The 10 Best Plyo Boxes
A Brief History Of Plyometrics
Soviet athletes always seemed to be bigger, faster, and more agile than their competition.
This meant four years of weight training, being able to squat 1.5 times their body weight, and being physically mature enough that their growth plates had fused together.
If you thought that the Soviet Union's greatest weapon was its nuclear arsenal, then you clearly weren't paying attention to the training methods their athletes used. Soviet athletes always seemed to be bigger, faster, and more agile than their competition.
And sure, some of that was due to the massive amounts of steroids they consumed, but that's only half the story. The other half revolves around a Russian scientist named Dr. Yuri Verkoshansky, who believed that repetitive jumping was crucial for developing fast-twitch muscle fibers.
His subjects were expected to jump in every direction, over and over, using different styles and combinations. This kept the muscles under constant stress, never allowing them to adapt and forcing them to grow.
In fact, the Soviets considered his plyometric routines to be so demanding that athletes had to qualify to use them. This meant four years of weight training, being able to squat 1.5 times their body weight, and being physically mature enough that their growth plates had fused together.
In 1964, Dr. Verkoshansky published his findings, demonstrating that his methods were fantastic for athletic performance. The rest of the world hardly needed to peruse the data — they only needed to see that the medal counts were often dominated by Eastern Bloc countries.
Still, it would take an act of God for plyometrics to catch on in America — and by God, of course, I'm referring to Tom Landry. The famed Dallas Cowboys coach began to use the techniques in practices, believing that they targeted the hip muscles, which in turn produced greater speed and agility. The Cowboys' success led to their methods being copied by other teams in the league, and eventually by college and high school squads, as well.
By the 1980s, the Soviet strategies were almost fully disseminated in the United States, thanks largely to the work of American sports scientist Michael Yessis. Yessis learned directly from Dr. Verkoshansky in Russia before bringing his methods stateside and expounding on them further.
Today, plyometrics are a mainstay of performance-based training. You'll be hard-pressed to find a workout that's more demanding, yet requires little in the way of equipment. Who'd have thought that, to get a powerful and toned body, all you need to do is jump around?
Benefits Of Plyometrics
To understand why plyometrics are so effective, you first need to understand how your muscles work. When you're preparing to jump, for example, your hip muscles contract, and then their expansion powers you through your leap. The less time that elapses between this contraction and expansion, the more power you'll generate — and plyometrics forces your muscles to work fast.
Having more powerful, explosive muscles can help you lift more, run faster, and jump higher.
Having more powerful, explosive muscles can help you lift more, run faster, and jump higher. Box jumps are perfect for anyone looking to shave seconds off of their 40-yard dash time or hoping to add an extra few plates on the squat rack.
Plyometrics aren't just about performance, though. Since your muscles will be working harder, they'll need more fuel — and that means burning stored fat.
You won't just be torching fat cells, either. Plyometrics are also a strength-training exercise, so you'll see improvements in muscle size and tone with regular effort. This can also save you some time at the gym, allowing you to effectively kill two birds with one stone.
These movements aren't without their drawbacks, however. It's easy to hurt yourself doing plyometrics, so make sure you're jumping to a height you're comfortable with, and that the ground is well-padded. It also places a good deal of stress on your joints, so arthritis sufferers should likely look for something more low-impact. Either way, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before you begin.
If you're healthy (and coordinated) enough for plyometrics, you'll likely fall in love with the results you see. And if you don't like it, you're only out the cost of a box — which still comes in handy around the house for changing light bulbs and such.
Box jumping is one of the most basic — and effective — plyometric exercises you can do. That doesn't mean, however, that you should jump right into it without a little research.
Many models have adjustable heights, so if you're planning on doing this for the long haul, that's likely a more economical decision than buying multiple units.
Once you realize that all you're doing is jumping on a box, you may be tempted to just use items around the house. This is a bad idea for a few reasons. First, plyo boxes are built for this, so you can trust them with your weight. If the box does break, however, at least you won't have ruined something valuable, like antique furniture. And finally, most boxes are made with anti-skid rubber pads, which you'll appreciate the first time your foot slips and your face breaks your fall.
If you're just getting started, start small. A 20-inch box is plenty for most men, while women should look at a 16-inch version. Many models have adjustable heights, so if you're planning on doing this for the long haul, that's likely a more economical decision than buying multiple units.
You'll want to go slow with the actual training. There's a technique to this, so make sure you get it down. Push off and land with both feet equally, swing your arms to help you generate force, and brace your core the entire time.
Never push yourself too hard, either. If you fail to clear the box, you could gash your shin — or worse. The last thing you want to do is have to quit, possibly for good, because you seriously injured yourself trying to get one last rep in.
Don't be nervous, though. Plyometrics are a fantastic and fun way to get in the best shape of your life, and it won't cost you an arm and a leg to do it.