Every box jump involves a leap of faith. You’ll probably land on top of the box, on your feet, and not make it into one of those box jump fail compilation videos (seriously, do not Google). But how do you convince your brain and body that a solid landing awaits?
Start With a Smaller Box
No, smaller. Find a box in your gym that’s so tiny and cute it doesn’t even scare you. Maybe that’s a 50cm box instead of the 60cm you’ve been attempting — or maybe you aren’t ready for boxes at all and you’re going to start with a 10cm aerobics step. We all have to start somewhere.
If you’re completely psyching yourself out about any height at all, find something visual that doesn’t add height, such as a yoga mat. Jump onto the mat as if it were the world’s tallest box: You go up, you come down, you land right in the middle where you need to be.
This isn’t just for your confidence, but also so you can work on your form. Super high box jumps are impressive, but they have a lot more to do with hip flexion (pulling your knees up to clear the box) than with jumping ability. Better to jump high above the box, alighting softly in the centre on your way down, than to just barely get your toes over the edge.
Visualise Your Landing
Get to know the box. It isn’t enough to know how many centimetres high it is, or to see where the box is — you need to know, in the deepest circuits of your brain, exactly where your landing place will be. Scott Herman, who can jump 132cm, recommends not just touching the box but standing on top of it to really get a feel for where it is in space.
While you’re up there, strike a pose. Find the spot where you’d like to land — right smack in the middle of the box — and stand there as if you’ve just landed. Legs a little bent, weight in the middle of your feet. A good rule of thumb is to land in the same position as you start.
Don’t worry about jumping down, by the way. It’s safest for your joints and tendons if you step down rather than jump, especially if you do a lot of reps or if your box jumps are getting to be really high.
Take a Video
Maybe you worry about bumping your knees on the way up, or scraping your shins if you fall. Take a video of yourself doing your best jump, slow motion if you can. Then see what’s actually going on. I used to worry that my starting position was too far away from the box, but video convinced me that I cover enough forward distance that it isn’t an issue.
If you’re feeling really brave, take a look at some of those box jump fail videos. You’ll notice that each one has a fatal flaw you can avoid, and you’ll start seeing the same warning signs over and over.
If the person’s toe catches on the corner of the box and they fall forward, it’s usually because they’re fatigued from too many jumps, and they can’t jump quite high enough. (Or they chose a too-high box to begin with.) But you know to use a smaller box and keep good form.
Or if somebody falls off the other side of the box, it’s usually because they forgot to stick the landing. You should be landing straight down, dropping from the air into that landing position you visualised, and then standing back up again.
You won’t land on the far side of the box and flip it. You won’t land with a lot of forward momentum that makes you somersault over. You’ll land softly, like a cat, like you practised.
Give Yourself a Pep Talk
That moment before takeoff is an important one. You have an easy box height, you know how to land, and you know what to do. Give yourself a routine: Maybe reposition your right foot, then your left, then inhale, then squat and swing your arms — or whatever works for you.
If the box is solid wood with sharp edges, or rubbery with soft edges, remind yourself that you’re going to fly straight up and land right in the middle, so it does not matter what the edges are like.
If it’s one of those platforms with metal legs, envision a solid wood box underneath the platform. Those metal legs are just a useless skeleton and they are not in your path.
Remember how solid you landed every time you practised before — because you’ve practised a ton of times on easy, low boxes, right? — and lift off. Good luck with the landing.