Box jumps are one of my favorite exercises of all time, and for good reason: they’re incredibly efficient, easy to scale for different fitness levels, and will get you sweaty and gasping for breath in no time!
To do one, you’ll need some type of plyometric box or sturdy raised surface. You’ll jump up onto the box, landing with both feet, then straightening your legs at the top position. Then you'll jump back down, and then immediately spring back up as quickly as you can. You can also step back down from the box rather than jumping down if you have knee problems or just feel more comfortable doing so.
Choosing the height of your box will depend on your current fitness level, but most women will want to start with a 14-inch to 18-inch box, while most men will want to start with a 20-inch to 24-inch box. I typically use a 20-inch box.
Start with three or four sets of 10 to 20 box jumps three to four times a week, or just add them to your regular high-intensity impact training (HIIT) workouts.
Here are six reasons to love box jumps:
1. They’ll give you amazing calves.
Jumping increases your strength and muscle tone, and builds both upper body and lower body strength like crazy. Box jumps force you to jump high enough that you’re forced to use every single muscle in your legs to get you up onto the box.
2. They burn a ton of calories and blast fat.
When you’re jumping at a fast pace, your body burns 800 to 1,000 calories an hour (compare that to 200 to 300 calories burned per hour while walking). And since high intensity jumping stimulates changes in the mitochondria (where fuel is converted into energy at the cellular level), your body will burn fat before carbohydrates — always good news for anyone trying to lose weight.
3. They’ll help you keep up your balance and coordination in old age.
Since most of us would ideally like to still be healthy and active when we’re older, the best thing you can do is to continue to be active and increase your strength, balance and coordination now.
And since box jumps aid in balance, they’ll protect you from injury all the way into old age. Plus, they’ll help keep your bones strong and healthy for life.
4. They can be done without equipment.
If you don’t want to buy or make your own box, and don’t have access to one at a gym, you can still do box jumps! Simply find a high enough bench, or some stairs, or even a table (if you've got some serious hops) and get jumping!
Just make sure it’s really sturdy — you don’t want any chance of it moving while you’re jumping, which can easily result in injury.
5. They'll increase your athletic abilities.
Whether you like to skateboard, surf, or play basketball in your spare time, box jumps will help to improve your vertical jump, speed, and endurance, as well as increase your coordination to help you excel in any sport you want to do.
If you haven’t tried them yet, you’ll soon know what I mean. Box jumps force you to increase your coordination quickly, since it’s all too easy when you’re tired to almost miss the box entirely and hit your shins on the front edge. Not fun (but, you’ll get better quickly with practice, really!).
6. They’re (really) fun!
Once you try a few and realize you can actually jump that high, box jumps soon become fun to do. Not only will they make you feel athletic and bring out your inner kid, they higher you learn to you jump, the more badass you’ll feel. What could be more fun than that?
Check out the 12 Minute Athlete app for tons of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts and plenty of box jumps. And get jumping!
Krista Stryker, NSCA-CPT is the author of The 12-Minute Athlete: Get Fitter, Faster, and Stronger Using HIIT and Your Bodyweight and a leading expert on high intensity interval training (HIIT) and bodyweight fitness. She currently lives in Venice, California, and is a certified personal trainer through the National Strength and Conditioning Association.
From trying her first push up in college, to teaching herself to do pull ups and handstands, Krista is living proof of her philosophy that everybody is an athlete. She has helped tens of thousands of people to unlock their full athletic potential through her 12 Minute Athlete HIIT Workouts app and 12 Minute Athlete blog. You can find her @12minuteathlete on all social platforms.