When you've got limited time in the gym, exercises like the box jump will be your saving grace—a surefire way to hit multiple muscles at once and get a serious cardio benefit at the same time.
"This exercise is meant to be a full-body movement-ideally, quick, explosive, and controlled," says Stephany Bolivar, CrossFit coach and personal trainer at ICE NYC.
Aside from working your muscles from head to toe, box jump workouts (demonstrated here by NYC-based trainer Rachel Mariotti) also challenge you to work on athletic skills like agility, balance, and coordination. (BTW, here are the 4 essential moves to become a better athlete.) The best part: you don't need to have a special plyometric box to do it. Any elevated, flat, and stable surface will do, like stairs or a park bench.
Box Jump Workout Benefits and Variations
During the upward phase of this movement, you'll use your core, glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves, and even arms to propel yourself onto the box. When you land during box jump workouts, your quads will do most of the work. Make sure to stand up all the way when you get to the top of the box to get a full hip extension, says Bolivar. The explosive force used in this move taps into your powerful fast-twitch muscle fibers. (Here's more need-to-know muscle science.)
If you're new to box jump workouts—and especially if you're a little nervous to attempt the move—build power by mastering plyometrics moves on the floor first. Jump squats, star jumps, split jumps, and tuck jumps will all help you develop the explosive strength needed to master the box jump. (These 10 power plyo moves are a great place to start to build strength for box jump workouts.) When you're ready, try a low box or a stair step before you move to a taller one.
As you become more comfortable with the box jump, you can use taller boxes or try them wearing a weighted vest (or even make it a box jump burpee), suggests Bolivar. Single-leg box jumps are another way to take this move up a notch. To make this move low impact, you can step onto the box, alternating which foot leads every rep, says Bolivar.
How to Do a Box Jump
- Stand just in front of a box with feet shoulder-width apart.
- Swing arms and hinge hips back with a tall chest, flat back, and engaged core.
- Swing arms forward, using momentum to jump up and slightly forward, landing softly with both feet completely on the box.
- Stand up, locking out the knees and extending hips. Carefully step back down to the ground.
Do 2 to 3 sets of 3 to 5 reps.
Box Jump Workout Form Tips
- Try to land as softly as possible. (Harder and louder landings mean more pressure on your joints. Learn more about why this is important to avoid.)
- Control the descent onto the box by keeping your core engaged.
- To make sure you jump far enough forward, aim to land near the center of the box.
6 Box Jump Workout Moves
Box jumps are far from the only thing you can do with a plyo box; in fact, these platforms can make just about any move more heart-pumping or hard-core. "Each rep forces your body to recruit more muscles to either catch air or sink lower into exercises like squats," says trainer Adam Kant, the founder of Intrepid Gym in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Keep scrolling to try Kant's incinerating box jump workout circuit—aim to do it four times through—and take your body to the next level. (Then try these other plyo box exercises that aren't box jumps.)
Power Pistol Squat
Targets: butt and legs
- Stand facing box with elbows bent by sides. Step onto box with right foot so that it's close to left edge with left leg slightly in front of you alongside box.
- Slowly bend right knee 90 degrees, lowering left heel toward floor, tapping down if possible; extend arms forward to counterbalance.
- Return to standing and quickly step back to start. (Related: Why Mastering a Single-Leg Squat Should Be Your Next Fitness Goal After Rocking This Box Jump Workout)
Do 14 reps; switch sides and repeat.
Targets: shoulders, chest, biceps, and abs
- Start on floor in full plank position, left palm on floor, right palm atop box near left edge.
- Do a push-up, lowering chest toward floor, then pressing up to start.
- Walk hands and feet to right, placing right palm near right edge of box, left palm near left edge and stepping feet toward right.
- Do a push-up atop box, then walk hands and feet to right again so that left palm is near right edge of box and right palm is on floor.
- Do a push-up to complete 1 rep.
Do 3 reps total.
Targets: shoulders, triceps, and abs
- Sit on front edge of box, palms resting on box on either side of hips. Straighten arms and shift hips forward to just in front of seat with knees bent, heels on floor.
- Bend elbows 90 degrees behind you, lowering hips toward floor as you bring left knee toward chest.
- Straighten arms, lowering left leg to floor; switch sides and repeat to complete 1 rep.
- Make it harder: Start with legs extended, heels on floor, and lift left leg parallel to floor.
Do 14 reps.
- Sit on box, arms by sides.
- Balancing on butt and bringing arms slightly out to sides, palms up, lean torso back 45 degrees and extend legs forward so that body forms almost a straight line.
- Crunch up, bringing knees in toward chest as you reach arms forward.
- Return to reclining position and repeat.
- Make it easier: Keep palms flat on box. (Related: The Best Easy Abs Workout for Women)
Do 14 reps.
Decline Side Plank
Targets: shoulders, abs, and butt
- Start in side plank position on floor, torso propped up on right forearm, feet stacked left over right atop box with hips lifted off floor.
- Make it harder: Lift left leg off box as you hold plank.
Hold for 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Burpee Box Jump
Targets: arms, abs, butt, and legs
- Stand behind box and squat, placing palms shoulder-width apart on floor in front of feet.
- Jump feet back into full plank position.
- Quickly jump both feet forward near hands.
- From squat position, jump onto box (step closer to box first if necessary).
- Jump back down from box and repeat the box jump workout move from the beginning.
Do 14 reps.