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Top 10 Box Jump Alternatives for Your Next Workout

Box jumps have leapt (pun intended) in popularity over the last couple of decades. After the track and field coaches understood you could improve speed and power with explosive movements such as plyometrics, they took off. Eventually they made their way into mainstream fitness workouts.

Box jumps don’t suit everyone though – some people struggle psychologically with the idea of jumping onto something – the margin for error can be small, as my girlfriend found out a short while ago when she hit her shin on a plyo box, resulting in a nasty bruise…

There’s also the issue of height – how high is high enough? How high is too high? If you’re a coach you’ve got a judgement call to make, but that can be at the expense of progress due to safety.

Although they have great athletic carryover, there are lots of other ways to replicate the benefit of box jumps, without the element of risk to them. I’ll show you how I do it at my gym, helping lots of my athletes develop power, without risking unnecessary injury.

Box jumps – the use case

There’s absolutely no doubt that box jumps are a great athletic development tool. Coaches have used them effectively for years and their use is justified in the research – they have been shown to improve conditioning more effectively than skill-based drills in volleyball players. More jump-specific research shows that plyometric jumping drills (such as box jumps) improve jump performance effectively too. 

The problem with box jumps however is that the higher injury risk coupled with the limited reward means a lot of people are reluctant to add them into training programmes – as a coach one of the guiding principles of training people is ‘do no harm’. The research has suggested the additional risk from a higher box simply can’t be justified, because a higher box doesn’t improve the results from the exercise. 

This puts us in a difficult position, because one of the key principles of training is overload, but how do you build overload and progression into an exercise where the increased difficulty is compromised by a dramatically increased injury risk?

The answer is you add resistance. You still have to generate a lot of force, so you maximize the power generation element of the lifts but you don’t have the potential danger associated with the box jump. 

Box jump alternatives

Here’s the exercises I use as Box jump alternatives with my clients. As always they’re all possible in a home gym, only requiring basic equipment. They’re all safe, progressive and effective movements that will help you replace the box jump in your training.


Dumbbell jump squat

I love the simplicity of this exercise – it perfectly replicates the box jump and is really easy to progress – you just add more weight. The focus here is on driving hard through the floor, jumping high and landing softly, cushioning the drop. It means you have both a concentric and eccentric contraction element to the exercise. 

Equipment needed for dumbbell jump squats:

  • Dumbbells

How to do dumbbell jump squats:

  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand, standing straight upright. (Make sure the dumbbells are equal weight)
  • Keep your chest up and slowly bend your legs – your thighs should be parallel with the floor
  • At full squat, drive your feet hard into the floor, extending your chest up and jumping as high as you can
  • Land with a slightly bent knee, cushioning your landing to avoid injury
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Dumbbell jump squats muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core

Trap bar jumps

The trap bar jump is another movement pattern that perfectly replicates the box jump. It’s also one that can be progressively increased from a resistance point of view – you can be very precise with your weight addition. It’s very similar to the jump squats, but because the weight sits on the floor, it requires more force to generate ‘lift off’ from the start. The trap bar can use used with the handles ‘high’ or ‘low’ – high makes the back work more, low makes the legs work more.

Equipment needed for trap bar jumps:

  • Trap bar
  • Plates

How to do trap bar jumps:

  • Load the trap bar with weight and stand inside it
  • Take hold of the handles, keep your chest up and slowly bend your legs
  • Starting position is where your arms are straight enough for the bar to be ready to lift off the floor as soon as you begin the upwards drive
  • Keep your back straight, head and chest up and drive upwards through the legs
  • Land with a slightly bent knee, cushioning your landing to avoid injury
  • Make sure the bar goes down to the floor – it should be lifted off the floor with each rep
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Trap bar jumps muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Lower back 
  • Erectors
  • Traps

Alternating Pistol squats

This one might surprise you, because it’s not an explosive movement as such. That’s true, but what it does is help you build progressive one-leg strength. Given you’re only as strong and power as your weakest link allows you to be, Pistols are an excellent functional squat that will help you be better at plyometrics. Just make sure that you do them powerfully and explosively!

Equipment needed for pistol squats:

  • Bodyweight

How to do pistol squats:

  • Stand with your chest up and arm out to the side for balance
  • Balance on one leg, putting the non-working leg in front of the body
  • Trying to keep your chest up as much as possible, descend into a deep squat
  • Dropping to full depth (thigh below parallel), spring back up to a full stand
  • Switch legs and repeat on the other side
  • Repeat as many times as required

Pistol squats muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core

Weighted vest jump squats

The beauty of this exercise lives in its simplicity – it’s a jump squat with a weight you don’t have to carry. This makes it perfect for workout where you’ll be switching between exercises quickly. It’s also a classic bodyweight loading pattern – the weight is ‘on’ you, not carried by you.

Equipment needed for weighted vest jump squats:

  • Weighted vest

How to do weighted vest jump squats:

  • Keep your chest up, your core tight and slowly lower yourself until your thighs are parallel with the floor (or lower)
  • Pause and jump directly upwards
  • Land with a bent knee and control your descent
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Weighted vest jump squats muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Lower back

Weighted vest burpees 

The burpee is a really functional exercise that has a place in sports specific workout, especially in this weighted format. I’d recommend doing a weighted burpee in the vest (it can be done with dumbbells providing the resistance instead) simply because it’s one less thing to think about!

Equipment needed for weighted vest burpees:

  • Weighted vest

How to do weighted vest burpees:

  • Quickly drop to a push up position buy kicking your legs out behind you 
  • Lower yourself to the floor
  • Once you’re lying flat on the floor, push yourself back up, then jump your legs directly underneath your torso
  • Jump directly upwards, as high as you can
  • Land with slightly bent knees to cushion the drop
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Weighted vest burpees muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Chest

Bulgarian split squat jumps

The Bulgarian split squat is a fantastic exercise of its own accord – throw a jump into it and it’s an excellent plyo exercise and a great box jump alternative. It helps to develop that all-important single leg explosive power too, so you don’t suffer from a strength imbalance. To progress this further you can add weights, but in this case it’s the unweighted version.

Equipment needed for Bulgarian split squat jumps:

  • Bench

How to do Bulgarian split squat jumps:

  • Place one foot on a bench behind you, the other a stride length in front
  • Keep your chest up and bend your front knee down to parallel to the floor
  • Jump directly upwards off the front leg, as high as you can (front foot should leave the floor)
  • Land with a slightly bent knee to cushion the drop
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Bulgarian split squat jumps muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Calves

Dumbbell deficit squats

As a weightlifting coach, I’m a big fan of deficit work because it helps to increase time under tension for muscles. You can cross this over from weightlifting into functional fitness work too. By using boxes, benches or plates to create a deficit you can increase the range of movement, making for a much tougher version of a squat. This can be done explosively to mimic the box jump.

Equipment needed for dumbbell deficit squats:

  • Benches, plates or boxes to create a deficit
  • Dumbbell or kettlebell

How to do dumbbell deficit squats:

  • Place boxes or benches a couple of feet apart
  • Stand with one foot on each
  • Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell between your knees
  • Keep your chest up and slowly squat to full depth (thighs below parallel to the floor)
  • The weight should be below the boxes or benches, making full use of the deficit
  • Stand back up to the start position
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Dumbbell deficit squats muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Lower back
  1. Barbell jump squat

This is a real go-to box jump replacement for me. It mimics real life movements and has a genuine athletic crossover. It’s also a very simple exercise to set up, requires very little in the way of equipment and is a direct copy of the box jump. The barbell on the back is also easier to deal with for some people than the dumbbells in the hands.

Equipment needed for barbell jump squats:

  • Barbell
  • Plates

How to do barbell jump squats:

  • Hold the barbell across your upper back (NEVER across your neck), standing straight upright
  • Keep your chest up and slowly bend your legs – your thighs should be parallel with the floor
  • At full squat, drive your feet hard into the floor, extending your chest up and jumping as high as you can
  • Keep the barbell pulled into your upper back throughout the movement – you don’t want to have it come crashing into your back upon landing
  • Land with a slightly bent knee, cushioning your landing to avoid injury
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Barbell jump squats muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core

Deficit trap bar deadlift

As I mentioned earlier in the article, I like the inclusion of a deficit in training because it improves range of movement. With the trap bar, the combination of the low handles and a deficit increase the range of movement significantly making them an excellent box jump alternative. You can progress this exercise even more with extra weight, a larger deficit or by adding a jump to it too.

Equipment needed for deficit trap bar deadlifts:

  • Trap bar
  • Plates
  • Plates or step to make a deficit

How to do deficit trap bar deadlifts:

  • Make sure the trap bar is set to the ‘low handles’ setting 
  • Position the trap bar over the deficit, load with weight and stand inside it
  • Take hold of the handles, keep your chest up and back straight, then stand the bar up with a powerful leg drive
  • Keep your back straight, head and chest up throughout as you drive upwards through the legs
  • Pause at the top of the movement and lower yourself back down
  • Make sure the bar goes down to the floor – it should be lifted off the floor with each rep
  • Repeat as many times as necessary

Deficit trap bar deadlift muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Core
  • Lower back 
  • Erectors
  • Traps

Single leg suspension trainer jumps

This is a fantastic exercise that is both perfect for a beginner, but also mimics the box jump well. It’s great for beginners because it doesn’t rely on elite strength or technique, because the suspension trainer can take a lot of that out of the equation. It means a challenging exercise can be made accessible to more people easily. 

Equipment needed for single leg suspension trainer jumps:

  • Suspension trainer

How to do single leg suspension trainer jumps:

  • Stand with your chest up and both arms holding on to the straps
  • Balance on one leg, putting the non-working leg in front of the body
  • Trying to keep your chest up as much as possible, descend into a deep squat
  • Dropping to full depth (thigh below parallel), spring back up to a full stand
  • Land on the opposite leg with a slightly bent knee to cushion the drop
  • Repeat as many times as required

Single leg suspension trainer jumps muscles worked:

  • Quads
  • Glutes
  • Calves

Box jump alternatives – the bottom line

Box jumps are an excellent exercise, but they’re not without their risks. In this article I’ve shared the alternatives I use with my clients that are not only effective, they’re also full of variety and new challenges. There’ll be exercises in here that you probably haven’t done before.

There’s nothing in this list that you won’t be able to do in your home gym, even if you don’t have all of the equipment required there are a few exercises that you could still do. 

Don’t let the risk of box jumps prevent you from working on your lower body plyometrics and explosive power drills. These exercises will give you plenty of training options, so you’ll have progressions and variety forever.

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Hi! My name is Steve Hoyles. I’m a personal trainer, gym owner and fitness copywriter. Since graduating with my Sports Science degree in 2004 I’ve worked in the fitness industry, helping thousands of people reach their health and fitness goals. My writing has been read by millions of people in over 200 countries.

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