The Ultimate Plyo Box Workout: 6 Exercises For Explosive Power

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The plyo box is a mainstay in CrossFit workouts, but it can be intimidating and underutilized in the strength training workouts for people who have not tried CrossFit.

A plyo box workout can provide not only a great muscle-strengthening and muscle-building workout but also one that increases your heart rate, gets your metabolism firing on all cylinders, and improves your power and explosive strength.

So what are the best plyo box exercises for a plyo box workout?

In this article, we will provide step-by-step instructions for some of the best exercises to help you put together a challenging, total-body plyo box workout:

Let’s dive in! 

A plyo box back squat

What Is a Plyo Box?

Before we discuss the best plyo box exercises and how to do plyo box workouts based on your fitness goals, let’s briefly discuss what a plyo box is and the benefits of doing exercises with a plyo box.

A plyo box refers to a plyometric box, or a sturdy box that can be used for plyometric exercises.

Plyo boxes are generally made from unfinished wood, and they come in a variety of sizes (heights).

Beginners usually start with shorter plyometric boxes so that they can master the basic technique for common plyometric box exercises like box jumps and step-ups.

A good starting height is somewhere in the 8-12 inch range, depending on your height, your general fitness level, and the specific exercises plyo box you plan to do.

As you get stronger and develop more leg strength and power, you can increase the height of the plyo box you use.

Intermediate athletes usually work with a plyo box that is slightly taller than knee height, while advanced athletes will use plyo boxes that might come up nearly as high as the groin.

A single leg box jump.

Why Should You Incorporate Plyo Box Exercises Into Your Workout Routine?

The benefit of doing plyo box exercises or a plyo box workout is that plyometric exercises are a great way to build power, strength, and speed by conditioning your muscles, bones, connective tissues, and neuromuscular and cardiovascular systems to support rapid force generation.

Plyometrics are high-impact, explosive exercises that require your muscles and tendons to generate a lot of force rapidly.

Furthermore, by doing plyo box exercises, you will not only strengthen your legs and develop power, but you will also improve your cardiovascular fitness, especially if you do sets of exercises plyo box with only a short rest in between each bout like high-intensity interval training (HIIT).

The Ultimate Plyo Box Workout

Here are some of the best plyo box exercises to add to your full-body plyo box workout:

#1: Box Squats 

Box squats can be a great beginner-friendly plyo box exercise, as well as an advanced move for building strength and power.

The difference lies in how the exercise is performed.

For beginners, doing a squat using a plyo box is a good way to enforce proper squat form because the plyo box gives you a physical target to help reinforce sitting your hips back rather than squatting with your knees coming forward beyond your toes.

Here are the steps for this exercise using a plyo box:

  1. Stand upright about one to two feet in front of a plyo box that is just shorter than knee height (facing away) with your feet hip-width apart, shoulders back, chest up, and core engaged.
  2. Bend your knees and sit your butt back and down towards the edge/top of the plyo box while thrusting your arms forward in front of you for counterbalance.
  3. When your butt lightly taps the top of the plyo box, press through your heels to stand back up.
  4. Complete 10-20 reps.

#2: Barbell Box Squats

This is an advanced progression of a plyo box squat.

Rather than being strictly a strength-based exercise, the barbell box squat is an explosive strength exercise for advanced athletes, so you should only use about 50% of your 1RM for the back squat. 

This is because the focus should be on maximizing explosive speed for each rep rather than increasing the load you are using. 

Here are the steps for this plyo box workout exercise:

  1. Stand upright with a wide stance and a barbell resting on your upper traps. You should be about two feet in front of a plyometric box that is slightly lower than knee height, facing away.
  2. Sit your hips back and engage your core.
  3. Lower yourself as slowly as possible until your butt lightly taps the box, and you’re in an even deeper squat than if your thighs were parallel to the ground.
  4. Then, explode up to standing by driving with your hips and hamstrings.

For added difficulty, use chains or resistance bands on the ends of the barbells so that the resistance increases at the end range of motion

Perform 3-6 reps per set.

#3: Step-Ups

The weighted step-up is one of the best lower-body strengthening exercises for the glutes, quads, calves, hamstrings, and hip flexors. 

Plus, it is a low-impact plyo box exercise, which is great for beginners, those with joint pain, or to give your bones and joints a break during a high-impact plyometric box workout.

Focus on really driving your leg into full extension as you step up onto the box to isolate the glutes.

Here are the steps:

  1. Stand facing a plyometric box that is approximately knee height (shorter for beginners and taller for advanced athletes). Hold a heavy dumbbell in each hand with your arms down at your sides.
  2. Engage your core and glutes while you step up onto the box with your right foot, pressing through your heel to step all the way up, straightening your right leg fully.
  3. Step your left leg up onto the box to follow so that you are standing completely on the box.
  4. Step back down backward with your right foot first and then your left foot.
  5. Continue leading with the right foot for all of your reps, and then switch sides.
  6. Complete 10-12 reps per side.

#4: On-Box Jumps

Jumping up onto a plyo box and then powering up into a completely upright position is an excellent exercise to build explosive leg strength for better power and vertical jump ability.

Here are the steps to perform this plyometric box exercise:

  1. Stand facing a plyo box with your toes about two feet from the box.
  2. Drop down into a bodyweight squat by bending your knees in hips, simultaneously driving your arms behind you.
  3. In one smooth movement, thrust your arms forward as you squat and jump up onto the plyo box using the momentum from your arms.
  4. Cushion your landing by allowing a natural bend in your knees and allow your arms to slowly trail back behind your body but seamlessly press through your heels when you land on the box with both feet to stand up straight. 
  5. Hop down or step down off of the box and repeat for as many reps as you can or you intend to perform.

#5: Single-Leg Box Jumps

You can also do plyo box jumps one leg at a time.

When performed as a unilateral exercise, the movement pattern better replicates the musculoskeletal demands of running or jumping in sports.

Additionally, when you are doing bodyweight leg workouts, unilateral exercises are more effective for strengthening your legs because your entire body weight is loaded onto a single leg.

Perform the same steps as above but land on the ball of your foot with one leg only and keep the other leg lifted off the ground the entire time.

Repeat all of your reps and then switch sides.

#6: Depth Jumps

This challenging plyo box exercise is great for developing explosive speed for jumping higher.

This exercise has a strong eccentric (lowering) muscle action because you start on a raised plyo box rather than the floor.

This allows you to get the true stretch-shortening cycle of plyometric exercises to activate the central nervous system, increase muscle firing rates, and increase the amount of force your muscles can generate.

Here are the steps for this plyometric box exercise:

  1. Start on a plyo box that’s 6-30 inches high, depending on your experience level.
  2. Step down, one foot at a time, as if you’re sort of falling into the ground in order to store potential energy in your legs.
  3. The instant both feet have landed, jump as high as you can, straight into the air, without pausing or lowering into a partial squat beforehand.
  4. Thrust your arms upward as you jump to enhance momentum.
  5. Pause and rest before doing another rep.
  6. Perform 3-6 reps per set.

If these plyo box exercises have sparked your interest in CrossFit workouts, check out our guide to beginner CrossFit exercises here.

A goblet squat.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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