8 Best Box Jump Alternatives for Explosive Power

Jeff Baldelli
Written by
Last update:

Box Jumps Breakdown

Box jumps are one of the most popular bodyweight plyometric exercises for developing power and explosive strength. If you’ve ever seen a track athlete or Olympic level sprinter in action, you’ll notice they always train on a box jump.

Box jumps usually consist of the athlete jumping up in the air landing on a box. The height of the box usually ranges from 12” to 36”. Each time you jump, the pattern is the same. You step up onto the box, box jump in the air, and land down.

There are many ways to train box jumps. Sometimes you may be instructed to conduct the jumping up and down stationary, without jumping around. Other times you are allowed to jump around consistently.

Other variations of box jumps include standing on top of a box and then transitioning up and down in both a vertical and horizontal motion.

Regardless of the variations, box jumps are the ultimate plyometric exercise for athletes that will have you doing the exercise time and time again.

Why Box Jumps?

The box jump is considered to be a distance measuring exercise. The goal is to leap up onto the box and back down in one swift and continuous movement. When done correctly, the exercise is more similar to a leap than a jump, almost like the way that a dolphin uses its tail as a spring to jump out of the water. This exercise is ideal for developing explosive agility that’s useful for sports that require jumping or changing direction at speed, such as basketball and rugby.

A strong core is needed to bounce back from the initial landing. Box jumps can help by developing this quality, thus preventing lower back problems.

However, box jumps can be hard on your knees, especially if your base is not strong. Knees do not extend completely during landing. The base of support is a lever at the foot that acts like a shock absorber.

If the base is too narrow, it becomes a stiff mid-crural joint. If the base is too wide, it becomes a knee joint. You can make your base wider by working on the calf muscles in the back of the leg. The rounder and the more upright the calf, the bigger the base. If you have tightness in your Achilles’ tendon, your calf will be forced forward and make the base narrower. Once you increase the base width, you may experience knee discomfort less frequently.

Main Muscles Worked

Box Jumps are one of the most popular plyometrics exercises that can be found in many CrossFit workouts and used in many advanced functional fitness training programs. Box Jumps can be done by males and females of all fitness levels. The plyometric exercise work best for developing lower body strength, speed, power, flexibility, agility and coordination. These exercises are also great for developing fast-twitch type muscles and improving proprioception. The fast-twitch muscle fibers are the ones that gain explosive power and speed.

Box Jumps are considered safe for all ages. However, it’s important to keep in mind that inappropriate landing following a jump could cause knee and ankle injuries. The jump must be executed in front of your body and the technique must be perfect to avoid injuries.

Box Jumps are a great plyometric exercise. The jump basically involves jumping over an object that is usually around 18 inches high, or 6 times the height of the athletes’ knee. This exercise has been used by professional trainers and coaches for many years to enhance an athlete’s performance. They are considered a foundation exercise because they are a fast and effective way to recruit and strengthen the fast-twitch type muscles.

Box Jump Alternatives

If you are an athlete or a fitness enthusiast, you have probably heard of box jumps, a popular plyometric exercise that requires jumping onto a box from a standing position and then immediately back down. Box jumps are a major part in a plyometric program for many athletes and fitness enthusiasts because they build explosive power.

Not only do box jumps look good in your videos, they will also condition you to react and move faster in sports. You also develop control – an important and often overlooked element of explosive power training … something worth looking into.

Box jumps require you to have a lot of upper-body strength, that is, your legs only provide the force that takes you off the ground and over the box. To build explosive power, you will need to work on your upper body strength as well.

If you supplement your box jumps with the 4 following exercises, you will quickly progress in developing explosive power and speed.

Step-ups

Step-ups are a great addition to any leg day workout. In addition to working your glutes and quads, this move will help you work your core, build stability in your ankles, and challenge your balance.

The number one rule in this exercise is to keep the two feet flat on the floor at all times. Keeping them together will force your stabilizer muscles to work even harder, perfect for anyone who considers themselves a “quad-dominant” lifter.

Squats

Squats have got to be the king of plyometric lower body exercises. Just picture this, you can squat till the cows come home, but your legs will be mainly anaerobic. Powerlifters have been squatting for years and are freakin’ strong, but they do not have explosive speed or power potential. If you want speed and power, you need your lower body to be in a predominantly aerobic state. What’s the secret? You need to use a predominantly slow rep scheme and incorporate a plyometric element into your squats.

Stand in front of a box that is about knee height and squat on it.

When the knee comes close to the box, stand up, as quickly as possible.

Continue to squat on the box, until you have touched the box to the floor.

Make sure to keep the weight light. If you pick a weight that is too heavy, you will turn your squats into isometric, single joint exercises. Now, that’s not all bad, but this is an article about plyometrics. The point is to build speed and power off the ground, not to build a base in one exercise for another exercise. If you get the box high enough and squat down to a full squat, soon you will find your legs getting a pump like you have never experienced before.

Pistol Squats

The squat is an exercise that has been used for centuries to build muscle strength and flexibility, and is considered one of the best exercises to build explosive power. While brand new to gyms and off the radar for many strength and conditioning coaches, pistol squats are becoming a popular alternative to lower body barbell training. Here’s why:

One of the biggest benefits of pistol squats is that they work your lower body in a way that is similar to the Olympic lifts. While squats are an incredible exercise to develop the legs and hips, they do not transfer over very well to the lifts. Pistol squats, on the other hand, directly develop the strength and flexibility required to complete the O-lifts.

For these reasons, pistol squats are a staple in any gym where Olympic-style lifts are performed.

One of the primary benefits of pistol squats is that they allow for the lifter to control the lift from top to bottom. When performing a lift like the snatch, you want to have control over the bar. Lowering the bar too quickly can cause injury. When using a pistol squat, however, you can lower the weight down slowly and in a controlled fashion. Another added benefit is that you can use much more weight than you can with a bar.

Squat Push-Press

To perform a squat push-press, virtually the same starting position used for the conventional push-press is utilized. This should result in a lifter that is standing tall, with the chest and head held high, while holding the barbell at the chest.

From this position, the lifter should squat down and then stand to achieve full extension before performing an overhead press.

The squat push-press does require some practice to perfect and should result in increased core and leg strength as well as power development for the athlete.

While having power in those muscles is a benefit, it’s worth noting that it’s equally as possible for a lifter to become too focused on developing their lower body, which can lead to the neglect of upper body development that should be parallel to power development in the legs.

Many movements, particularly those that rely solely on the legs for power development, can develop the lifter quickly and effectively. The problem is that more often than not, the bulk of a lifter’s focus and their attention in the gym will be spent on the movements that allow them to perform the most weight.

Treadmill Hill Sprints

This is one of the best ways to work on your stride and explosive power. If you haven’t seen this before, take a treadmill and place it on a hill. Begin with it on a decline and begin to increase it for a few weeks until you get to a gradient that’s tough enough to run up (and to still feel in control).

It’s great to do this for a couple of minutes at a time. Have during towards the end of your workout so you’re getting ready to go hard in your other exercises. It’s always good to finish with a sprint as well. This will fire up your nervous system.

If you don’t have access to a hill, you can use a treadmill to practice sprinting with no incline either.

Tuck Jumps

If you’re just getting started, tuck jumps, also known as clapping push-ups, can be the easiest to use during warm-up. Stand with legs hip-width apart, feet pointed forward, arms at your sides in a tuck position, and jump straight up, bending knees and bringing arms overhead.

Broad Jumps

Broad jumps are great for practicing explosiveness and power. It’s one of the best box jump alternatives because it’s a plyometric exercise that will help to develop speed and height as well. It will also help to improve the way you use your entire body.

First, let’s go over some of the basics of this exercise.

How To Do It:

Stand about twenty to twenty-five feet away from the broad jump area

Start by getting into the running stance.

Brace Your Core as You Are Running

When you feel like you have enough energy, sprint towards the box and jump up as high as you can.

Repeat for the Recommended Amount of Repetitions

Start with about ten to fifteen repetitions to focus on getting the technique right. Remember to work on your posture and use your legs during the jump.

Eventually, you’ll be able to do multiple repetitions without breaking a sweat, making this exercise incredibly effective for helping you improve explosiveness due to its plyometric nature.

Depth Jumps

Similar to the depth jump is what is referred to as the jump squat. A jump squat for power training is much more specific, however. You cannot simply jump all the way up and down off of a platform, as you would for increasing your explosive power.

Vertical jumps are pretty energy intensive, such as those used in an acceleration or max vertical jump. The key to the jump squat is that it allows the athlete to train at a very high intensity for a short distance.

Take another athlete who can jump from the ground to their waist. Since a jump squat helps him jump from a low position to a high position, all he needs to do is drop under the bar. The drop from a lower height helps reduce the distance traveled and saves him energy to use for pushing the weight upward and lifting upward.