Monday, March 17, 2014

Box Jumps - Are There Hidden Benefits?

Is there more to Box Jumps than simple work capacity?  We most commonly see the plyo box used as a method of conditioning the athlete.  And although it's true that jumping and bounding are effective tools at burning lungs, there just might be more benefits to the box jump than what we originally thought.

We sat down a while ago with Adam Cristantello of NOVA Strength and Conditioning here in Rochester, NY and what he had to say really opened up our eyes to how effective box jumps can be in training power in an athlete.

Adam reminded us that when we look at the mechanics of the box jump, it is actually very similar to those same mechanics in olympic lifting movements such as the clean and snatch and even has ties to the bounding movements of the double under.  Here's how Adam broke the movements down for us:

Box Jump Basic Mechanics:

  • Triple Flexion -
    The beginning of the box jump movement puts the body into it's best position to generate power much like a coiled spring ready to release.  The hips, knees and ankles are 'loaded' by flexing them, while the chest and head remain upright and forward.  The butt is sent backward rather than downward to keep the knees from being forward of the toes.  From here it looks a lot like the start position for a power clean and power snatch, doesn't it?  To begin the box jump, the arms are swung behind the hips and are used to start the movement.  From this coiled position we can generate the power to move the body upward by releasing the 'spring' and moving the body from triple flexion to triple extension.
  • Triple Extension -
    The arms now move from behind the hip to extended over the head and the hips, knees and even the ankles are releasing into triple extension.  The release of that coiled spring now propels the body upward and forward.  The flexion of these joints created the potential while extending the joints releases the energy.  The more explosive and faster the movement, Adam tells us, the more power is generated.  If, from that coiled position we slowly move to triple extension, the amount of power generated is vastly different than if we explode upward quickly.  And as we move upward to a height just above the level of the plyo box, we need to keep the body in the best position possible to prepare for the landing on top of the box.

  • The Landing on the Top of the Box -
    High repetition box jumps are known to bring about injury to the achilles tendon and the knees in some cases.  It's not so much the jump that causes the issue as much as it is the landings.  The first landing is the one on top of the box.  To reduce the chance of injury and this stress to our joints, Adam pointed out that the landing or 'catch' needs to be in that same triple flexion state.  When we land on the top of the box fully flexed [knees, hips and ankles bent], our joints are in the best position to absorb the impact.  When our knees and hips are open or extended, the force of impact is much more direct and much more harmful on our joints.  We should rather try to maintain a soft landing by keeping a bend in the hips and knees and 'catch' the landings with these joints flexed to absorb the impact the best.

  • Jumping off the Box -
    Much like the position that we were in when we started the box jump from the ground, so is the position we need to be in to make the bound down. For many, stepping down off the box is a smart choice to keep impact to your joints reduced.  However, with some technique, the stress on the joints can be greatly reduced and the overall speed at which you can 'recycle' and move to the next box jump increases dramatically.  To start the movement off the box we begin in that triple flexed state and again the arms are used to initiate the movement but this time instead of moving the arms forward over the head, instead we swing them behind us.

  • The Catch on the Bottom -
    Clearly the part of the movement in which our joints are subjected to the largest forces is the landing on the bottom of the movement.  The catch on the top of the box is not nearly as impactful and the higher the box jump, the more force our joints will see on the bottom landing.  To help our body absorb that impact, Adam reminds us to get our bodies in that triple flexed state and 'catch' the landing softly.  Not only will the bend in the hips, knees and ankles absorb the impact, but the proper catch position gets us in just the right position for the next bound upward.  All that remains is to swing the arms behind the hips and start the movement all over again.

Thanks again to Adam Cristantello of NOVA Strength and Conditioning here in Rochester, NY for spending the afternoon with us to bring some great information on the benefits of box jumps.

So the next time you get ready for box jumps, remember that not only are you increasing your overall work capacity, but you're also training the triple flexion and extension which can translate into better movement for olympic lifting.  Keep the landings in that triple flexion state to save your joints.

Our three sided and stackable plyo boxes are lightweight strong and ship flat with all the hardware you need to assemble.  And their puzzle like design makes them a snap to put together.

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Hammerhead Strength Equipment is a fitness equipment manufacturer outfitting Garage Gyms and Commercial Facilites throughout the US.