Originally the domain of Olympic athletes, plyometric training has become a popular exercise component for gym rats of all ages and skill levels who want to increase their vertical jump, strength or speed. This method of dynamic resistance—which usually involves jumping—challenges muscles by rapidly stretching then shortening them in what’s called a stretch-shortening cycle (SSC).
The approach not only strengthens those muscles but also helps fortify your joints against impact while increasing overall stamina. An ideal introduction to the world of plyometric is the box jump.
To get started, you’ll need a stable, raised platform or box 6 to 12 inches tall, strong enough to support your weight and wide enough to safely accommodate both feet. Place it on a non-slip surface.
1. Stand in front of the box with feet about hip-width apart. Activate core muscles as if someone is about to tap your stomach. Begin the downward motion by swinging arms back and bending the knees into a squat-like position.
2. Swing arms forward and explode upwards into a jump onto the box. Keep feet level and eyes focused on the landing area on top of the box. Land softly, like a cat, by limiting the forward momentum and allowing the feet to absorb the impact. The core should remain engaged throughout, though knees are never fully extended.
3. Step down off the box quickly but don’t jump. Jumping increases the possibility of knee or ankle injury. Realign feet and jump again, maintaining an effective but safe pace. Start with three sets of 10 jumps. Over time, increase the height of the box and/or the number of sets and repetitions.
Final note: The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.
The world record for the highest standing box jump is 58.1-inches, set by Darren Jackson of Australia in 2011, compared to LeBron James’ reported 40-inch leap. The average in the NBA is in the high 20s, according to ESPN.