If I could nail down the biggest evolution of my coaching, it wouldn’t involve equipment (no not even the Ultimate Sandbag), an exercise, or special workout program. Instead, it would be really thinking, understanding, and breaking down what my clients really needed from our training. A lot of people get caught in those other things and a great example is the idea of box jumps.
This isn’t a rag on Crossfit post, as if it weren’t for Crossfit things like Olympic lifts, gymnastics, and power training like box jumps wouldn’t even be a popular thing. I’ve written in the past how when I did a lot of these types of training in the early 2000’s with clients, other trainer called me dangerous. Now, pretty much every gym uses some form of this type of training.
The issue with anything in fitness comes in its application. So, are box jumps bad? No, of course not. However, the question shouldn’t be that, instead, the questions should be……
-What have you done to prepare for the forces acting upon the body from box jumps?
-How do you progress people to exercises like box jumps?
-What screens and techniques do you look form to know if people are performing box jumps well?
-Are box jumps right for you!!!
Most people don’t realize that box jumps are actually a rather advanced exercise. The idea of jumping onto a box doesn’t seem like it would be, but when we break down what is happening it makes a lost more sense. For one, you have to possess enough power to jump onto a box which requires a baseline of strength. When you land upon the box you have to be able to decelerate your body which takes a higher level of strength and stability. Finally, jumping OFF of the box creates extremely high level of forces upon the body that generally exceed any weight training exercise we use!
Holley is spoofing the difference between tucking your knees up to do box jumps or ACTUALLY jumping high.
You can quickly see that the REAL issue isn’t with box jumps but answering all those questions I laid forth, having a plan of progression, and knowing when and how to apply them.
Let’s start with the biggest aspects of box jumps. How do you build the strength and stability to benefit from them and perform them safely? While some have heard of the outdated idea you have to be able to squat 2 times your body weight (which has been poorly overall substantiated), a much better and more relevant strength measures that offers stability at the same time is the step-up.
Often the exercise that doesn’t get NEARLY enough publicity because we think of badly performed aerobics classes are steps. REAL step-ups can be extremely powerful. The key is making sure we are pressing through the top leg and minimally on the bottom leg. Trying to keep a rather upright torso means we learn to use the power muscles and not compensate with trying to use the low back to lift ourselves. Most people are surprised how they lack true hamstring and glute strength in step-ups which then makes you wonder what happens when we use box jumps!
The other key for step-ups is really controlling the lowering phase where we get so much lower leg and hip strength that will have great carryover to box jumps. Of course the question is how do we build these qualities? It is one thing to know we should perform such movements, it is another to problem solve them so we can benefit from their abilities.
You may guess in DVRT we focus on using tension, especially core tension in different ways to connect the hip to the rest of the body to allow better performance of the step-ups. Since the body can create only as much leg power as the pelvis can stabilize, it makes sense that step-ups should integrate the core as much as possible. That is why when you see these DVRT exercises think about how we are creating tension against the Ultimate Sandbag to build, challenge, and strengthen our chains of the body to build functional strength that will allow us to safely and successfully integrate exercises like box jumps!
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