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Houston Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt damn near broke the Internet in 2015 when a video surfaced of his 61″ box jump—no small feat at 6’5″, 289 pounds. We have Ben Bruno, trainer to pro athletes, to give you step-by-step instructions on how to be more explosive like Watt.
1. Stand in front of a 24″ box. (Use a padded box, if possible, so if you wipe out, you won’t get seriously hurt.) With your feet hip-width apart, descend into a quarter-squat and swing your arms behind you as you bend from the hips and knees to generate power.
2. Swing your arms forward and jump up onto the box, landing in the middle. While you’ve surely seen people land in a deep squat on box jumps, that’s not good form. For a safe landing that trains your body to absorb force, Bruno recommends landing softly and quietly in a quarter-squat only.
3. Step off the box back to the floor—don’t jump off. Reset, and go again. Yes, you’ll see people jumping down from the box in CrossFit classes, but according to Bruno, “it completely eliminates the point of the exercise, which is to train power with low impact.”
SEE ALSO: Get in Tip-Top Shape With the Box Jump
So how do you boost your plyo box jump the right way? Start small. Pick a 6″ box to start, or one that ensures you land in an “athletic stance” with feet shoulder-width, knees inside the feet, neutral back, and chest over feet, Bruno advises. “Once your landing position gets to the point where your knees are above waist height [i.e., quads slightly below parallel to the floor], then you’re not challenging your jump height, rather how high you can bring your legs up.” Focus on landing softly and keeping the knees in line with the long toe.
“If you can do that consistently and have several inches of clearance over the box when you land, you may be ready to increase the box height,” Bruno says. But beware: Going big for extended periods of time may do more harm than good. “The injury risks of performing a high number of reps of more intense plyo exercises like these may outweigh the benefits.”