If you’ve ever been to a CrossFit class, you’ve likely tried box jumps.
Plyometric exercises like box jumps are a great way to build power1Beato, M., Bianchi, M., Coratella, G., Merlini, M., & Drust, B. (2018). Effects of Plyometric and Directional Training on Speed and Jump Performance in Elite Youth Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(2), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002371, strength, and speed by conditioning your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems to support rapid force generation.
But, if you are new to box jumps you may ask, how many box jumps should I do in my workouts? How many box jumps should I do to increase strength? Or build muscle?
In this guide, we will discuss how to do box jumps for leg workouts, give you plyo box jump exercise modifications that you can implement based on your fitness level and training goal, and ultimately answer your question, how many box jumps should I do in my workouts?
Let’s get started!
How Do You Do Box Jumps?
Before we discuss how many box jumps you should do based on your fitness goals and fitness level, let’s review how to perform box jumps.
Here are the instructions for how to perform box jumps:
How To Perform Box Jumps
- Stand facing a plyometric box that is roughly knee height or slightly lower, depending on your fitness level and your primary goal with box jumps in your strength training workouts. You should be about 2 feet back from the box.
- Keep your chest up, your back straight, your core and glutes tight, and your shoulders down and relaxed away from your ears. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your toes pointing forward towards the box.
- Drop down into a bodyweight squat by bending your knees, and simultaneously driving your arms back behind you.
- In one smooth movement, thrust your arms forward and upward as you explode through your feet and straighten your legs (triple extension of your ankles, knees, and hips) to jump up onto the plyo box using the momentum from your arms.
- Cushion your landing on top of the plyo box by allowing a natural bend in your knees and letting your arms slowly trail back behind your body but seamlessly press through your heels as you land on the box with both feet to stand up straight.
- Hop down backward or step down off of the box and repeat for as many reps as you can or you intend to perform.
How to Modify Box Jumps
There are a few ways to modify box jump exercises based on your fitness level and training goals.
That said, any box jump exercise is going to be relatively intense and high impact due to the jumping and landing required for this type of explosive plyometric exercise.
Therefore, if you have contraindications to jumping or high-impact exercise, such as arthritis, osteoporosis, degenerative joint disease, or are currently pregnant, you should speak with your doctor or work with a physical therapist before trying box jumps.
Beginners can make box jumps easier in several different ways and advanced athletes looking to progress box jumps for power training can also perform variations of box jumps as fitness improves.
Beginner Box Jump Exercises
Here are some box jump exercise modifications for beginners:
Start With Step-Ups
Although not exactly a box jump (because you won’t be jumping or performing a plyometric exercise), beginners and anyone who cannot safely perform box jumps should start with step-ups.Here are the steps:
How To Perform A Step-Up
- Stand facing a plyometric box that is roughly knee height or slightly lower, holding a heavy dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides. Keep your chest up, back straight, core and glutes tight, and shoulders down and relaxed away from your ears. Your feet should be hip-width apart with your toes pointing forward towards the box.
- Engage your core and glutes while you step your right foot up onto the box, pressing through your right heel to step all the way up, straightening your right knee fully, and allowing your left leg to lift off of the ground. Focus on really driving your leg into full extension as you step up onto the box to activate your glutes. Try to keep your torso upright and your spine neutral.
- Step your left leg up onto the box.
- Keep facing forward as you step back down backward with your right foot first, and then follow with your left foot.
- Continue leading with the right foot for all of your desired reps and then switch sides.
Use a Lower Box
Beginner-friendly box jumps start with using a lower step or plyo box.
Rather than jumping right in (pun intended!) with a plyometric box that is approximately knee height, you can begin your box jump workouts with an aerobic step, which is usually just 4 to 6 inches high, or a regular stair at your home if you are doing at-home plyometric workouts.
Or, find the lowest plyometric box in your gym when you first start box jumps.
Once you can comfortably do 2 to 3 sets of your desired number of reps of box jumps with the plyo box height that you are using, you can move up to a progressively higher plyo box.
Advanced Box Jump Exercises
For advanced athletes, there are a couple of different ways to progress box jumps. The best advanced box jumps plyometrics exercise modification will depend on your primary training goal.
Here are a few suggestions for more challenging box jumps:
Use a Higher Box
Increasing the height of the box is the simplest way to make box jumps more difficult.
This is a good strategy for advancing box jumps if you are trying to increase power and explosive strength in the glutes, quads, calves, hip flexors, and hamstrings.
Just make sure that you can safely jump high enough for the box you choose or you might seriously injure yourself by missing and falling.
Consider Adding Weight
If your primary training goal is to increase power and explosive strength, you can consider wearing a weighted vest for box jumps, as long as you can complete your desired number of reps with proper form and technique.
Be careful not to add too much weight because jumping is a high-impact exercise, so any added weight will increase the magnitude of the impact stresses.
Do Single-Leg Box Jumps
You can progress plyometric box jumps to single-leg box jumps.
When performed as a unilateral exercise, the movement pattern better replicates the musculoskeletal demands of running or jumping in sports.
Here are the steps to perform this box jump exercise progression:
How To Perform a Single-Leg Box Jump
- Stand upright with good posture about one foot back from the plyo box.
- Stand only on your right leg and bend your left knee to lift your left foot up behind your body.
- Keeping your core tight, thrust your arms behind you and then rapidly forward as you propel your body up and land on the ball of your foot on the step. Explode off the ball of your foot to engage your calves and glutes.
- Bend your knee as you land on the box and press through the foot to stand up straight on the right leg.
- Carefully hop backward down to the starting position, repeat all of your reps on one leg, and then switch legs.
How Many Box Jumps Should I Do Based On My Fitness Goals?
The number of box jumps you should do depends on your fitness level, training goals2Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032, and the other exercises you are doing in a workout.
Box jumps are inherently geared towards being a power exercise,3Markovic, G., & Newton, R. U. (2007). Does plyometric training improve vertical jump height? A meta-analytical review * Commentary. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 41(6), 349–355. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsm.2007.035113which means that you should be prioritizing high intensity rather than a high number of reps.
For this reason, it is generally a good idea to stick with just a few box jump reps per set, even for advanced athletes.
The focus should be on performing every box jump with precision and intensity so that you can train the neuromuscular system to optimize the triple extension movement pattern.4Lorenz, D. (2016). Facilitating Power Development in the Recovering Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 48–50. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000192
Here are some guidelines for how many box jumps you should do:
- Beginners: Two sets of 2 to 5 box jumps with at least 2 minutes in between sets.
- Intermediate Athletes: 3-4 sets of 3 to 6 box jumps with at least 90 seconds in between sets.
- Advanced Athletes: 3-6 sets of 4 to 12 box jumps with at least 30 seconds in between sets.
Above all, focus on ensuring that you are using proper form and maintaining the intensity of the exercise rather than increasing the number of reps that you do.
As you get stronger, increase the height of the box or try single-leg box jumps.
If box jump exercises have sparked your interest in CrossFit workouts, check out our guide to beginner CrossFit exercises here.
- 1Beato, M., Bianchi, M., Coratella, G., Merlini, M., & Drust, B. (2018). Effects of Plyometric and Directional Training on Speed and Jump Performance in Elite Youth Soccer Players. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 32(2), 289–296. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000002371,
- 2Schoenfeld, B. J., Grgic, J., Van Every, D. W., & Plotkin, D. L. (2021). Loading Recommendations for Muscle Strength, Hypertrophy, and Local Endurance: A Re-Examination of the Repetition Continuum. Sports, 9(2), 32. https://doi.org/10.3390/sports9020032
- 4Lorenz, D. (2016). Facilitating Power Development in the Recovering Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 48–50. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000192