The box jump is the most common jumping exercise used by weekend warriors and athletes alike. Maybe you’re looking to dunk on your friends at social basketball night or retain some athleticism as you age.
Regardless, the box jump will help you. However, if you train at home or a commercial gym, you may not have access to a box. Hence, I have eight of the best box jump alternatives you can use when you have no box.
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Box Jump Alternative With No Box At Home
The box jump is characterized by reducing landing impact. That is the number one reason to perform a box jump. However, if you have nothing to jump on to, you can’t do the box jump! So, these box jump alternatives will have hard impacts on the floor but will still give you enhanced lower body power development.
The vertical jump is the most apparent box jump alternative. It’s a box jump with no box! There are two ways you can do these:
- Use arm swing and reach for something far above your head. A violent arm swing will help you jump higher.
- Jump with your hands on your hips. This will force the legs to propel the body without the help of the arms.
Both variations are great for developing lower body power and improving your vertical jump.
If you have stairs long enough and wide enough at home or close by, stair jumps are a simple way to reduce landing impacts. Many athletes of old and new used repeated stair jumps to build unreal power in the legs.
The above video shows Werner Gunthor, a legendary shot putter and absolute beast stair jumping like a pro. When you first try these, the movement can be challenging to coordinate. You’ll be a pro in no time after a few tries.
Start by missing only one step when you jump to get comfortable with the exercise. Depending on the stairs, you can skip more steps if necessary. If continuous stair jumps are too tricky, you can treat each jump as a single jump. It then resembles a single box jump with a little more horizontal propulsion.
Broad Jump Up Hill
Don’t want high impacts? This is another excellent option if you have grass hills in your area. That is broad jumping up a hill. You can do these continuously, like in the video or as single jumps. This will depend on how comfortable you are with coordinating repeated jumps.
If your goal is developing lower body power, perform up to 5 jumps in a row or within one set. Don’t jump up a very long hill! The fatigue will be too much to stimulate true power development.
The squat jump is a variation to the vertical jump. Instead of a rapid countermovement (dip and jump or eccentric to concentric), you dip down and pause. After pausing for 3 seconds, jump as high as you can.
Why the pause? It reduces the involvement of elastic energy built up when bending your legs. During the vertical jump, the rapid downward to upward motion uses elastic energy to propel you much higher as it aids the force production from the muscles.
When pausing, this elastic energy is dissipated as heat. The muscles then need to propel the body in the air without the aid of elastic energy, placing greater emphasis on muscular force production.
Barbell Jump Squat
Jumping with a load on your back is not for everyone. But for those looking to blast through vertical jump plateaus, this is for you. The major benefit of barbell jump squat is the versatility of loading. For those that need to enhance force production, you can use heavier jump squats.
Lighter loads are important for velocity and power development. Peak power is optimized between 20-45% back squat 1RM. It’s crucial when jumping that you try to bend the barbell over your back. This will keep it secure when you jump.
If you’ve never done these before, start with a wooden dowel or PVC pipe and then the barbell. Balance can be an issue when first performing these as your center of mass is raised. If you have a trap bar, trap bar jumps are another variation you can use that is often more comfortable.
Dumbbell Jump Squat
The dumbbell jump squat is the more friendly version. It makes a solid box jump alternative as you don’t need much space and only some light dumbbells. The dumbbell jump squat is much easier to perform if you are a beginner. Simply hold a dumbbell in each hand to your side and jump.
You can use the same loading prescription as the barbell jump squat with 20-45% 1RM. However, this can lead to holding rather heavy dumbbells. Nothing wrong with holding light dumbbells for these jump squats.
The tuck jump is your quick response jump, so it is further removed as a box jump alternative. However, if you lack space and equipment, this can be an option. It is performed by jumping and bringing your knees up until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
You can have your hands in front of you as a guide for your knees to touch. Most importantly, you should bounce on and off the ground as quickly as possible. The goal is to spend the least amount of time on the ground with each bounce.
This is the most advanced box jump alternative I’ve listed. You don’t have to have hurdles to do these. You can place whatever object you have to jump over. But the hurdle hop should be reserved for athletes looking to improve sports performance. If you are using the box jump for general fitness, there is no need to use the hurdle hop.
Jake Tuura shows two great variations of the hurdle hop in the video above. The first variation is the “big small” or “double-tap” variation. That is jumping over the first hurdle and then slightly bouncing before bouncing over the next hurdle.
The second variation is bouncing over each hurdle without stopping. The goal is the spend the least amount of time on the floor as possible, which means fast ground contact times with your legs acting like stiff springs to propel you over the hurdles.
I use this exercise religiously with team sports athletes. I rate this as one of the best plyometric exercises for athletic performance.
It’s tough to find box jump alternatives without significant ground impacts. If reducing the impact is your main concern, then stair jumps and broad jumps up a hill are your two best options. The vertical jump and squat jump are your best alternatives with varying loads if you’re just looking to jump vertically.