Plyo Box Height Protocols

Plyo boxes are valuable fitness tools.  We utilize boxes for a plethora of purposes including the intended use which is to jump up onto the boxes promoting plyometric/power training or stepping onto the box concentrating on muscular strength training for the lower body and nose to toes core. 

If the use is for plyometric jumps, we consider several criteria before choosing a box height, including the height of the client, lower body lever length, vertical jump capability, physical limitations and what that client needs to achieve based upon the demands of their sport or activities.  There are many different heights of plyo boxes as well as many different box materials available.  For example, due to frequent injuries to the shins and knees when using metal/wood plyo boxes, we now have access to soft boxes which are much “nicer” to the shins and knees if you miss the top of the box!

That said, the key to determining what box height is right for you will be highlighted this week.  Check out these tips for safe and effective plyo box use and reap the benefits that box training may provide.  As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.

Box Tip #1             When performing plyometric jumps onto and off of a plyo box, rehearse the plyometric movement pattern from the floor first and master it.  Even performing plyometrics training from the floor requires significant attention to detail.  So, before adding the tool, be a pro at the movement pattern from the floor.  Then, once mastered, you may attempt the jumps from a low box height.   And, regardless of your height, lower body lever length, vertical jump capability, you should still master the skill at this height before attempting a greater box height.  Gradually increase the height of the boxes and if you progress to a greater height and begin to experience spinal/hip/knee/ankle discomfort following use, then consider regressing back to the previous box height. 

Box Tip #2             Use the same protocols as box jumping in terms of choosing box height when stepping.  Master the movement pattern from the floor, then attempt a low box height.  See how that feels to your entire body before attempting a greater box height.  In general, there is little benefit to performing step up drills on a 36 inch box if you are 60 inches tall.  It is unlikely that you will be able to maintain proper spinal/hip/knee/ankle alignment during the step up or be capable of landing with control.  If you feel you require more of a challenge, then consider adding a sand bag around your shoulders, or holding onto a dumbbell or kettlebell while stepping up and down on the lower box height.

Box Tip #3             From a technical/biomechanics perspective, when performing step ups on the box to train the quadriceps/hamstrings/glutes and nose to toes core, step up on the box and drive through the top heel allowing the opposite leg to trail behind.  As you either perform a squat from this position onto the floor with the trailing leg and top leg on the box or actually step off the box with both feet, land with control, avoiding rigid legs.  Permit the impact to be tempered by a slow, controlled eccentric action, landing toe/ball/heel.

Jackie Wright is the owner/manager of Mountain Life Fitness, LLC located in Granby, Colorado.  She may be reached at her website at, her email at

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