8 Highly Effective Box Jump Alternatives (With Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
August 4, 2022

Among the many athletic capacities of an exerciser, explosiveness is arguably among one of the most important, as it combines both power and speed in order to output force from or through the exerciser’s body.

One method of achieving excellent explosiveness is through the regular performance of the box jump, a type of exercise wherein the exerciser - fittingly - leaps atop a box repeatedly in order to build lower body explosiveness and stability.

The utilization of a similar alternative that may retain the same purpose as the box jump should allow the exerciser to continue their workout programming without worry.

What is the Box Jump?

The box jump, in more technical terms, is a plyometric bodyweight exercise primarily performed for the purposes of developing an athlete’s lower body explosiveness and proprioception, greatly aiding in their performance of a large number of athletic activities and real life movements.

box jump

When performed as a component of an athletic training circuit, the box jump acts as both a source of leg muscle training stimulus as well as an exercise meant to aid the exerciser in developing certain sports-specific skills such as proprioception, lower body stability and multi-joint movement coordination.

Why Should the Box Jump be Substituted?

The most common reason why exercisers may choose to substitute the box jump with a similar exercise is that they simply lack access to an available plyo box, or that the plyo box they currently own is too high or too low in elevation for their ideal box jump height.

box jump muscles

While these issues can easily be remedied by simply replacing the plyo box with a more suitable object to jump upon, alternating out the box jump may in fact serve the exerciser better in terms of specificity, effectiveness and total training stimuli.

Other issues with the box jump that may result in its subsequent replacement are its high mobility requirement in the various joints of the legs, the fact that the box jump is an intermediate exercise unsuitable for novice athletes, or that it has simply lost its usefulness as the athlete has reached a point in their development wherein the box jump is no longer a challenge for them.

Regardless of the particulars behind the substitution of the box jump within an athlete’s training routine, a suitable alternative that meets their training goals and needs is likely available and as easy to learn as the box jump itself.

What Characteristics Should a Box Jump Alternative Have?

A suitable alternative exercise to the box jump should share certain important aspects of the exercise, those being a high level of explosiveness derived from the lower body, muscular activation of the quadriceps, posterior chain and calves - as well as the performance of a jumping movement or a similar action by the exerciser.

Each of these characteristics are vital to the proper substitution of the box jump with an alternative exercise, as picking an alternative exercise that does not share these aspects will likely cause a different sort of training stimulus to be induced and thus a different end-result to what was intended by the inclusion of the box jump in the first place.

1. Plyo Box Alternatives

In the case of the exerciser simply having no access to a suitably elevated plyo box (or any plyo box therein), several alternative kinds of exercise equipment may serve a similar purpose - a few of which are likely available to the exerciser instead.

2. Aerobics Stepper

An aerobics stepper is simply a piece of modifiable fitness equipment that acts as a narrow “step” that the exerciser may utilize for practically any purpose, with such benefits as a variable level of elevation and providing a highly stable platform being the main selling points of this particular plyo box alternative.

aerobics stepper

As convenient as the aerobics stepper is as a plyo box alternative, there is the caveat that not all exercisers are capable of high accuracy when it comes to their jump length and height, causing the comparatively narrow width of the aerobics stepper to place them at potential risk of falling and injuring themselves.

As such, the aerobics stepper is best utilized against a padded wall or if the exerciser possesses sufficient proprioception to control their landing.

3. Box Squat Platform

A weightlifting accessory type of fitness equipment primarily used as a resting point during the box squat exercise, the box squat platform or box squat box is a similarly elevated and stable implement that may easily be used as an alternative to the box jump plyo box - sharing a large number of characteristics such as variable height, low traction and high stability.

barbell box squat

However, unlike most plyo boxes, the box squat platform is made of rather hard materials, increasing the amount of impact the exerciser’s joints will endure as they land atop it, thereby making the box squat platform particularly risky for individuals with a history of injury or those of advanced age.

Unlike the aerobic stepper though, the box squat platform is considerably wide and far easier to land upon than the former piece of alternative equipment, making it a more suitable choice for individuals with poor balance or bodily coordination.

Best General Purpose Box Jump Alternative

If no injuries, mobility limitations or lack of sufficient stimulus are a factor in the substitution of the box jump; the best possible alternative exercise for the general purpose of training is the squat jump.

Mechanically similar but with less of the downsides to the box jump, the squat jump may act as a direct one to one substitution of the box jump in instances where the exerciser has no access to an appropriately elevated surface, plyo box or similar piece of equipment.

4. The Squat Jump

The squat jump, much like the box jump, is an explosive plyometric compound exercise that activates practically all muscle groups in the legs while providing a speed and power-developing training stimulus that is highly applicable to sports and other athletic activities.

squat jump

The sole difference between the squat jump and the box jump is that the exerciser’s joints will receive more force and impact as they are landing at the same elevation instead of atop a higher object, making the squat jump somewhat less comfortable and otherwise unsuitable for individuals with injuries in their leg joints or hips.

In terms of workout programming, the squat jump is similar enough in intensity and muscle group activation that it may directly replace the box jump, allowing the same number of sets and repetitions to be performed with practically no difference in training stimulus.

Weighted Box Jump Alternatives

For athletes that have surpassed the box jump and require greater levels of training intensity in order to retain proper progressive overload in their workout routine, the addition of weight as a further source of resistance should prove more than effective.

While this does indeed increase the risk of injury and stress placed upon the joints of the legs, exercisers and athletes at a sufficient enough level of training development to warrant the usage of such exercises should not only have conditioned their body appropriately, but also possess enough understanding of exercise form and mechanics to perform the following movements safely.

5. Weighted Step-Ups

Weighted step-ups are an intensified modification of the standard step-up exercise wherein the exerciser grips a kettlebell or pair of dumbbells in both hands so as to increase the total resistance of the exercise.

weighted step up

When acting as a box jump alternative, weighted step ups utilize less explosiveness in exchange for greater muscular recruitment and time under tension, resulting in a similar level of applicable power output in the legs with a reduced level of impact on the joints.

Due to the increased amount of resistance however, exercisers will find that performing less volumes of repetitions per set of the weighted step-up exercise is far easier and more effective than the sort of volume that a set of box jumps entails.

6. Hex Bar Jumps

A weighted compound movement revolving around a jump much like the box jump exercise itself, hex bar jumps utilize a hexagon barbell to evenly distribute the resistance across all sides of the body so as to avoid the exerciser losing their balance or otherwise injuring themselves despite the explosiveness of the exercise.

trap bar jump squat

Much like weighted step-ups, hex bar jumps are meant to be performed with significantly less volume per set than the box jump due to the increased resistance and instability involved in the exercise, creating a more challenging repetition and thus forcing the exerciser to perform less repetitions per set.

Hex bar jumps are the ideal progression from the box jump due to the far increased level of resistance and shared trait of lower body explosiveness development, producing much the same training results though with a greater level of intensity.

Bodyweight Alternatives to the Box Jump

If the reasoning behind the substitution of the box jump has nothing to do with insufficient exercise intensity or training stimulus, simply choosing to perform a similar alternative with only the exerciser’s body weight as a source of resistance should prove more than sufficient for achieving the original goals of the exerciser.

This is likely the most convenient approach to substituting out the box jump, as doing so will require little to no change in the structure or programming of the workout session in order to retain its original stimulus and purpose.

7. Tuck Jumps

Tuck jumps are visually and functionally similar to the jump squat and the box jump, though with the added movement of the exerciser “tucking” their knees beneath their body as they leap into the air, allowing a greater level of explosiveness and coordination to be developed despite the relative simplicity of the mechanic.

tuck jump

In terms of muscle group activation, tuck jumps possess the same activation pattern as the box jump, though with somewhat greater hamstring and glute muscle recruitment as the exerciser utilizes knee flexion as they jump - thereby resulting in somewhat more intense posterior chain training stimulus.

When programming the tuck jump as a potential box jump alternative, the exerciser will find that it may act as a perfect one to one substitute in terms of volume and cadence, requiring no further alteration to the exerciser’s training program and allowing them to simply replace one movement with the other.

Unfortunately, much like jump squats, tuck jumps place a far greater amount of stress and impact on the joints of the lower body, increasing the risk of injury and soreness as the connective and osseous tissues of the body are damaged over time.

This makes the tuck jump unsuitable for exercisers with a history of lower body injury, novices with poor bodily control or those of advanced age.

8. Hurdles

More suitable for exercisers performing the box jump as a sports-specific exercise, hurdles are a similar plyometric exercise wherein the exerciser leaps over one or a number of elevated posts as they sprint through a path - effectively training their explosiveness, coordination, reflexes and aerobic endurance all in a single exercise.

hurdles

However, hurdles are considerably difficult and may result in minor injury if the exerciser sets the hurdle post elevation too high, requiring that the athlete or exerciser at the least be considered an intermediate level athlete in terms of endurance and coordination prior to performing hurdles.

Nevertheless, the usage of hurdles as a box jump alternative is highly effective - perhaps even surpassing the latter exercise in terms of aerobic endurance and bodily coordination training, though athletes performing the box jump for the purposes of specifically training jump height and control will not benefit as much from hurdles due to the less specific nature of the exercise.

Considering the fact that hurdles are highly variable and an advanced exercise, athletes wishing to substitute the box jump with hurdles should consult their coach for proper programming of the exercise.

References

1. Gjinovci B, Idrizovic K, Uljevic O, Sekulic D. Plyometric Training Improves Sprinting, Jumping and Throwing Capacities of High Level Female Volleyball Players Better Than Skill-Based Conditioning. J Sports Sci Med. 2017 Dec 1;16(4):527-535. PMID: 29238253; PMCID: PMC5721183.

2. Davies G, Riemann BL, Manske R. CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2015 Nov;10(6):760-86. PMID: 26618058; PMCID: PMC4637913.

3. Eraslan, Leyla, Birgit Castelein, Valentien Spanhove, Ceren Orhan, Irem Duzgun, and Ann Cools. “Effect of Plyometric Training on Sport Performance in Adolescent Overhead Athletes: A Systematic Review.” Sports Health 13, no. 1 (January 2021): 37–44. https://doi.org/10.1177/1941738120938007.

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
Inspire US serves as an informational hub for people looking to start their fitness journey.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information being shared is for educational purposes only. You must consult with a medical professional before acting on any content on this website.
Copyright © Inspire US 2022