If you’ve kept up with fitness trends, you know the plyo box is one of the hottest members of the functional fitness family. You’ve probably seen people at the gym jumping onto them. That’s what “plyo” means—short for plyometric. Plyo boxes offer an amazing full-body workout giving you the freedom to perform a wide range of movements and target every muscle group.
But with so many options to choose from, sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.
In this review, I cover the different types of plyo boxes, important things to know, and some of the best styles to choose from.
- Best Wooden Plyometric Box: Bound 3-in-1 Plyo Box
- Best Foam Plyometric Box: Titan Fitness
- Best Adjustable Plyometric Box: Titan Fitness X Adjustable
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Types of Plyo Boxes
3-in-1 Wooden Boxes
When you have a piece of equipment, it’s always nice to have some versatility. You don’t need a bulky piece that only offers one thing (like those shoes you have that only go with one outfit). Well the 3-in-1 can be turned on top, bottom, and side to give you 3 height choices.
I honestly forgot about this option. When I stumbled upon the foam boxes again, I realized how perfect they are. These boxes are hella forgiving. The softness protects against injury and also offers a gentler learning curve when jumping.
Adjustable Platform Boxes
These steel-framed boxes adjust with a component that mirrors an ironing board. With rubber platform and feet, you get a safe and adjustable experience. Some people like these better because you can see through them—rather than having a daunting solid box.
Noteworthy “Plyo Box” Stuff
Taking the leap
The number one concern from my clients when they’re faced with the box is fear—specifically fear of wrecking their shins or their face. Believe me, I was fearful too at first. Here are some ways to set yourself up for a successful jump (if that’s what you’re using your box for).
- Start small— Grab a large bumper plate (the big ones used on olympic bars) and start by jumping on those. The 25# or 45# offer a few inches for you to jump on and gain confidence.
- Toes up— Every muscle in your legs will be tired from box jumping, but you’ll definitely be aware of your Tibialis Anterior. This is the muscle on your shin responsible for lifting your toes. If your toes start dragging, you’re gonna catch the lip of the box and go tumbling.
- Pick a box—Choose a box that works best with your psyche. Like I mentioned earlier, some people want solid boxes, and some people want to be able to see through them. Experiment until you find a box that works for your confidence level.
Mind your achilles
Whenever you’re doing an exercise that repeatedly requires you to be on/off the box platform, remember to step down—don’t jump down. Why? It could put you at risk for injuring your achilles. A simple internet search for “box jump achilles rupture” will be pretty sobering.
The high rep sequencing often found in Crossfit is a highly disputed topic. Jumping down from the platform is a lot faster and energy-efficient than stepping, but it also has risk. Due to the rapid and forceful stretch/contract sequence in the calves and Achilles during this move, there is potential for tendon damage.
Fast & Slow Twitch
Plyometrics really challenge your fast-twitch muscles. What are these? Well, people are born with both fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscle fibers. Most people have a 50/50 split, but athletes have been found to have a more concentrated form of one or the other.
Slow-twitch fibers use oxygen to fire, and take a while to warm up, but they have sustained endurance. Fast-twitch fibers fire quickly without the use of oxygen. Marathon runners will most likely have more slow-twitch fibers, and sprinters more fast-twitch fibers.
Benefits of Plyometrics
That brings us to plyometrics. No matter what hand genetics dealt, you can always train your fast-twitch fibers. Any exercise movement that has you running, jumping, leaping, etc (basically anything that suspends you in air for even a millisecond) will really challenge your muscles.
You’ll improve agility, speed, and even promote more fat burn. Because your body uses lots of muscles in these short bursts, your metabolism is heightened as well as your performance quality.
How to Use A Plyo Box (It’s More Than Just Jumping)
Keep in mind that your plyometric box can be used for core and upper body as well. The box is more than a platform for your feet. Check out these exercises that utilize other parts of your body!
Jackknife (muscles worked: triceps, shoulders, core)
- Sit on the edge of the box, with your palms situated on either side of your hips
- Walk your feet out and suspend hips in the air
- Dip your body down until your elbows are at 90°
- Simultaneously bring one knee into your chest (crunch + tricep dip)
- Press up & repeat using other leg
V-Up Abs (muscles worked: core)
- Sit on box, arms by side
- Lean back 45° while extending legs
- Crunch up, bringing knees into chest
Push-ups (muscles worked: chest, back)
- Place your hands on the back roughly shoulder width apart
- Tighten your core (your body should form a straight line)
- Bend your elbow to lower chest toward the box
Pro Tip: Elevated push-ups are great for beginners. Rather than doing pushups on your knees, this move simulates a strict push-up and takes some body weight off of the pushup load.
Plyometric Box Reviews & Recommendations
Best Wooden Box: Bound 3-in-1 Plyo Box
The Bound box is solid. Made from 3/4 inch thick plywood, this box is sturdy and capable. It comes in several sizes, so you can pick the height range that works best for you or your facility. The choices (in inches) are: 30/24/20 — 24/20/16 — 20/18/16 — 16/14/12. The Bound has user-friendly aesthetics like smoothed edges for safety and handle holes for easy moving.
For ease of shipping, the Bound box comes flat packed. There are 3 lines of defense as far as stability is concerned. The boxed is screwed together, glued together, and hammered together with tight, grooved fitting. The only downside is the assembly, but it’s pretty straightforward.
The wooden box is great for all fitness enthusiasts. If you’re wanting to try box jumps and it’s your first attempt, make sure and start with the smallest option first (12”).
Best Foam Plyometric Box: Titan Fitness
The durable Titan box is made of compressed foam and a tough, PVC fabric shell. It has a slip-free surface and gives you 3 height options: 20”, 24” & 30”.
The density of the box makes it strong enough to handle 350 pounds, and the shell resists tearing. There’s no assembly, it’s durable, and it’s safe. Keep in mind, though, the lowest option is 20” so make sure to have a spotter or use the box against the wall for added stability.
The softness of the box will have your shins breathing a sigh of relief, too. Anyone wanting to push new heights with their box jumping should consider practicing on a foam box. It’ll reduced risk of injury.
Best Adjustable Plyo Box: Titan Fitness X Adjustable
This box has a steel frame that holds up to 300 pounds. The legs adjust to 4 separate heights, and the rubber feet keep you from sliding. Though the platform is slip-resistant and suited for box jumps, use caution if you’re putting excessive weight along the edges (i.e. tricep dips).
Instead of a flippable 3-in-1 like the foam and wooden competitors, the platform raises/lowers and locks into position. It also offers more versatility in height.
The Titan Fitness X Adjustable is a wonderful pick for beginners or people with home gyms. It has low height setting and collapses for easy storage, making it accessible and portable.
Q: Do you have anymore technique tips for box jump beginners?
A: Yes! One thing to remember when first box jumping: land softly. A lot of times you’ll hear people slam onto the platform. This makes your knees cry. The foam box is a great accessory to learn this technique without sacrificing your joints.
Q: Can I stack boxes on top of each other?
A: Ambitious! I’m sure we’ve all seen gym fail videos where people try to jump on a tall stack of boxes. The rectangular boxes can be stacked for high jumping, but I recommend you use a spotter and have the boxes against the wall for added stability.
Q: What other things could I use my plyometric box for?
A: Because it’s a basic structure, your box can serve many purposes. Foam boxes can be used to teach stability, and other boxes can be used as pull-up assistants. The options are endless!
Q: Are step-ups as effective as box jumps?
A: Yes and No. Step ups are great at building muscle in your lower body, but they won’t necessarily train fast-twitch fibers as a box jump would. But unless you’re training for performance or sport, step ups are more than adequate.
Fun tip: Try stepping up on the box laterally (from the side). This abduction helps strengthen your hips and knees!
Q: Can I use plyometric boxes outdoors?
A: You can certainly use them outside. Just make sure they’re on a level, non-slip surface. However, I wouldn’t store them outside. They would eventually rust or rot.
Plyometric boxes are a great addition to your workout (regardless of your current level of fitness). They can help you strengthen your legs, lose weight, and improve your overall endurance.
Bound 3-in-1 Plyo Box (Best Wooden)
Solid, sturdy, comes in a range of sizes, and suitable for all fitness levels.
Tital Fitness 3-in-1 Plyo Box (Best Foam)
Great for pushing your limits (easiest on shins and knees).
Tital Fitness X (Best Adjustable)
Built to last, easy to store, and gives you more variety.
Do you have a preference? What kind of plyo boxes do you use? Let us know in the comments below!