The box jump is a great bodyweight exercise that is effective at improving lower body explosiveness that has carryover in various sports. It’s used in Crossfit, Olympic weightlifting, and in many strength and conditioning programs for sports.
However, there are reasons why you may want to choose an alternative, whether it is to progress or regress the exercise or because you do not have an appropriate plyo box to jump on.
This should not hinder your ability to train, so what are the best box jump alternatives?
The 10 best box jump alternatives are:
- Squat Jump
- Countermovement Jump
- Mini Hurdle Jump
- High Hurdle Jump
- Broad Jump
- Tuck Jump
- Single-Leg Broad Jump
- Ankle Hops
- Drop Jump
- Skater Jump
In this article, I’ll discuss why these exercises are great box jump alternatives, how to best execute them, and tips to make the most of them.
I’ll also include variations that involve the use of (1) your own bodyweight, (2) a barbell, (3) hurdles, and (4) an exercise step or plyo box.
Box jumps and their alternatives can be incorporated as part of a general physical preparedness (GPP) program for powerlifters. Learn more about how to structure GPP workouts in GPP Workout For Powerlifters: What Is It, How To, Benefits.
What Makes A Good Box Jump Alternative?
A good box jump alternative will be able to do the following:
- Activate the lower body musculature
- Be performed in a quick manner to improve explosiveness
Activate The Lower Body Musculature
The box jump entails rapidly jumping and landing onto a higher surface such as a plyo box in a squat or half-squat position. This requires extending quickly through the hips, knees, and ankles before quickly bending through the same joints upon landing.
The main muscle groups that are active when performing a box jump are the glutes, hip adductors, quadriceps, and calves.
The glutes and hip adductors work to straighten the hips, the quadriceps work to straighten the knees, and the calves work to straighten the ankles.
Related Article: Rep Fitness 3-in-1 Soft Plyo Box Review (Tested 50+ Workouts)
Be Performed In A Quick Manner To Improve Explosiveness
The intention of the box jump exercise is to perform it with maximum effort. The box jump is also a low-intensity exercise. The combination of a maximum effort execution with low intensity will result in improving your explosiveness in your lower body.
Box Jump Alternatives: 10 Exercises
1. Squat Jump
The squat jump is a simple exercise alternative to the box jump that can be performed with zero weight. It requires holding yourself statically in a half squat position, before explosively launching yourself in the air vertically and landing with a soft bend in your knees.
How To Do It
- Put your hands on your pelvis and keep your eyes facing forward
- Dip down to a half squat depth and take a deep breath in
- Hold yourself stationary in the half squat depth position momentarily while being balanced on mid foot
- Explosively jump in the air and exhale simultaneously
- Land gently and allow your hips, knees, and ankles to bend naturally to absorb your body weight impact
- A good cue to have to keep your landing as comfortable as possible is to think about landing quietly
This movement can be cheated by subtly dipping down before jumping. This is cheating because it makes you rely on the stretch reflex to get an extra boost to the jump. The stretch reflex refers to the extra momentum you get by doing a small bounce to initiate the movement.
As you’ll see below, this extra movement transforms the squat jump into a different exercise. To stop yourself from relying on this mild countermovement, you can hold a dowel on your shoulders as if you were to do a back squat and set up a squat rack with safety bars that are about mid-torso level.
When you dip down with the dowel, the dowel should touch the safety bars. This is where you hold the half squat position momentarily before jumping. The dowel and the safety bars stop you from redipping again before jumping.
2. Countermovement Jump
The countermovement jump is similar to a squat jump and is also an easy alternative to the box jump. With the countermovement jump, there is an added countermovement that relies on the stretch reflex of your muscles when you dip into a squat before jumping. You can normally jump higher with the countermovement jump.
How To Do It
- Stand in an upright position with your hands in the air first and keep your eyes forward facing
- Simultaneously swing your arms down quickly, dip down to a half squat depth and take a deep breath in
- Rapidly push away from the ground immediately, swing your arms upward and jump in the air
- Exhale as you launch yourself in the air
- Land gently with a slight bend in your knees and allow your hips, knees and ankles to absorb your body weight impact
- A good cue that can help you remember to land softly is to think about landing quietly
You can progress the countermovement jump by making your arms a bit more passive in the process. Rather than starting with your countermovement jump with your hands in the air, start with your arms held by the side of your hips. This will reduce the momentum that is created by swinging your arms through the motion.
Did you know that deadlifts can help increase how high you can jump? Find out how in my article Do Deadlifts Help Vertical Jump? (Yes, Here’s How).
3. Mini Hurdle Jump
The mini hurdle jump is another great plyometric exercise to work on speed, agility, and power and is a good alternative to the box jump. Having a set of 6- to 12-inch hurdles around the gym is useful for this exercise, and you can adjust the distances between hurdles.
You want to jump over each hurdle quickly while landing in a spot that is an equal distance between the previous hurdle and the next hurdle.
How To Do It
- Stand erect and place two to four 12-inch hurdles or any obstacle of your choice about 18 inches apart from each other on an even surface
- Stand roughly 12 inches away from the first hurdle
- Dip and jump up and over the first hurdle while pulling your toes upwards
- As you approach the ground again, immediately rebound and explode up again to jump over the next hurdle
- Repeat this process until you finish jumping over all hurdles
Whether you want to improve your vertical jump or running speed for sports can determine how far apart you put the hurdles.
If you want to focus on improving your vertical jump or reactiveness, you can keep the hurdles narrower. If you want to improve your horizontal speed, you can make the distance of the hurdles longer so that you lean forward to project yourself forward more.
4. High Hurdle Jump
The high hurdle jump is the most similar alternative to the box jump. This is because you have to jump as high as you can to get over an object of considerable height such as a hurdle.
For most people, a high hurdle is roughly anywhere between mid-thigh height to mid-torso height.
How To Do It
- Set up at least one or more high hurdles that you are capable of jumping over. Choose a height that is similar to a box you would normally perform box jumps on.
- If you use more than one high hurdle, make sure you space them out enough so that you can comfortably land at a good start distance from the next hurdle. I recommend starting with at least an 18” distance between hurdles.
- Dip down and jump high, then tuck your feet to bring yourself over the hurdle
- Land softly on the balls of your feet, making sure you do not land on your heels
- Make sure to absorb the impact by slightly bending your knees so that they are not locked
- Repeat this process every time you come back down to the ground until you have completed all reps
High hurdles require maximal effort when executing. A common mistake is performing these with a sub maximal effort, which may lead to poor technique with foot work or leg movement. Common mistakes people do is not keeping the feet together and leading with one leg before the other. This can happen with hesitation during execution.
5. Broad Jump
The broad jump is an explosive exercise that trains the same muscles as box jumps do but with more impact on your joints upon landing. This makes this alternative a good progression from the box jump, but it means there is a higher chance of injury when doing this exercise.
How To Do It
- Stand upright with a slight forward lean and your arms stretched upwards above your head
- Rapidly swing your arms down and dip down into a half squat
- Immediately throw your arms upward and launch yourself forward as far as you can
- Land with your feet flat on the ground to decelerate yourself to a halt
The difficulty and physical stress from this exercise can be adjusted by altering how much effort you put into the jump.
For example, if you wanted to reduce the difficulty and impact on your joints, you would reduce your effort by reducing the distance you jump. You should also reduce the distance that you are trying to jump to if you find that your knees are caving in when you land.
You can increase your effort and make this exercise more challenging by turning it into a single leg broad jump, where you jump off from one leg but land on two legs.
6. Tuck Jump
The tuck jump is similar to the high hurdle jump and the box jump except you do not need any objects at all. The tuck jump simply requires you to focus on jumping vertically as high as possible while tucking your feet immediately up towards yourself when you reach peak height.
How To Do It
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and stand upright with your arms hovering about mid-torso level
- Dip down and push yourself up from the ground as high as possible by jumping and driving your body straight up
- When you reach peak height, immediately bring your knees up towards your chest and continue pushing through the air until you land back on the ground
- Try not to bend your arms too much when jumping or it will throw off your stability during the movement
- Upon landing, you can rebound and jump back in the air again for subsequent reps
If you want to challenge your explosive strength, you can hold yourself statically in the half squat upon landing. Wait for a count of 2 to 3 seconds before launching yourself back up again. Although you won’t have the reactive element of rebounding for subsequent reps, you remove the stretch reflex and make it harder to execute further reps.
Strong glutes are necessary if you want to be able to jump high. If you need to strengthen your glutes, you should add hip thrusts into your routine, as they can improve your vertical jump by 3.4-6%.
7. Staggered Stance Squat Jump
A staggered stance squat jump is a great alternative to the box jump that can be performed with just your body weight and no other pieces of equipment. The advantage to the staggered stance squat jump is that it is more of a single-leg exercise. Even though both feet are on the ground before you jump, you are relying on jumping from the front leg more than the other leg.
How To Do It
- Set up with your feet shoulder-width apart and then assume a staggered stance where one foot is in front of the other
- Keep the heel of the back foot off the ground so that it is on its toes. The feet should be about 12 to 18 inches apart
- Bend both knees, dropping into a half squat before quickly driving through the floor primarily with your front leg and exploding upwards
- Land back down gently in the same staggered stance position then hold yourself still
- Repeat subsequent reps, then change legs. Alternatively, you can switch legs after each rep
You can change this exercise slightly to focus more on the back leg by making it a more horizontal exercise. The setup and initial dip down are the same, but instead of pushing upwards with your front leg, you push with your back leg to launch yourself forward.
When you land, you can land in the same way you do with a broad jump where you are in a normal half-squat position and with a wider stance if that’s more comfortable for you.
8. Ankle Hops
Ankle hops are a good alternative to the box jump. The difference is that ankle hops focus more on the ankles and the knee musculature whereas the box jump involves the hips as well. The ankle hops are useful for focusing on reactivity and improving your ability to use your stretch reflex in your calf tendons and muscles.
How To Do It
- Start by putting your hands on your hips with your posture tall and upright
- Dip ever so slightly in your knees and ankles and jump up in the air
- When you come upwards, try to pull your toes upward to the sky
- As you come down, rebound and hop back up upon landing
- Try to focus on staying on the ground for as short of a time as possible after each jump to help improve your reactive strength
You can potentially do numerous repetitions with this exercise, but the key is not to perform them to fatigue. You should prioritize maintaining quickness and reactivity, so all reps should look as bouncy as possible. A good rule of thumb is to do no more than 10 to 15 reps per set and give yourself at least 2 to 3 minutes of rest in between each set.
9. Drop Jump
A drop jump is similar to a box jump but has a slightly higher impact due to dropping and landing from a predetermined height.
A drop jump is performed by doing a reactive jump after stepping off a plyo box, exercise step, or bench. Drop jumps are generally performed from a height of 1 to 2 feet. The drop jump targets the same muscle groups as the box jump.
How To Do It
- Stand on top and by the edge of your elevated platform of choice whether it’s a plyo box or exercise step
- Step forward and off the box with your toes pointed up
- Rebound off the floor as soon as both feet are on the floor and jump as high as you can
- After the rebounded jump, land as softly as you can with a slight bend in your hips, knees, and ankles
This exercise alternative can be regressed or progressed depending on what your athletic ability is. If you are not used to these types of plyometric exercises where you have to react off the floor into a jump, you should just land in a half squat. This would be called a drop landing.
After a few weeks of performing drop landings, you should be conditioned enough to perform a reactive jump from a box. You can also regress this exercise by reducing the height you are dropping from or make it more difficult by increasing the height of your box or bench.
Wondering if squats can help you jump higher? Get our expert opinion in Do Squats Make You Jump Higher? (Yes, Here’s How and Why).
10. Skater Jump
The skater jump is a good single leg alternative to the box jump. It targets the same muscle groups as the box jump except it will activate the side glutes more because you are pushing yourself sideways.
You should be an intermediate to advanced lifter to perform this exercise as it demands a lot of hip strength to control your knees.
How To Do It
- Start by standing upright.
- Dip down and jump to one side. Instead of trying to jump high, focus on jumping as far to the side as you can.
- Land on one leg with a soft bend in your hip, knee, and ankle of the side you have pushed yourself towards. Keep your other foot in the air and behind you.
- Push back towards the other side from the leg you just landed on and land with a soft bend in your hip, knee and ankle on the other leg
- Repeated this process for the desired number of repetitions
If you have just started performing this exercise, you should start off with a submaximal effort to test your tolerance with this exercise, meaning you don’t try to perform it at an all-out intensity.
Start by performing it in sets of 3 to 5 at a time and assess the technique with either a mirror or video recorder. A key thing to look out for is a knee that does not cave in when you jump from side to side.
Over time you can perform this exercise with more reps for up to 8 reps per set. After you can competently perform this with 8 reps per set, you can turn up the intensity by increasing the distance that you jump to when you jump from side to side.
If you are advanced, you can turn the jumps into reactive jumps so that instead of pausing after you land, you immediately launch yourself into your next jump.
An exercise that can help you develop strength in lateral movements is the cossack squat. Learn how to do it properly in my article Cossack Squat: What Is It? How To Do It? Benefits?
Other Exercise Alternatives
- 5 Best Box Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 9 Best Bulgarian Split Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 9 Best Leg Press Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 8 Best Pistol Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 9 Best Cossack Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 9 Highly Effective Belt Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 10 Highly Effective Front Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 17 Sissy Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 9 Best Hack Squat Alternatives (With Pictures)
- 15 Best Leg Extension Alternatives (At Home, Bands, Free Weight)
About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach
Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com