Why Box Jump Overs?
Box Jump Overs are gaining popularity in the Sport of Fitness because by nature they are easy to judge. The same cannot be said for a traditional Box Jump, where it is easy for athletes to cheat the range of motion by not standing up all the way and failing to open their hips.
As a result, in recent years traditional Box Jumps have been getting replaced with Box Jump Overs in many competitions.
From 2014-2019, the traditional box jump didn’t show up in the Open, except for the 2016 Liftoff MetCon portion. Even when they appeared in Open workout 20.4, most athletes opted to do Step-Ups.
With the emergence of Sanctionals in the 2019 season, Box Jump Overs have become much more popular to program (per Wodapalooza, Dubai & Others). And it makes sense. The only standard a judge needs to enforce for Box Jump Overs is that the athlete actually jumped on the box and made it over to the other side.
Athletes aren’t required to reach hip extension, which takes out nearly all the subjectivity of the judging.
And depending on the rule book, jumping on top isn’t a requirement either. However, I wouldn’t recommend jumping clear over the box even if the movement standard allows, as it isn’t much faster and it’s extremely taxing.
Basically, CrossFit Competitors should spend at least as much time developing their Box Jump Overs as their traditional Box Jumps because that is where the sport is headed.[The same can be said for Kettlebell Snatches replacing Kettlebell Swings due to subjectivity in judging the standard.]
Mobility – Strength – Skill
To maximize your potential, capacity and efficiency for the Box Jump Over variations you must master its specific mobility, strength and skill demands: the three-headed monster every athlete must conquer. Let’s take on the monster one “head” at a time.
There are several variations for Box Jump Overs, each with slightly different mobility requirements. All variations share the necessity of 1) a powerful, full hip extension, but only the low variations (where you stay low across the box) require 2) mobile squat mechanics, particularly knee and ankle flexion.
1) Hip Extension
Any jumping or bounding, whether it is onto (or over) a box, with a jump rope, running or weightlifting all require a full and powerful hip extension to best express power. Often immobile athletes will shy away from a quick, full hip extension unconsciously because their brain is protecting their body.
It is called a “muted hip” because the function is being dampened. In other words, the function could be present if it was not being masked by an athlete’s mobility problems. Addressing a lack of hip extension could easily allow you to express your true strength to a greater degree.
Here are some simple stretches to help you improve your hip extension:
• Lizard Stretch (targets the internal rotators & glutes to different degrees depending on angle)
• Couch Stretch (targets the quads and hip flexors)
• Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch (targets the quads and hip flexors)
2) Knee & Ankle Flexion
As you can see from the photo to the right, the mobility requirements for a low variation of a Box Jump Over are very similar to a squat. And just like a squat, the mobility demands are dispersed across the hip, knee and the foot.
However, a squat and the landing position for a low Box Jump Over variation are not the same. The feet are kept narrower (directly under the hips) and the weight is shifted onto the forefoot to allow for a quick rebound and maintenance of a fairly upright torso.
This reduces the mobility demands of the hip and shifts it more to the knees and hips, specifically knee flexion and ankle dorsiflexion.
The ability to fold the upper and lower legs on top of each other comfortably in a way that allows you to pop off the box is crucial to your success in low variations of the Box Jump Over.
Here are some stretches to improve knee and ankle flexion:
• Elevated Achilles Stretch (targets the soleus and heel cords)
• Calf Stair Stretch (a straight knee will hit the calf / gastrocnemius, while a bent knee will hit the soleus)
• Couch Stretch (same as above)
• Sitting on Heels (as simple as this one is it is often intense for those who lack knee flexion mobility)
To safely and efficiently complete Box Jump Overs the following strength baselines are suggested:
1) A 10-Inch Jumping Surplus
In other words, to safely rebound and move quickly through a set of many Box Jump Overs, you should be able to jump on a box 10 inches higher than your workout height at least once. That means if you are a female looking to do the Rx height for most workouts (20 inches) then you really should be able to jump onto a 30-Inch box.
If you are a male looking to move safely and effectively through WODs with an Rx height of 24 inches, you should be able to jump on a 34-inch box one time for a max effort.
If you cannot do this, realize that your training time is best spent developing your ability to jump maximally. Rather than doing many jumps fatigued (i.e. Box Jumps in a workout), you are better off doing Box Jumps as high as possible for 2 or 3 reps, resting and repeating. Once you have reached the 10-Inch Jumping Surplus you can begin to add the layers of speed and fatigue.
If you do not have all the Mobility and Strength requirements, time spent learning skill will be much less productive. Build the basics, then layer on top.
The skill section for Box Jump Overs is best explained variation-by-variation because there are so many different techniques. We recommend that everyone has at least two variations they can pull out for a given workout: one faster, more taxing variation (and) one slower, more efficient variation.
This recommendation comes from the fact that workouts in the Sport of Fitness can vary so much. It is very possible to have one workout with a short time domain, where the Box Jump Over total reps are low and it is paired with an upper body-dominant movement. In this type of workout, you will be best served pulling out your fast technique variation.
Let’s say another workout has a longer time domain, a high total number of Box Jump Overs and it is paired with another lower body movement. In this type of workout, you will be pleased that you have a slower, less taxing variation of the Box Jump Over in your repertoire.
Here is a preview of some different variations of Box Jump Overs.
6 Box Jump Over Variations
(1) The Mogul Method
Rebounded, Low, Lateral
Description: This is the fastest variation for Box Jump Overs. The combination of qualities where the athlete faces the same direction the entire movement (lateral), stays low across the top of the box and rebounds off the ground is the quickest of all the variations.
Any variation where the athlete lands in a squat above parallel and/or lands & turns will slow the movement down. Some very fit, efficient athletes (e.g. Jacob Heppner) will be able to sustain this variation of Box Jump Over regardless of rep scheme or time domain.
For these athletes, the time saved by executing the “Mogul Method” is worth it because it allows for him or her to take more recovery time or move slower on the next piece of the workout.
Breathing: [Listen to the video below with sound for an example.] You will initiate an exhale as you punch your feet into the ground for the rebound. As your legs fold in and you enter the low position on top of the box you will inhale. As the legs extend toward the ground you will pause will the lungs full of air. As your feet contact the ground, you will once again initiate a forceful exhale.[A quick note on these breathing sections: it is normal for one athlete to need to hold their breath for an instance during a forceful jump, while a jump of the same height for a different athlete does not require a momentary breath hold. This is true for any movement requiring bracing (e.g. a weighted squat).]
Best for… standard heights (24/20”) and standard size boxes. The most common plyo box found in CrossFit gyms is 20” x 24” x 30.” This means that for a male jumping to the 24” side they land on the side that is 20” across (like the video above.)
For a female, she would jump on the 20” height so they would land on the side of the box that is 24” across. Both are ideal for this style Box Jump Over, but much wider and it presents a problem. Therefore, online qualifiers are best completed with this type of box if you can choose.
Inappropriate for… a very wide box, like the ones commonly used at the CrossFit Games and in-person competitions.
Also, longer duration workouts with lots of reps being accumulated if an athlete does not have the skill, strength, fitness or mobility for sustaining this variation.
Masters athletes who lack elastic qualities in their joints and calves should avoid any of the rebounding options in fatigued settings until developing those qualities in unfatigued settings.
(2) The High Mogul Method
Rebounded, High, Lateral
Description: This variation is very similar to the Mogul Method described above, but instead of landing low (below parallel) in a squat you land high (above parallel).
It is important to realize that you must make a choice to either land below parallel in a full squat or land high, well above parallel. Both positions have relatively low muscular demands.
For example, you should be able to “hang out” for several minutes in a quarter squat or in the rock bottom of a squat relatively comfortably. To the contrary, it would be very challenging to maintain a parallel squat for several minutes.
With the goal of your Box Jump Overs being sustainability, this parallel squat zaps your legs and drains your energy. It should be considered “No Man’s Land.” Either land low or land high.
Best for… an athlete with poor squat mobility that is tall for the given Box Jump Over height.
For example, a lean 6’3” Big & Tall male athlete wouldn’t have to jump that high to land above parallel on a 24” box compared to a 5’6” athlete. Sub-par mobility will make the high landing more sustainable even though the jump itself requires more energy.
This technique may be used as a temporary fix for an athlete while he or she works to become comfortable in the low position on the box. This variation is also beneficial for athletes who experience mechanical pain in their knees when doing the low variation.
Lastly, this variation can be useful if you are required to use a soft plyo box in a competition. Soft boxes can pose a problem to low variations because it is easy to get the feet caught in the tarp-like coating.
Inappropriate for… a shorter athlete who is heavier, has good mobility (comfortable in the “low position”) and/or doesn’t excel at jumping to the high position easily. Also, this variation will be less appropriate for high-rep Box Jump Over workouts.
(3) Landing Lateral
Low, Lateral, Land & Jump
Description: This version is exactly like the Mogul Method, but instead of rebounding the athlete lands on the ground, find his or her balance and initiates another lateral Box Jump Over.
It is a slower variation, but it can be more sustainable for many athletes because the time between jumps can be adjusted as needed. For a shorter workout, it could be a land followed almost immediately with the counter movement and jump.
For a longer workout, the athlete will take the time to land and take several breaths while standing tall, before jumping onto the box again. This variation can be combined with the High Mogul Method to land, jump and catch above parallel before landing again on the other side.
Breathing: The athlete will breath as needed on the floor, but ideally she will limit her rest time to one breath or two. Upon inhale, the athlete will temporarily hold her breath for a fraction of a second as she jump, immediately exhaling as she lands low and descends to the far side of the box.
Best for… an athlete that feels comfortable jumping laterally and landing low, but lacks strength, elastic tissue qualities or the fitness to be able to rebound like the Mogul Method. The “Landing Lateral” variation should be used in practice for athletes working to develop a better Mogul Method variation, whether with a high or low landing.
Inappropriate for… a competition, or any workout scenario where you must get your best possible score. The original “Mogul Method,” the “Swivel-Style” or “Leap Frog” would be the best options for competition. Again, the goal of the “Landing Lateral” technique is to develop capacity for the “Mogul Method.”
(4) Keep It Up
Rebounded, High, Turn & Face (top)
Description: In this variation, the athlete spends almost the entire time spent doing the movement on top of the box. Any time resting and catching your breath should also be done on top of the box.
Essentially, the athlete turns on the top of the box, so their heels are hovering off the edge of the box. They drop down and rebound back onto the box, all completed while facing the box.
Then the athlete turns 180 degrees to the other side of the box and repeats. This variation should only be used if the movement standard is an open hip on top of the box.
Breathing: The athlete will temporarily hold their breath as they rebound off the ground, and then breath as needed on top of the box as their turn and regroup.
Best for… any time the movement standard is standing all the way up and fully opening the hip at the top of each rep.
Inappropriate for… any time the movement standard does not require an open hip on top of the box.
(5) Swivel Style
Low, Swivel one Leg, Turn & Face
Description: The athlete starts on the ground facing the box. He jumps onto the far side of the box still facing the same direction. At this moment, the athlete shoots one foot to the ground while swiveling to face the box. He steps his other foot down and as soon as it contacts the ground, he initiates the next Box Jump.
Once again, the rep should start with the athlete facing the box. A helpful tip is learning to swivel on the toe of the foot planted on the box (rather than the whole foot) because pivoting will require less effort and put less torque (twisting force) on the knee.
Breathing: You can either breath with one breath per Box Jump Over or two per Box Jump Over. That is a breath ratio of 1:1 & 2:1 respectively. 1:1 will be comfortable when moving quickly and under less fatigue. 2:1 will be comfortable when moving slower when you are fatigued.
Best for… an athlete that has good mobility and holds relatively low tension. He or she feels comfortable staying low and relaxed while landing and pivoting on the box but struggles to rebound reps because he or she lacks strength, elastic qualities or is fatigued.
Inappropriate for… all out efforts because it is too slow. A word of advice: do not force yourself to adopt this style if it is not comfortable for you. Some athletes love this variation, other hate it. You will know if it is for you once you test it out for yourself.
(6) Leap Frog
Low, Pop & Land, Turn & Face
Description: The “Leap Frog” variation is executed when facing the box. The goal is to jump high, pulling the knees to the chest and landing in a squat.
Upon landing, you push your knees forward, shifting the weight to your toes, which allows you to pop out of the squat and clear the other side of the box. You land still facing the same direction. You then take the time to gather yourself and breathe while turning around to face the box once again.
Breathing: The athlete will hold her inhaled breath in the instant she initiates the jump, exhale as she lands on the box and pops over the other side. She then breathes as needed when on the ground and regrouping.
Pro Tip: Jump to the far side of the box if it’s not too taxing. Clearing the other edge of the box requires less “pop” and therefore less energy if you land on the far side of the box while completing your Box Jump Overs.
Depending on the exact movement standard, you may be able to get away with hovering your toes over the edge of the box, almost eliminating the need for the “pop” because you can slide off the edge as your weight shifts forward over your toes.
If you have ever seen a person drop down off a stage or tailgate of a truck, this is typically what they will do naturally. Jumping to the far side of the box will be much easier if the box isn’t too close to your max box jump height.
See the man in the far left of this video when he does his box jump overs.
All 3 athletes use the “Leap Frog” variation of the Box Jump Over.
Best for… a box that is challenging to repeatedly jump to because it is close to your max height for a box jump.
Inappropriate for… a box that is easily jumped to, where a “Mogul Method” could be used instead.
Here is another good example, shown by Rich Froning at the 2018 CrossFit Games. (Start at 1:03)
Take some time to test out all the different variations. Don’t force yourself to use any particular variation if it is not comfortable. The only exception to this is the “Mogul Method.” I recommend all (non-master) CrossFit Athletes who compete at a high level or plan on competing at a high level to learn the “Mogul Method” variation.
It may take some time to develop and you may use other variations in certain testing settings, but it is a skill that you must have ready in the event of a short sprint event.
I also recommend programming a workout with Box Jump Overs at a challenging height, so you can practice the “Leap Frog” variation. This is another tool you need to have in your back pocket in the event of a workout containing Box Jump Overs of a high height.
(1) Moving In Circles
This mistake is frequently seen for all variations of BJOs but it is most detrimental when doing versions of the Mogul Method. The athlete turns the same direction on both side of the box resulting in them moving in circles.
When doing sprint variations, this can be especially dizzying because cycle speed to much quicker. When breaking this habit, many athletes find it helpful to have a visual focal point. This could be a wall, a clock or a rival athlete in competition.
Once this habit is broken, soften you focus and gaze somewhere that produces a neutral head and neck position. I prefer looking at the one bumper plate, but really focusing on foot and hand placement as I move.
(2) Full-Foot Landing
This error usually occurs in athletes who are analytical in their movement. Upon thinking about their form, the athlete believes it is best to land with a full-foot on the box so they mimic the safe, best practice of a squat. It makes sense and it might even be a hair safer if you frequently experience knee pain with low versions of the Box Jump Over.
However, it is certainly not the most effective way to pop out of the BJO low position. To pop up quickly, the athlete needs their hips directly stacked on top of their heels. Most athletes can hit this position with their heels in contact with the box.
The exception will be athletes with short femurs and excellent mobility, the Chris Spealler type of athlete.
Unless you an outlier, you probably shouldn’t try to force a full-foot landing. Don’t force landing on your toes either. Rather, focus on generating an upright torso where your hips are stacked over your heels.
Then you will naturally push your knees forward and shift your weight to the balls of your feet. Allow weight on the forefoot to be an effect (result) not a cause (focal point).
The first set of reps is shown with a full-foot landing, and the second set is shown with the more efficient landing position.
Also in the Movement Library: Bar-Facing Burpees & Burpee Box Jump Overs
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