” he says.
Ready, Set, Go
Studies have shown that high-intensity, low-volume exercise, lots of rest time, is key to building the extra muscle needed to exercise more strength. “Proper volume programming and adequate rest are critical to long life and long-term progress,” says Spell.
Work your way up from one to three sets, jumping for three to five reps per set. Since box jumping is a plyometric exercise, the goal is to improve your explosiveness and harness your ability to create speed and resistance.
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From the quarter squat position, your body replicates a coil spring. Make sure you are close to the box and lift it up rather than out to use all that potential energy efficiently.
Look up and lift your chin. Press down with the balls of your feet and swing your arms toward the ceiling as this lifts your upper body. It doesn’t mean anything (if you don’t have that swing) so push those arms forward with force. At the same time, raise your knees toward your chest to initiate the jump. Extend your knees and hips to continue the jump. Swing those arms forward quickly and early, aiming for hyperextension.
Assess your hip mobility
Hip flexibility is an essential part of a great box jump. “You need to move from full hip extension to hip flexion quickly,” says Spell. “This rapid change requires skill.” Many people experience poor range of motion in their hips, and this may explain why no progress is made in increasing the height of the jump.
A hip flexion can be achieved by bringing your knee up to your rib cage. This is something you can test to verify your own range of motion. If you cannot lift your knees up to your ribs or if you are in pain while doing so, you may need to work on your hip mobility. Relaxing your hips has a huge impact on your jumping performance, but don’t let your individual limitations discourage you.
“Some people say that box jumps are mostly about mobility and flexibility,” says Spell. “But they’re also a great way to increase lower body strength and hip flexor explosiveness, which translates into faster sprint times, longer wide jumps, and higher vertical jumps. Hip mobility is definitely important and it will make a lot of things easier, but contrary to what people think, I don’t have great hip mobility or flexibility. “
Keep setting higher goals for yourself
Goal setting is an important part of making profits in boxing, and spell is no exception. As a two-time world record holder, he already has other jumps in mind, such as the one-legged jump, to expand his list of awards. For the rest of us, goal setting is just as important. “A box jumper master would work on training consistency, injury reduction, and proper volume management to get the last bit of potential out of himself,” says Spell.