The box jump is one of the simplest, most rudimentary exercises known to fitness.
You’ve probably seen people like Evan Ungar leaping onto a 63″ box, thinking it was super impressive…
Clearly, a box jump can be a pretty magnificent display of one’s vertical leaping ability, but just how useful is this exercise for developing that spring in the first place?
And does having a really high box jump correlate with a really high vertical jump?
Box jumps are an extremely effective plyometric exercise for increasing your vertical jump.
The major benefit of the box jump is that there’s virtually no landing forces, making it one of the most low impact plyometric exercises.
The rest of this article will discuss exactly how effective box jumps can be, how and when they are best incorporated into your vertical jump training routine, and also the relationship between an impressive box jump and one’s actual leaping ability.
Box Jumps Vs Vertical – What’s The Relationship?
I’m sure you’ve seen a video or two of some really impressive box jumps…
Evan Ungar (shown above) who is broke the record for the highest box jump is by all means a super impressive athlete, but how high can he actually jump?
While he can box jump 65″, his actual standing vertical jump appears to be closer to 32″ as shown below (on the right)…
It’s kind of hard to tell with the camera angle, but Ungar would appear to jump somewhere around the 80cm mark here, which is by no means an elite standing vertical jump.
Hell even if we round it up to 90cm, that’s still only a 35″ standing vertical.
We’ve seen guys like Josh Imatorbhebhe jump closer to the 47″ mark, as shown below.
So what gives?
How can the box jump world record holder not actually jump super high?
Well if you look at Ungar’s technique, it’s arguably not the best…
He uses an extremely deep knee bend and has virtually zero arm swing until he’s already well into his concentric phase.
I’ve also found anecdotally that guys with longer legs tend to be much better at the box jump than shorter athletes, even if they’re not better jumpers overall.
The simple fact is that having a really impressive box jump doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a freak athlete.
Really high box jumps require a lot of flexibility and it would appear as though Ungar has mastered the art of getting his feet really high relative to his center of gravity.
He’s still a wildly impressive athlete, but I simply don’t think there’s much correlation between box jumping ability and vertical jump.
Will Box Jumps Make You Jump Higher?
Undoubtedly, box jumps are going to help you jump higher, absolutely.
Let me quickly explain what they are and how to perform them and what their purpose is.
How To Perform A Box Jump
Quite simply, a box jump is a plyometric exercise where the athlete begins from a standstill and performs a countermovement jump onto a sturdy box or platform.
Why They Make You Jump Higher
One of the reasons they’re so good for the vertical jump is because they are a vertical jump.
As you might know, when it comes to plyometrics, specificity is king.
You want to perform exercises that closely replicate a vertical jump.
The box jump literally is a standing vertical jump!
The Major Benefit Of Box Jumps…
The one thing that makes box jumps a special plyometric exercise is that, unlike other types of jumping, there’s significantly reduced landing forces.
If you jump as high as you can, when you land on the ground, your joints take an absolute beating as the force used to leave the ground is multiplied by gravity on the way down.
But when you’re jumping onto an elevated platform, you’ve still got that maximal effort eccentric phase, but with greatly reduced impact forces.
This is useful to us for the following reasons.
- Allows High Plyometric Volume – Because the landing component is effectively removed, you can perform lots of actual jumps (which is what you’re effectively trying to improve). In a regular vertical jump, the landing forces are extremely high and this impact will cause tons of fatigue.
- Protects Knee & Ankle Joints – When jumping, the overwhelming majority of the strain on your ankles and knees comes from landing. By elevating your landing, you’re massively reducing joint pain and discomfort. This can be great for athletes with jumper’s knee.
Drawbacks Of Box Jumps For Vertical Jump Training
- Less Plyometric Load – The reason depth drops are such a good exercise is because simply landing from a height is an excellent way to increase your explosive ability. By using a box, we’re taking the depth drop portion out of the movement and removing this benefit.
- Slightly Dangerous – If you use a box that’s too high, or a box/platform that’s unstable, it may topple causing you to fall. If you manage to miss the box, it’s possible to hurt your shins or knees on the edge too.
When & How To Use Box Jumps To Jump Higher
Box jumps should be performed towards the start of a session while you’re relatively fresh.
This is true of all plyometric exercises.
The last thing you want to do is get through some heavy squats and then attempt to jump onto a relatively high box while you’re overly fatigued.
That’s a great way to get injured.
Use box jumps if you suffer from patellar tendonitis, Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, or any other inconvenient leg injuries.
As I mentioned earlier, box jumps are a great way to practice generating maximum force without the impact of landing from your jump, so your joints and tendons can cope with the training volume much easier.
You can use box jumps throughout all phases of your training but I prefer I use them as a speed maintenance exercise while on a strength phase.
I find they’re most beneficial when you need to get some plyometric volume in but are in the middle of a really strenuous training block and you’re possibly under recovered or sore.
They can also be great during deload weeks where you’re trying to get some jump volume in, but don’t want to stress your body too much.
How To Box Jump Higher?
There’s quite a few cues you can use to increase the height of your box jumps which I’ll get to shortly.
But just remember this isn’t a competition to see how high you can box jump.
There’s no place for ego in vertical jump training.
Your focus should solely be on jumping as powerfully as possible – it doesn’t actually matter how high the box is and it’s far better for the box to be too low than too high.
The box can never really be too low – a lower box simply means slightly more impact forces upon landing, which isn’t inherently a bad thing.
By studying world record holder Evan Ungar’s form and approach to training, I’ve come up with a few cues to help you box jump higher.
- Completely relax during the eccentric – The key to box jumping really high, Evan Ungar style, is to not use your muscles much during the decent (eccentric phase). By completely relaxing and allowing his hips to sink down into an extremely deep squat and then firing up his muscles for the concentric portion of the movement, Evan is able to leverage his connective tissue to help generate spring to explode upwards.
- Sink deep into the hole – If you study the footage of Evan jumping, you’ll notice he gets extremely deep almost into an ATG position. At some point you’re unable to go any lower and your tendons and ligaments will naturally bounce you back upwards. I believe Evan is using this natural recoil from the amortization phase to help him generate force. Most people when testing their standing vertical jump never get anywhere near this low!
- Squat, a lot – The bulk of Evan’s training is heavy squats. He does occasionally do some plyos but says his focus is primarily on lifting really heavy. This makes sense because a box jump is essentially a standing vertical jump, which requires more raw strength and less bounce compared to an approach jump.
Parting Thoughts On Box Jumps For The Vertical
I seriously think box jumps are one of the best plyometrics you can do, purely because they’re a really low impact option which can come in handy for so many different reasons.
You should obviously include various other plyometrics that do involve the absorption of force when landing, as this concentric movement is very important for developing explosiveness, but box jumps really are a perfect choice when your joints need a bit of a rest!
On top of that, you should check out my complete list of the best exercises for vertical jump!
Frequently Asked Box Jump Questions
I’ll quickly address a few questions I’ve seen online regarding box jumps and vertical jump training.
Is a box jump the same as a vertical jump?
In the above video, Evan jumps 63.5 inches.
But because he’s lifting his feet up towards his hips – he’s not actually jumping anywhere near that high.
A vertical jump measures the distance from the ground to the bottoms of your feet at the peak of your jump, while in a completely outstretched position.
A box jump simply looks at what height you can physically clear, and isn’t the same thing as the vertical jump.
Is the box jump a bad test of vertical jump?
A box jump doesn’t test your vertical jump at all.
While having a really high box jump and high vertical jump may be correlated, they are completely different things.
Taller athletes naturally have an advantage in box jumps as they can ‘lift’ their feet up a greater distance.
The box jump isn’t a bad test of lower body power, but it’s not an accurate or fair measure of vertical jump.
For that, check out my full article on how to measure your vertical jump.
How many box jumps should I do to increase my vertical?
A few sets of 5-6 reps is usually plenty.
Exactly how much plyometric volume you should do will depend on multiple other factors including training frequency.
Can I do box jumps every day?
It’s not recommended to do box jumps every day, unless you plan on doing only a couple sets.
It’s important to keep plyometric training frequency relatively low depending on overall training volume.
How to make box jumps more challenging?
You can increase the difficulty of your box jumps by increasing the box height or perhaps try transitioning into a depth jump.