Maximizing your potential as an athlete takes a lot of hard work and long hours of pushing your body to its limits. Great athletes don’t just step on the court, the track or the field and inherently excel. Their excellence is strategically cultivated. Skills are honed through studied practice.
Intentional training is vital to success. For example, plyometrics were designed by the Soviets during the Cold War to increase speed, power and explosiveness. But intentional training often requires the right tools. Frequently, these tools aren’t revolutionary. Typically, they’ve been tried, tested and vetted by those who have come before you. In the world of plyometrics, ploymetric boxes were introduced to aid athletes, allowing them to go further, jump higher and do more. As a former Division I collegiate athlete, I can attest to the benefit of incorporating box jumps into your training.
Plyometirc boxes come in many shapes, sizes and types, but the principle is always the same – they help you force your body to jump higher and train it to stick the landing with balance.
Which kind of plyometric box is right for you? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Wood Plyometric Boxes
Wood plyo boxes are incredibly affordable to make. The Internet is packed with easy how-to guides, such as Jerred Moon’s ‘How To Build a Plyometric Box’ post which outlines the process in two, nail-free steps.
Pros: Not only are wood boxes typically more affordable than their counterparts, they’re also a much safer option. Why? Because in most cases wood boxes have solid sides. Boxes which are just platforms positioned on legs increase the chances of even the best athletes catching his or her feet and getting injured. Injuries can range wildly from twisted ankles and bruised knees to stitches and banged heads. (I might or might not have gotten a few stitches from falling.)
Cons: Because wood boxes have solid sides they have to be stacked and can require a lot of room to store. If gym space is limited, this can be a dilemma.
Metal Plyometric Boxes
Metal plyo boxes are typically designed for stacking. They often have a base that’s slightly wider than their top and legs which attach the two together.
Pros: For the space deprived gym, metal boxes can be a great compromise as they allow you to have a wide range of heights without requiring massive amounts of storage.
Cons: The nature of metal boxes’ open fronts can increase an athlete’s potential to fall and injure him or herself. Why? Because if you catch a toe on the side of a straight box face, you’re often near the beginning of your jump. The fall is not nearly as far and you’re typically in better control of your body. However, if you catch a toe at the peak of your height on the underside of a solid surface, your fall is much further, your body is already pushed to its limit and your ability to control your movements is significantly decreased.
Foam Plyometric Boxes
Foam plyo boxes are a more recent advent in the plyometric box field. They are firm enough to allow for a solid landing, but soft enough that if you miss your mark you won’t suffer quite the same hard hit.
Pros: The nature of these boxes’ soft material allows you to push yourself without fear of hitting a hard surface. Removing the inhibitions fear and doubt create is one of the best ways to not only make improvements, but also decrease injury.
Cons: Cost. Foam plyometric boxes are expensive. Made with ultra dense foam and covered in a heavy-duty vinyl, they are a far cry from the do-it-yourself variety. Additionally, like the wood boxes, foam plyo boxes require a lot of space to store.
How High Should Your Plyometric Box Be?
The height of your plometric box (or boxes) is really determined by your ability and what you are using it to train for. Typically, an athlete will train with boxes of a variety of heights ranging from six-inches to two-feet. Exercises range wildly, but can include: double leg stationary jumps, single leg stationary jumps, stationary speed jumps, max speed jumps and moving succession jumps.
Regardless of what exercises you are doing or what sport you are training for, it is important to remember that while you should push yourself, it is vital you work safely. Trying to land a two-foot jump when you have struggled hitting a one-foot jump can lead to less than desirable results. Remember – nothing sets you back further that getting injured. No one wins from the sideline.
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