I distinctly remember my first visit to a CrossFit box.
It was my Introductory One-on-One meeting with the Owner/Coach of a brand new gym.
I was terrified at what I saw. Sweaty, inked girls in sports bras and short shorts, slamming barbells, cursing a blue streak that would make a sailor blush. (actually, the girls didn’t terrify me, the workout did.)
Young guys, with muscles everywhere, were doing pull-ups, muscle-ups, dips and other assorted things I had never seen before. And not a shirt to be had among them.
Then I saw a stack of plywood boxes in the corner. BIG boxes, and a few little boxes.
At some point in our conversation, all the people moved across the floor and began jumping 20-24 inches off the ground, onto these boxes, at a feverish pace.
I asked, “what are they doing?”
Coach replied, “Box Jumps.”
“Why?”, I asked.
“Because we focus on functional fitness.”, she said.
After a warm-up, that exceeded all the exercise I had done in the previous two decades, I moved onto a mini-WOD, designed to introduce me to the basic moves for a CrossFit workout.
Box Jumps were not part of the mix, yet…
Several months into my “CrossFit Journey”, I would have to perform this “functional fitness” movement known as the Box Jump.
I admit I was quite curious about just how functional it was for me. I had not jumped in any capacity since my military basic training in 1969. That’s more than 40 years. That’s a long time to not be functional.
We began with a 12-inch box. I couldn’t jump on it.
We substituted two 45 pound bumper plates. I couldn’t jump on them.
Then we went to a single 45 pound plate, and I could clumsily jump on it.
There were two issues working against me. One, I really had forgotten HOW to jump. Two, I was fearful of falling.
So for about a year, I scaled Box Jumps. Sometimes I jumped 10 inches onto a couple bumpers plates. Other times I jumped onto a 12-inch box.
The 20-inch box still scared me. I had seen younger athletes miss a jump and tear their skins badly.
I feared the potential of a bloody gash, but more so, I feared falling and breaking a bone. I did not know how to jump, and I did not know how to fall.
My last scaling option was Step-ups. I’d step up onto a 20-inch box, alternating my steps. Lead with the right leg, then lead with the left leg.
Regardless of which scaling option I chose, I always stepped down. I never rebounded to the floor.
It took me over a year to get a legitimate 20-inch box jump. I had worked myself up to 20 inches of bumper plates. But as soon as you moved me to a Box, I was terrified and panicked mid-jump and failed. Plates – OK. Box – Fail. I finally got over my fear, and box jumps became a reality for me.
I enjoy Box Jumps, at a reasonable pace. I’ll do them in a daily WOD, slowly and methodically. In a competition, if permitted, I’ll do Step-Ups every time, because if time is of the essence, I can certainly cycle through Step-Ups faster than Box-Jumps any day of the week.
I even bought myself a Plyobox for my home gym. It’s a great place to sit after I do a hundred Kettlebell swings.
But the Questions was…
…why do you do Box Jumps? I did them for two years before I really understood WHY. Hint – the answer isn’t simply because they are a required move in CrossFit.
They are for developing explosiveness.
To squat huge weights, you must be explosive. – An explosive squat requires that 4 crucial training aspects be addressed – jumping, heavy squats, speed squats, and pause squats. – Chad Wesley Smith
I do not play baseball, football, hockey or basketball. I do not do any martial arts. So why would I care about explosive hips?
Working out in the gym is the full extent of my sport. So why would I want to develop explosive hips? Answer: Squats, Snatches, and Cleans, just to name a few.
Since I shifted my focus from CrossFit to Olympic Weightlifting, it is apparent that my “hips don’t lie”! They are slow and I struggle to come out of the hole under a loaded bar. I need to develop explosiveness, so perhaps I need to include more box jumping into my weekly regimen.
What if You don’t want to do Box Jumps?
This answer is easy: Then don’t do them! You’re a grown-up, no one can make you do them.
But, if you still covet explosive hips, then you better get jumping, but go horizontal, instead of vertical. I’m talking the Broad Jump. There are a couple nice things about the broad jump. It will help you develop explosive power, but you’re less likely to fall and tear yourself up, and it requires no equipment. You can do it at home, in the office, or at the park.
If you like doing Box Jumps, or you are still looking to grow more proficient at them you may enjoy this article from Tony Gentilcore’s website.
Now crank up the music and start jumpin’!
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