Some people are confused about why there are simple wooden boxes in their local gyms. However, plyo boxes can be used for a variety of exercises.
The best plyo box dimensions will vary from person to person and exercise to exercise. You can also often use other fitness equipment or platforms of similar heights if you prefer the feel of these.
One important thing to keep in mind no matter what object you use is that it is sturdy enough.
Especially if you use extra weights and lift heavy. You don’t want your plyo box to break during the exercises.
Lastly, you want to make sure your plyo box stands on a stable and non-slippery surface.
Table of Contents
1. Box jumps
Box jumps are one of the main exercises plyo boxes are used for. Take the following steps to do a box jump:
- Stand upright in front of the box with your feet at shoulder width.
- Bend into about a quarter squat or slightly lower while you swing your arms back.
- Swing your arms to the front again and at the same time jump forward on top of the box. When landing you want to have your knees more or less at the quarter squat again. If your hips are lower than that, it may be a sign the box is too high for your current jump level.
- Step down for the next repetition.
The way you work your muscles influences what fitness component you train. In box jumps you train your leg muscles explosively which is helpful for training muscle power.
This can in turn be helpful for athletes and other individuals who want to improve things like vertical jump performance and sprint speed.
Make sure you don’t overdo it with box height. Start low and build up from there. Being too optimistic about your capabilities can be especially punishing even if you use a foam plyo box.
Something else to keep in mind if you use foam instead of wood plyo boxes is that many brands tend to be less stable than the wooden models. Especially if you put them on their narrowest side.
One way to avoid instability somewhat is to put the plyo box against a wall.
2. Box step-ups
For resistance training step-ups you want your plyo box to be at a height where your upper legs are horizontal or higher when you put your foot on the box.
Higher can be beneficial as long you can still do the exercise in a safe way. Take the following steps to do a box step-up:
- Stand upright in front of the box with your feet at about shoulder width.
- Raise one foot and put it on the surface of the plyo box. Make sure your sole is entirely on the box.
- Raise your body by exerting pressure with the leg of the foot that is on the plyo box.
- Put your second foot next to the other one.
- Step down.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions with your other foot first.
Box step-ups are a plyo box exercise to grow and strengthen leg muscles like your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip abductors (outer thighs), and hip adductors (inner thighs).
This movement is relatively beginner-friendly but some people may need to start with two-legged leg exercises like squats anyway.
On the other hand, more experienced lifters may need to do box step-ups with weights to be able to grow and strengthen their muscles.
3. Incline and decline pushups
Pushups are a popular exercise with many variations. These pushup variations can make things easier, harder, and/or focus on different muscles and fitness components. In a few of these, a plyo box can help.
For example, take the following steps to do an incline plyo box pushup:
- Put your hands about shoulder-width apart on the plyo box. Your arms start stretched.
- Move your feet back until your body is in a straight line and your arms are at a 90-degree angle to your body.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the box. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in the position from the second step.
Incline pushups are easier to do than regular pushups since less of your body weight rests on your arms. Due to the different angle, incline pushups also focus more on your lower chest muscles than regular pushups.
On the other hand, you can also use a plyo box to do decline pushups. For these, your feet rest on the plyo box and your hands on the ground.
This second plyo box upper body exercise would focus more on your upper chest and shoulder muscles compared to regular pushups. Additionally, you also still get a bit of core muscle engagement.
4. Box hip thrusts
For the next exercise you need a box that is about as high as your lower legs are long. This box is preferably a soft plyo box for the good type of better comfort.
Additionally, most people will need extra weight to make the exercise more challenging. A barbell with weight plates and a foam squat pad are the most popular options.
Once you have the right equipment, take the following steps to do a box hip thrust:
- Sit right in front of the plyo box you will use with your back slightly over the edge. Make sure the box is stable. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width in a position where your knees will be at a 90-degree angle in the next step. If you want you can hold a weight on your body at the hip level.
- Move up your hips until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Slowly lower your body again.
Similar to the version with other equipment, hip thrusts are mainly a glute isolation exercise. This plyo box exercise also works your hamstring muscles and lower back muscles a good amount.
By elevating your upper body with the plyo box your glute and hamstring muscles go through a larger range of motion. This is typically beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
5. Box dips
The dip is a tricep and lower chest exercise that is typically done with two horizontal bars. You can also do a variation with a plyo box. Take the following steps to do a box dip:
- Stand in front of the plyo box with your back to it.
- Put your hands on the edge of the plyo box shoulder-width apart. Shift your weight so that your arms mostly carry it. Keep your arms stretched.
- Slowly bend your elbows until they are at a 90-degree angle. When lowering your body keep it just in front of the plyo box. Make sure your arms do as much of the work as possible.
- Raise your body back into the position of step two in a controlled motion.
Because part of your body weight is resting on the ground, box dips are easier than regular dips. This can be a benefit for beginners who currently find regular dips but a downside if plyo box dips are too easy.
Two ways to make plyo box dips more challenging are elevating your feet and wearing a good weighted vest.
Something else to note is that some people find box dips too uncomfortable on their shoulders. If you have any issues in this area you want to be extra careful.
6. Box squats
This next exercise is also done with box squat boxes but if you have a sturdy plyo box and don’t lift too heavy, this can work too. Make sure you have an idea of the sturdiness of the box.
Take the following steps to do plyo box squats:
- Stand in front of the plyo box with your back to it. Your feet should be about shoulder width apart.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees until you touch or sit down on the box. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
- Pause a second or two.
- Push yourself up again into starting position by raising your hips.
Most people will need to do the weighted barbell back squat version of this movement to get the most benefits out of it.
The height of your plyo box can vary depending on your training goals. High and low box squats can both be good plyo box exercises.
Box squats are typically done for reasons like improving squat technique and getting a better feel of squat depth. At the same time, they will
7. Feet-elevated pike pushups
Pike pushups are another pushup variation where you change the angle of your upper body in relation to the ground. Due to the different push angle, this works your muscles in a different ratio.
You can also elevate your feet with a plyo box. Take the following steps to do this version of the exercise:
- Get into a position with your back toward the plyo box right in front of it and your hand palms on the ground.
- Put your feet on the plyo box while keeping your hands in the same position.
- Move your hips so that your upper body is in more or less a straight line and is about vertical or at a slightly smaller angle than that to the ground. Your arms should be slightly less than stretched.
- Slowly lower your upper body by folding your elbows until your head hovers just above the ground.
- Move your body back up into the position of step 3 in a controlled motion by extending your arms.
By elevating your feet with a plyo box, pike pushups become a lot more challenging for your deltoid and tricep muscles.
You can also elevate your hands with something like pushups bars so that your muscles can go through a bigger range of motion.
Resistance training beginners will likely need to start with regular bodyweight pike pushups. On the other hand, experienced lifters may like this extra challenge and potentially need a weighted vest on top of that.
8. Box burpees
Plyo box burpees can get really tiring at the end of a set. Most people will want to use a somewhat lower and stable plyo box. Once you have this, take the following steps to do the exercise:
- Stand facing toward the box with some room between you and the box.
- Squat down and place your hands flat on the ground.
- Kick back your feet so you are in a plank position. Your arms should be slightly less than stretched.
- Lower your body by folding your elbows until your face is close to the floor. Your arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees to your sides during this movement. Also make sure you keep your back straight.
- Push yourself back into a plank position by stretching your arms.
- Return to your previous squat position by kicking your feet to the front again.
- Jump up on the plyo box with the help of your legs and arm momentum.
- Step back down and get into starting position.
In simple words, you can describe plyo box burpees as a combination of a pushup, box jump, and bodyweight squat.
Plyo box workouts often focus on muscle power, muscle growth, and muscle strength. However, (HIIT) exercises like plyo box burpees can also be a fun way to improve cardiovascular health for more experienced lifters.
On the other hand, some parts of the sequence like the pushup could be challenging enough for resistance training beginners to grow and strengthen certain muscles.
9. Bulgarian split squats
Take the following steps to do a Bulgarian split squat with the help of a plyo box:
- Stand in front of the plyo box with your back to it. Keep about a leg distance between you and the box.
- Move one leg back and put the foot of this side on the plyo box. The top of your foot should lean on the surface of the box.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending the knee of your stretched leg until your hip is at about the height of your knee of the previously stretched leg. Use your arms for balance if needed.
- Push yourself up again into the position of step 2.
- Repeat the same number of repetitions on the leg of the other side to keep your muscle distribution balanced.
Bulgarian split squats can be done with a variety of objects, including the plyo box. Some people prefer a soft plyo box but harder ones can definitely work too.
By elevating one foot instead of doing exercises like bodyweight squats and lunges, more of your body weight rests on the front leg. In turn, this makes the exercise harder for your muscles which can be helpful for muscle growth.
Compared to step-ups, plyo box Bulgarian split squats focus slightly more on the quadriceps and slightly less on the glutes and hamstrings. This can be good or bad depending on your training goals.
10. Box calf raises
For calf raises you typically want to use a specific calf raise block or similar stable and sturdy surfaces. That being said, if you have a plyo box that is sturdy and stable enough, you could also consider using this.
Additionally, make sure your shoe soles are non-slippery enough for this exercise to avoid any injuries. Take the following steps to do a calf raise with the help of a plyo box:
- Stand on the edge of the plyo box. The ball of your feet (the front part of your feet) should be on the edge of the plyo box, your heels should hover in the air.
- Lower your body as far as possible while keeping your feet in the same position.
- Raise your body as far as possible again keeping your feet in the same position.
As the name implies this plyo box exercise is for training your calf muscles. You only need a low plyo box to make this movement more effective.
Doing calf raises with your feet on an elevated surface allows your calf muscles to go through a larger range of motion. This is generally beneficial for muscle growth and strength progress.
To make the movement challenging enough you can either work one leg at a time or use extra resistance like a weighted vest or dumbbells. Make sure you can still keep your balance.