By Zach Dechant, BS, CSCS, USAW, SCCs
So, for quite a while I’ve had some issues with the box jump. I know many coaches who use the box jump extensively as a training exercise, as well as a form of testing. In healthy athletes it may not be as much of a problem, but anyone who has had any type of lower back disc issues high box jumps should be contraindicated. The real issue isn’t necessarily the jump itself but the landing. It’s athletes trying to achieve greater and greater heights when their vertical jump truly doesn’t allow it. Neutral Spine?!?!?!
Yes, box jumps just like any other jump take explosiveness but where a lot of athletes appear to achieve this is really just high levels of flexibility, and not always where we want it to occur. I’ve seen athletes who had lower standing vertical jumps, when measured on a vertec, achieve much greater heights than their counterparts when box jumping. This is possible through greater flexibility. Where does this flexibility generally occur? Most athletes aren’t able to touch their knees to their chest with a neutral spine. Here is where the lumbar spine has to become mobile and add to the flexibility that hips can’t achieve at that particular box height. The exercise becomes who can get their feet the highest and not who can jump the highest. Just because we jumped up doesn’t mean we should throw out everything that happens after the initial explosion. I would never let an athlete squat or pull with that technique so why would I let an athlete do a jump where they land with that technique.
I’m not saying that box jumps are a means that coaches shouldn’t use. I’m saying that I don’t believe trying to jump on higher and higher boxes is the answer. I’ve had and still have back problems including a bulging disc and a box jump that requires me to lose my neutral spine position is incredibly painful and leads to problems. Box jumps as well as any form of standing long jumps were the first to get cut from my program.
I do utilize box jumps but we don’t use boxes that are so high as to limit an athlete’s ability to achieve a proper athletic stance when landing. Athletes can still jump as high as possible but are now required to develop proper deceleration, and landing mechanics.
Zach Dechant, BS, CSCS, USAW, SCCS is Senior Assistant Director of Strength and Conditioning at TCU in Ft. Worth, TX. For more information visit https://www.zachdechant.com/#