alternative to box jumps
Fitness

The Best Alternative to Box Jumps? 8 Box Jump Substitutes

The box jump is one of the best entry-level jumping exercises. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks.

But what if you can’t do box jumps? What if you don’t have boxes? What if you’ve done plenty of box jumps and need something new?

Today, I’m taking you through the best alternative to box jumps to build power and prevent lower-body injury. Whatever your experience level, beginner or experienced, you’re going to find something you can use here, and have a better workout.

Best Alternative to Box Jumps: What are we looking for?

Specificity: train the right muscles and joints

A good alternative to box jumps needs to work the same muscles and joints. If it doesn’t, it’s not specific, and won’t improve your performance.

We want to build extension and rapid force output in the hips, knees, and even in the ankles. This means training with stepping, hinging, and other kinds of jumps.

The boxes are just there to soften the landing – using the right muscle groups should still be your focus.

Less equipment: jumps without the box

For some of these exercises, we’re avoiding using any equipment.

Fortunately, you don’t need a box to train jumps. It is useful to have – and can help with some of these exercises – but isn’t necessary. You can also improvise with any stable, raised object, or surface.

Beginner options range from bounces to landing mechanics to simple jumps – all without a gym. You can put together home workouts for rapid force development no matter how experienced you are.

Impact and loading control: don’t rush your joints

This list contains lower-impact jumps and exercises.

It’s the impact that makes jumping a little risky if you try something too advanced for your experience. Scaling in plyometric exercises is even more important than normal. You’re loading with body weight multiplied by landing speed!

It only takes one ego-driven over-exertion to get yourself injured. We’ve scaled it back, so you can prepare your connective tissues, but also offered more advanced box jump alternatives. Whatever your level, this article has something you can benefit from.

The Best Alternative to Box Jumps

These exercises are a bit different to normal because it’s about explosive exercise. These can be risky if you rush them or get ahead of your current experience level. So, we’re taking you through some of the best alternatives to box jumps for any level – starting with the easy stuff.

Be patient progressing forwards, and be sure to rest properly between jumping workouts!

1.  Ankle bounce

These are a simple introduction to jumping that trains the core and lower body to deal with the absorption of force. Ankle bounces are perfect for the beginner. They condition the joints and getting them used to explosive loading.

It’s not glamorous, but if you’re completely new to jumping these are perfect. Combine the ankle bounce with the kettlebell swing (below) to get your body ready for more-demanding exercise.

Equipment Used:

None; However, a yoga mat or a soft surface will reduce stress on the ankle joints.

Primary Muscles:

Calves, Glutes, Hamstrings, Core

How to perform:

Getting it right from the start and preparing your joints is key to squeeze the most out of jump training!

  • Keep your core and hips active throughout, standing up straight throughout
  • Take a narrow stance with your feet no more than one foot-width apart
  • Put a small bend in your knees and hop, focusing on a soft landing
  • Staying on the floor for as short a time as possible, hop again from the ankles and knees

Reps and Sets:

Related Post:  Fasted Weight Training: Is It Worth It?

3 sets of 15-20 reps

2. Depth Drop: Landing Mechanics

 If you’re unfamiliar with jumping, the first thing you need to learn is how to absorb force. This is the basis for any plyometric exercise – and especially depth jumps, later on.

Landing mechanics are absolutely crucial in sport and exercise. Bad landings cause injuries, while good landings prevent them. The process of absorbing force needs to come before jumping to stay healthy.

These will help both in terms of power output and injury prevention. Jumps are a stretch-shortening cycle, and landings help you practice the change of direction.

Equipment Used:

Step Box

Primary Muscles:

Hips, Glutes, Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Core

How to do it:

  • From a low box, with an active core and hips, take a step off.
  • Land softly, keeping your knees and hips soft and cushioning your fall
  • Pause in the landing position for a 2-count to drill the right movements
  • Work on keeping the knees and feet aligned, the chest out, and controlling the force of your landing.

Obviously, if you’re weak in the hips and knees, you should work on strength first. The slow-eccentric bodyweight squat is one tool you might use to prepare the legs.

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6

Obviously, if you’re weak in the hips and knees, you should work on strength first. The slow-eccentric bodyweight squat is one tool you might use to prepare the legs.

3.  Kettlebell swing

The kettlebell swing helps develop the structures involved in a jump. They also have an explosive element and use the same stretch-shortening cycle in the hamstrings and hips as plyometric exercises.

This is a great way of training for jumping without actually jumping. This is especially important if you are a relatively new trainee or haven’t practiced jumping before.

A foundation of strength is absolutely crucial for better jumping. You need to develop control in the hips, knees, and core. Kettlebell swings are perfect for building these foundational skills and structures with easy-to-scale weight.

Equipment Used:

Kettlebells

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hamstrings, Core, Quads, Lower Back, Shoulders

How to perform:

  • Stand tall both hands on the handle of the kettlebell between your legs, with your feet hip-width apart
  • Keeping the kettlebell close, hinge your hips backwards and let your chest drop
  • Feel the stretch in your hamstrings, then reverse the pattern and push your hips forward, standing up straight
  • Control the momentum on the kettlebell and keep it close, keeping your balance in the mid-foot
  • Control the lowering of the kettlebell, swinging into the next rep in the same ‘back’ position as before

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 6-8 reps

4.  Submaximal jumps

These are a series of “short” jumps. I want you to perform 3 in a series.

The stretch-shortening cycle is better when repeated, giving you the chance to improve power output in succession. This also helps prepare the joints for repeated explosive exercise without overloading them too early.

This is exactly what we see in almost any sport. For example, sprinting is all about cycles of movement – each stride needs to be explosive.

Simply repeat sub-maximal jumps in a row. Think about putting some effort into them, but don’t try and max out your distance. You should aim for about 30-50% of the distance you could achieve.

You’re not testing what you can do, yet – just practice jumping. Try to land soft and spend as little time on the floor as possible to make the most of the exercise.

Equipment Used:

None; However, a yoga mat or a soft surface will reduce stress on the ankle joints.

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Glutes, Calves, Hamstrings, Core

Reps and Sets:

3 sets 10-12 reps

5.  Jump-over

This is more advanced than a box jump – depending on the object you’re using. It’s easily scaled up or down by changing this factor.

You’re just jumping over an object – it could be a box or a hurdle. The idea is just to give yourself a minimum height/distance to clear. The reason this is more advanced is the landing. You fall back down to the floor and need to absorb that force in a safe way.

This is a heavier landing, so take time to practice all the variations before this point to prepare your joints.

Equipment Used:

Varying heights of box-steps or adjustable hurdles.

Primary Muscles:

Hamstrings, Calves, Quads

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

6.  Depth Jumps

This is where we start involving new mechanics and exaggerating the stretch-shortening cycle. The idea is to drop, absorb the force, and use it to jump as high as possible.

The depth jump combines the absorption and production of force. You’re chasing maximal height, which loads the muscles and connective tissues heavily. This is more useful for sports performance like sprinting and throwing.

Equipment Used:

Step up box of varying heights; a soft surface such as grass or rubber matting is recommended.

Primary Muscles:

Quads, Hamstrings, Calves, Core, Glutes

How to perform:

You need to start with a small drop. The drop is where this exercise really loads up the connective tissues, so increase it slowly over time.

  • Take a step off a mid-low box, keeping your core and hips active as you start to fall
  • Land as softly as possible, using the same landing mechanics mentioned above
  • Spend as little time on the floor as possible, using the legs and hips to jump as high up as possible
  • Try to land from this jump with the same deliberate positions!

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

7.  Maximal broad jumps

Max effort broad jumps are challenging and develop hip extension in a different plane to a vertical jump. This is great for improving hip explosiveness in movements like the deadlift, sprinting, or throwing.

Your hips are great at producing force. Training combined hip and knee extension is key to overall athleticism. It also helps that this kind of training helps prevent knee, hip, and spinal injuries as we age.

As with the sub-maximal jumps above, you can link these together. This does add significant difficulty, so make sure you’re comfortable with the movement first.

Equipment Used:

None

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, Core

How to perform:

  • Taking your stance, bend your knees and push your hips backwards (like in a deadlift setup)
  • When you’ve gotten into position, reverse the movement and jump as far as possible using the hips and knees
  • Land as softly as possible and cushion the landing (especially as a beginner to this movement!)

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6 reps

8.  Explosive step-up

This is a way of building power on one leg. This is key because single-leg and two-leg plyometric exercises activate different muscles differently.

The explosive step-up does require a stable platform, like the box jump. However, it also offers the same landing-support, making it a great addition if you have the equipment. This makes it a great place to start single-leg jumping and plyometric exercises.

This is a great alternative to box jumps. For most people, the additional stability work on a single leg is the best ‘next step’ after the 2-leg movements on this list. Combining this with short jumps or depth variations covers most of an intermediate’s needs!

Equipment Used:

Step up boxes with varying heights.

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hips, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, Core

How to perform:

  • Take a box that is roughly knee-height
  • Put one foot on the box, while the other remains on the floor
  • Cock your hips back and bend your knee to get into position
  • Drive down through the box and open your hips to jump as high as possible
  • Cushion your landing with both feet to land safely and softly

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6 each leg

9.  2-pause vertical jump

This is a great way of building power for strength exercises. You should be pausing at the bottom of the movement and in the landing stance. These are the 2 most important areas for stability and control.

The pause practices rapidly producing force from a static, stable position. This is also great for reinforcing good movement and protecting the knees/hips/spine during jumping and plyometric exercises.

These are one of the best jumping variations since they apply perfectly to athletes and the average joe alike. Whatever your goals, these improve your sprint, your jump, but also just walking and standing mechanics.

Strong, effective hips and knees are never a bad thing!

As with many of the exercises on this list, you can chain them together in sets or series’. As ever, make sure you’re comfortable with the movement before considering this!

Equipment Used:

None; however, as with the other landing exercises, performing the movement on a soft surface is recommended

Primary Muscles:

Glutes, Hips, Hamstrings, Quads, Calves, Core

How to perform:

  • Get into a jumping stance with the knees bent and hips back, feet roughly hip-width apart
  • Hold that position for a 2-count
  • Jump as high as possible using the knees and hips
  • Land as softly as possible
  • Hold your landing position for another 2-count to complete the rep

Reps and Sets:

3 sets of 4-6 each

Conclusion

The greatness of the box jump means that our alternatives have to also be well-thought-out. The alternatives I’ve listed here offer development and progression that helps build leg and hip explosiveness.

Whether you’re looking to be better at sport, or simply to stay healthy and strong into old age, they’re great choices. Your workouts will benefit from these athletic movements. You don’t need a box to practice jumps, and you can do more than just box jump for power!

Try out these plyometric movements and always focus on control in the landing. Jumping is great if you are in control of the movement!

Frequently Asked Questions


How do you modify box jumps?

If you’re just trying to learn jumping mechanics, you might perform them from a seated position. However, the best alternative is usually jumping without the box. A progression through regular jumps is a great start.

Related Post:  13 Ab Wheel Exercises That Will Give You A Six Pack

Alternatively, you can make box jumps more effective by adding multiple movements into a series. The cycle of stretching and shortening improves the effect of multiple plyometrics in a row.

You can also switch to a single-leg jumping movement – like the explosive step-up – for single-leg explosiveness. This also changes the recruitment of hip and leg muscles in the jump, building stability and control.


What do box jumps do for you?

The main goal of box jumps is to develop force quickly. This is crucial for sports performance, helps build strength performance, and keeps you healthy as you get older.

The box softens your landing and reduces the eccentric loading that often causes muscular damage/fatigue. It also takes some of the impact off of the joints and keeps them healthy.

This is all-important because power, control, and landing mechanics in the lower body help protect the joints.


What can I use instead of box step ups?

Box step-ups are best replaced with other single-leg exercises. These include reverse lunges, walking lunges, Bulgarian split squats, or single-leg press.

The idea is to work on the same single-leg strength, control, and stability. You can then combine these with 2-leg exercises like squats to build overall maximum force output. You can also use box jumps or an alternative to box jumps to build power and athleticism.

Michaela Summers

Michaela Summers is a health and fitness content creator. She holds a BSc in Exercise and Sport Sciences and a Master of Research in Health and Wellbeing from the University of Exeter. She is on a mission to help people live a fulfilling, impactful life through fitness and lifestyle. When she's not writing, she can be found in the gym, playing tennis, or exploring the great outdoors.

You may also like...