We’ve all seen videos of athletes jumping on boxes stacked on boxes. While they are very amusing and often impressive at first glance, does that translate on to the field/court/course?
When we teach the box jump, we are looking for triple extension, hip vertical displacement, and upper and lower body coordination. We are not interested in seeing how high of a box you can jump on by bending your knees and raising your feet. Instead, we like to see the athlete focus on these three points.
Hip vertical displacement refers to the distance the hips travel during a jump. If the athlete is able to attain triple extension during the jump, the hips will travel upward.
Triple extension is the extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints occurring simultaneously. To achieve triple extension in the jump, we want to see the athlete thrust their hips upwards and take their head to the ceiling as opposed to lifting the knees. Triple extension is important for many athletic movements, and is easily seen in a sprinter’s start.
The straight body position that results from triple extension provides the athlete with more accurate feedback regarding the vertical force they are producing as opposed to how high they can pull their knees.
It may seem like a given that an athlete at any level would be coordinated enough to jump properly. Unfortunately, this is far from true. Very few of our athletes, when initially evaluated, drop the hands down and back as they load and thrust the arms up as they jump. We want to improve the coordinated movements between the upper and lower body in order to improve the athlete’s efficiency.
Another important concept we emphasize is loading the glutes in the squat phase. Our society is often quadriceps dominant and misses out completely on using one of the biggest muscles in our body. To do this, we cue butt back and weight on the heels to prevent the athlete from drifting forward onto the toes and relying more on the quadriceps.
Vertical power is a fundamental element to any athletic movement. It is necessary to create force from the ground for any athletic movement. But we will save this topic to be covered in greater detail another time. Box jumps, or any variation of box jumps, can be a safe and effective way to improve vertical power for any athlete.
Check back next week as we discuss the sport specific applications of these movements.