Jumping? Helps my OCR running... really?
Yes it’s true! Whilst many of us may associate jumping with being 5 years old and puddles, jumping as an adult can actually strengthen your legs giving you power, explosion and speed like never before.
True plyometric movements consisting of hops, jumps and bounces (sometimes known as dynamic or explosive movements) can be the difference between a good runner and a great runner. However, many people shy away from them as they are very tough on the anaerobic system, and if performed wrong, you can seriously damage joints and muscles. However, if performed correctly and you are sensible with your rate of progression, you could be on your way to some serious PB’s this season.
Our plyometric training will work on hip explosiveness and leg drive so over the coming weeks, we will be looking at a range of different explosive movements to incorporate into your regular routine; this week we are focusing on box jumps. What is vitally important in all training is that you warm up sufficiently and perform the movements correctly to avoid injury.
What is a box jump?
In short, a box jump is a jumping exercise where the athlete projects themselves from the ground and lands, with two feet, onto an elevated box.
Body weighted box jumps target your fast-twitch muscle fibres, which help improve your explosive power, speed and functional strength which is ideal for attacking hills and obstacles.
Primary muscles on the explosive upward movement: Glutes, Quadriceps, Gastrocnemius (Calves)
Primary muscle controlling the downward motion and preparation of the jump: Hip Flexors, hamstrings
Can I box jump without previous training?
Like any sport, you must warm up well before attempting a box jump and stretch after your work out. However, we would also advise that your squats and lunges are the best that they can be. Like every exercise, box jumps are a tool that must be treated carefully, not randomly thrown into your programming and conditioning.
How high should the box be?
You should focus the exercise on a quality landing and not box height. Start relatively low in height (around knee height) and perfect the technique described below. Then to up the difficulty wear a weights vest rather than raise the height of the box. It is worth noting that any box above 1 metre will mean you are focusing on projecting yourself up and onto the box rather than the quality of your jump and the landing.
How to perform a box jump perfectly:
- Leave approx. 2 feet between you and the box before you jump.
- Take your time - If you want to do it right, you must slowly squat down to parallel, before you jump, and pause. This reduces your stretch reflex, or the rubber-band-like qualities of your muscles and tendons. You should not let your body rely on momentum to jump, instead, force yourself to activate your fast-twitch muscles fibres to propel you to the top of the box.
- Brace your abdominals to keep a strong core. With any rounding of the back you will expose a power leak that will travel down the kinetic chain and lead to nasty joint pain and problems.
- Keep your eyes and chest up as you would in a squat. If your landing leaves you bent at the waist and looking to the floor then reduce the height of the box.
- Ensure your feet are flat at landing and make sure your entire foot is on the box. Make sure you land like a ninja and not like an elephant.
- Drive your arms forward and up as you jump.
- Keep your knees neutral, rather than in valgus or varus (diving in or diving out).
- Pause at the top and momentarily hold the squat position to decrease injury risk.
- If you are prone to injury or have any previous joint, ligament or muscular injuries, step off the box rather than jumping backwards. Stepping off reduces the stress placed on the Achilles tendon. (Safer option)
- For advanced plyometric jumps, jump backwards off the box the spring straight back up onto the box so that the feet have minimal contact with the floor. (a spring like movement) – please note this advanced exercise can cause injury if you are not significantly warmed up or have previous injuries.
- 5 Sets of between 6 and 10 reps