CrossFit is a world-spanning fitness movement with great ambitions. It aspires to be accessible to anyone and offer rich rewards no matter your fitness level. It achieves this through a mix of ever-changing workouts designed to test numerous skills.
It also achieves its reputation through a unique cultural atmosphere. Most gyms offer only periodic group events, with users primarily left to their own devices unless using a personal trainer.
With CrossFit, the community environment is central to its identity. It turns exercising into a group activity, presenting a social space for the ambitious to push each other towards excellence.
As a group exercise, it takes up minimal amounts of space and requires little equipment. This also makes adapting CrossFit for home use easy to do. One of the most frequent equipment pieces used in CrossFit is the box.
“Box” is a term CrossFitters will immediately recognize because it’s what they call their gyms. A CrossFit box is a large open space that lacks some of the stationary equipment in favor of other pieces.
One essential piece of equipment in CrossFit is the box. A CrossFit box comes in many different heights, with the majority falling between 1.5 and 2 feet. Boxes are used in box jumps, a staple exercise in the movement.
Despite its firm modern association with CrossFit, box jumps are a surprisingly effective workout that’s easily doable. The reasons that CrossFitters use jump boxes are reasons that everyone should use them.
The Purpose Behind Box Jumps
The standard exercise that boxes are used for are box jumps. To jump, you squat on the floor, extend your legs to jump, then land in a squat on the box. The box jump process repeats in reverse for a number of steps. The exercise is simple, but it targets complex physical factors.
CrossFit labels ten attributes as skills that are essential to overall physical fitness. Box Jumps tackle several of these. The explosiveness of the movement can tackle your speed, agility, and stamina. Football and soccer players both rely on quick, precise movements to duck, dodge, and sprint.
Box jumps develop the skills necessary to undergo these tight maneuvers. They also increase your vertical jump range. Jumping is a physical skill like any other. Just as strength and stretching need to be worked at, so too can jumping be improved through box jumps.
Box jumps tackle your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves with high impact. This works out the muscles differently than sustained weightlifting does but still creates an effective lower-body exercise. The overarching intensity of extended box jumps makes them effective cardio workouts.
In a CrossFit environment, you will most likely be performing box jumps for a set duration or rep count. In truth, these should both be adjusted depending on your ultimate goals. Explosiveness and speed are best developed through short bursts of fast, small rep counts. Endurance is better gained through extended series of multiple reps.
Box jumps are not the only exercise to share this focus on impact. In general, they fit in well with high-intensity interval training and similar exercise routines. In particular, they share a broader affinity with plyometric exercises. The jump boxes used are even called plyo boxes, short for plyometrics, by some.
Plyometrics are a variety of exercises that combine the speed and force of powerful movement to build muscle and capability. These exercises are high-impact by definition and rely on the movement of the body more than free weights and other items. These exercises were formerly called jump training, though plyometrics or “plyo” is the modern term.
Plyometrics require you to use your entire body but mainly target your legs and glutes. They are great for building strength, speed, precision, endurance, and even flexibility, depending on your workouts.
Plyometric exercises include box jumps, as stated above. They can also include push-ups, throwing, running, and any other activity where quick, controlled movements are possible.
From an athletic training perspective, plyometrics are best for sports which require sudden, spontaneous movements. Volleyball, football, and basketball players all stand to gain impressively from these routines. Even if you don't play spontaneous sports, the sense development plyometrics brings is worth the required training alone.
They are innately high-intensity. This can make them challenging for beginners or those presently experiencing negative health conditions. Plyometrics can be especially hazardous to those suffering from heart conditions, nerve damage, or joint pain. If ailments are plaguing you, try workouts designed to help you heal better.
These exercises are not necessarily for everyone. They can be easy to do at first but quickly escalate in challenge. In terms of escalation, we will return to the specific exercise of the box jump. We’ll highlight the various ways that CrossFiters improves their workouts by adding additional levels of challenge.
Making Jumps More Challenging
Do a specific exercise enough, and your body will get used to it. The choice here is to either switch to different exercises or to up your own intensity. This next section is for those who embrace adversity and choose the latter path.
The first step is to get a taller box. This challenges your at-this-point excellent jump height even further. It also places greater demands on your sense of balance as you adjust to greater changes in elevation. At some point, it will be challenging to find a taller box, demanding a different approach.
You can add additional challenges without altering the shape of your exercise through the use of ankle weights. Ankle weights force your body to adjust to a heavier strain than usual, helping to build up your muscle. Doing extensive movement-based workouts like sprints with ankle weight may leave you more at risk for injury.
You can also integrate small dumbbells or kettlebells in your workout by holding them as you do box jumps. Hold each weight in a resting position, and lift them as you go through the jump. This adds a slight arm exercise to the movement. More importantly, it challenges your balance as you cope with weight that exists outside of yourself.
Another way to make your exercise slightly more challenging can also make them more personally engaging. The next time you go out hiking, search for a rock, step, or divot that makes for a good height.
If the surface is flat enough, integrate that into an impromptu workout. Jumping on slightly uneven surfaces forces you to adjust to subtle variations and can aid in your ability to balance.
Making Your Own Plyometrics Box
A quick online search for plyo boxes brings up options ranging from 50 dollars to 1,500 dollars. A plyo box is fundamentally a box made of wood or synthetic materials capable of supporting a person’s weight. There has to be an easier way to create your own. In fact, there is.
If you or someone you know have access to some cutting tools, you can create your own plyo box. All it takes is a few raw materials and a spare hour. We suggest having the box be a true rectangle — made out of ¾’’ inch thick plywood. This gives you three different heights to work with when using your plyo box.
The first step is to measure the length of sides you want. Ideally, your box should be at least a foot and a half wide, slightly longer, and as tall as you want. Plenty of free templates for building your own plyo box exist to exact specifications. If you lack the time or tools required, many hardware stores will cut wood pieces for you.
Once the wood is cut, the assembly process can begin. Choose one side. We suggest the “smallest” one, whose pieces will be encased by the other four sides of the box. We suggest gluing together any portion of the box where wood is touching. Double-check before doing anything permanent, as any issues will need to be lived with or fixed.
Once the glue has begun to dry, drill screws in the edges of the box to attach the boards. 2’’ wood screws should suffice, giving enough grip without penetrating the wood too deeply. When this step is done, you’re free to use your plyo box.
Move on to your next project. It may be a workout or woodworking, but it will be yours. Just like with CrossFit, safety is key to building something that lasts.
Out of the Box Ideas
Plyometric exercise isn’t just a fad. It is a surprisingly effective and impressively versatile way to achieve your workout. Explosive movement keeps you on your toes and ready to experience anything. The endurance needed to maintain speed, accuracy, and power will give you the stamina to push for one more rep.
The best part is that it can be done anywhere. People are active in vibrant worlds far away from the gym. Why should their exercises be constrained to it? Take your workout with you, keeping a box in your home and your eyes sharp against the horizon.