Personal Trainers and Strength Coaches are in a constant battle of weighting the risk and reward of exercises. In the article below, Dan Blewett, a professional Baseball player, (former intern of mine) and owner of a very successful Sports Performance Training business, shares the logic we both share for X-ing out high box jumps from our training programs, as we strongly believe they’re a dangerous and overrated exercise.
In today’s article, Coach Dan also provides some quick mods to allow you to keep (what we both feel is) a safer version on-hand.
No one is going to try to claim that the high box jump exercises will injure everyone who does them. And, we certainly embrace that other personal trainers and strength coaches use High Box Jumps. However, this article isn’t about what OTHER people do, it’s about what WE do, and in this case, don’t do in training.
Put simply, we don’t use high box jumps with our clients and athletes because we feel they are not worth the risk in most instances, for most populations. Dan’s article (along with one of our videos) below gives you a very clear and concise explanation as to why we feel this way.
Why (we feel) The High Box Jump Exercise is Dangerous & Overrated
Enter: The Post-Injury Parent Conversation
“How did my son tear his ACL, Dan?”
“He fell awkwardly off of a 55 inch box while attempting to jump onto it.”
“Why was he doing such a high box jump?”
“I wanted to increase his jumping ability.”
“Was having the box at his max jumping height essential to the exercise?”
“Well, No. I suppose we could have put it at 53 inches and he would have made it atop safely.”
“So you needlessly risked my son’s career over two inches?”
“I suppose I did.”
“We are not paying for his surgery. You’ll be hearing from our lawyer.”
I will never have this conversation. EVER. Why? Because this hypothetically irate parent is 100% right – box jumps at personal record heights are unnecessary. Reducing the height to a level easily cleared would eliminate a tremendous amount of risk while only marginally, if at all, reducing the effect of stimulating the athlete’s maximum jump intensity. After all, the training effect of the Box Jump is minimal, while risk is very high.
High Box Jumps Do:
Teach Intensity via a goal to jump to
Demonstrate Jumping Ability
Demonstrate Hip Mobility
High Box Jumps Do Not:
Provide Overload Stimulus For Muscles
Showcase the jump used in sports (ever seen LeBron tuck his legs while dunking?)
High Box Jump Risk:
Awkward Fall To Floor from 2-6 feet.
Skimming Shins (on wood/metal boxes)
Hands hitting the box on the upswing. Broken fingers, anyone?
High Box Jump Reward:
Show others how high you can jump
Show others how mobile your hips are
Find out how strong your ACLs and bones are when you inevitably fall
*Or, you could join the ranks of one those Youtube “Box Jump Fail” videos. Go on, test the waters and search D-I athlete jumping 62 inches with his competitive season just a month away? Check. Middle-aged dude challenging his “Box Jump PR” at the local CrossFit? Check. Cute girl jumping on top of eleven 10lb bumper plates, stacked like pancakes atop a 20” Plyo box? Check.
Remind yourself that there’s no real training stimulus here except for intensity. Your ability to jump is already determined, the exercise is entirely aimed at eliciting 100% of it. Increasing one’s explosive power, especially that of a high-level athlete, requires exercises that force the athlete’s body to increase rate of force development. Plus, as briefly mentioned above, jumping height will depend to a high degree on hip mobility. Coach Nick expands on this idea in a brief seminar clip:
How To Make Box Jumps Safer and More Effective
1. Lower The Box and coach minimal hip flexion to be involved in getting on top of the box (as Coach Nick talked about in the video above). This way you’ll have a much better idea of how much actual jumping ability some one has. Plus, seeing a 48inch box is intimidating, even if you know you can jump 50”. If you think you have to challenge your PR to get adequate jumping intensity I’d counter that if no one told you, you couldn’t tell the difference without measuring. All you need is enough height for your body to really need to get up.
2. Use them as conditioning at low heights. Though CrossFitters are often the culprit of Box Jump PRs, I don’t mind the CrossFit notion of using low but repetitive box jumps for conditioning. It’s relatively safe as long as the height doesn’t challenge a person at any point. Jumping at 30-50% of your max height for reps can give you a nice anaerobic training effect.
I can hear you right now – “Joe DeFranco box jumps all his high-level athletes!”
I know – I’ve watched countless videos. And I have tremendous respect for Mr.DeFranco and his methods. But, I guarantee you he knows the risks of the exercise, talks it over with his athletes, and likely takes measures to ensure the height they choose is one they will make 99% of the time.
Also, jumping high is sexy and gets YouTube views. But just because he might churn out box jump videos doesn’t mean his athletes train that way all the time. .
We Train and Let Train
There’s a big difference between jumping onto a box and high-box jumps.We’ll stick with jumping onto a box (that’s at a reasonable height) when we feel it’s appropriate for lower-body dynamic effort workout and force summation purposes.
You can go ahead and “don’t be a punk,” if you choose – Just remember it only takes one awkward landing, and 50+ inches is pretty high to break the fall. And, that’s a risk we’re not willing to take.
Dan Blewett is the owner of Dan Blewett Sports Performance and WARBIRD Throwing Academy in Bloomington, Illinois. Much of Dan’s training knowledge has come at the expense of his own body as he continues to chase professional baseball and high-performance for his athlete clientele. Visit DanBlewett.com for his unique take on training and baseball.