Mastering Box Jumps: agility training will make you stronger.

Box Jumps and Injury

Master Athlete Amy Kramer (on the box jump).

Change (unfortunately, not for the better)in ability to see well, shift focus, and perceive depth can slow Masters Athletes performance. It can also increase risk of falls and injury. This may be most apparent as new CrossFit athletes first start with box jumps. Box jumps are notorious sources of embarrassment, excruciating shin pain and even sometimes worse.  You can Google “Box Jump and Injury” and get lots of hits, including some pretty horrible stuff on YouTube. For those unfamiliar with CrossFit, this involves jumping onto a surface 24″ (for men) or 20″ (for women) repeatedly for time. This can be plain intimidating when you are not used to it. It may take longer for a Master to figure out exactly where the surface is, and how much effort must be expended in the jump, than it would be for a younger athlete.

Box Jumps and Masters Athletes

 The Masters Athlete, especially if new to Box Jumps, may feel intimidated and uncomfortable. Glasses, especially with bifocal lenses, can make depth perception worse. They can also impair contrast sensitivity and ability to negotiate obstacles in general. This can increase risk of tripping over equipment or other athletes (Lord et al. 2010).  If you are having trouble with box jumps you might want to try it without your glasses and see if you feel more comfortable. From personal experience, box jumps get easier to do with practice. Right now the key thing to focus on is the jumping, landing and dismount. I’d focus on this before worrying about making box jumps a speed exercise.   Think of it as a balance and agility move, rather than an explosive force move.

Box Jumps and Balance Training

Here’s a little good news and something to work on. Balance training can improve the amount of force you can generate (Grenarcher et al. 2007). The Grenarcher study is very relevant to Masters, although it seems that balance training would help younger athletes too. The people involved in the study were divided into two groups. One of the groups spent 13 weeks doing balance exercise on wobble boards, sissles, soft mats, and uneven surfaces. The other group did not. At the end of 13 weeks the balance-trained group was stronger in terms of explosive force. Balance and agility training are worth the trouble.

Menant, J., St George, R., Fitzpatrick, R., & Lord, S. (2010). Impaired Depth Perception and Restricted Pitch Head Movement Increase Obstacle Contacts When Dual-Tasking in Older People The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 65A (7), 751-757 DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glq015  

Lord SR, Smith ST, & Menant JC (2010). Vision and falls in older people: risk factors and intervention strategies. Clinics in geriatric medicine, 26 (4), 569-81 PMID: 20934611  

Granacher U,Gruber M, Strass D, Gollhofer A. (2007). The impact of sensorimotor training in elderly men on maximal and explosive force production capacity DEUTSCHE ZEITSCHRIFT FUR SPORTMEDIZIN , 58 (12), 446-451

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