Plyometrics are a great way to train force production and athleticism. To do plyo jumps, you need something to jump on. What is important when you go shopping for a plyo box? Let’s find out.
Plyo boxes are boxes made to jump on. They can be made out of wood, foam or steel and come in many different heights. The best box for you depends on how you’re going to use it and what your training level is. They come in many shapes and sizes so everyone can get what they need.
Let’s dive a little deeper into all the variables and what you need.
What are plyo boxes and what are they for?
Let’s start with a quick description of what plyo boxes are and what they are used for. If you clicked on this post, you probably already know but if you don’t, let’s get it out of the way before we proceed.
Plyo is short for plyometrics. Plyometric training is a type of training where the trainee exerts the maximum force and speed in a short period of time. So where normal weightlifting is focused on the weight but less on the speed, plyo training is focused around the speed at which you perform a movement.
Power production is weight x speed. So instead of focusing on lifting the most amount of weight at a low speed, you just focus on moving your body weight as fast as possible. Even though the total power produced might be similar, the training is very different and the results are different. This type of training is great for athleticism and rehabilitation. The different types of training have a different effect on your muscles, movements and how you look.
Plyometric training can be done with many different exercises. The most common are push-ups, kicking, throwing and jumping. These are movements where you can try to move as quickly as possible.
So where do the boxes come in? They are mostly for jumping on during plyometric training, hence ’plyo box’. Speed and force are hard to measure without special equipment. However, the higher you jump, the more force and speed you have to put in the jump. So if you jump on a higher box than before, it means you produced more force.
A plyo box is a box that is built to jump on for the sake of plyometric training.
Types of plyo boxes
Now we know what they are used for, let’s take a look at the different types.
There are two main shapes of plyo boxes;
Plyo boxes are pretty much all rectangular in shape. The top has to be flat to provide your feet a stable place to land. The bottom has to be flat so it doesn’t fall over. And if the top and bottom are flat, it’s the easiest to make the sidewalls flat as well.
Often the boxes aren’t perfect cubes. They make all the dimensions slightly different. For example, putting it on one side it’s 12” tall. Turning it onto another side makes a 14” tall box and the third way to put it down means it’s 16” tall.
This is great for training. You have different heights in one box so you can progress without having to buy a new box for every two inches. Of course if you make a lot of progress, it’s necessary to upgrade but at least with this shape you have a little room to grow.
There are also a few boxes that aren’t really a box but more like an elevated platform. There are legs under the platform that elevate it and the top is usually covered in rubber to provide grip. The shape of these can still be square but often they’re trapezoidal. The bottom is wider than the top. That means you can use them any other way than the right way up. On the other hand, this shape does provide more stability.
For home use, the cuboid boxes are a better option because they take up less space for multiple heights.
Plyo box materials
There are a few materials that are commonly used to build plyo boxes;
The simplest boxes are constructed out of wood or plywood. It’s strong, pretty durable and easy to build so it makes a lot of sense to use wood. The fact that they’re simple doesn’t mean they’re not effective. You do want something with a decent finish. Getting splinters in your shins is not a fun time.
Wooden boxes are a cheap and effective option. Make sure there are some cutouts in the sides so they’re easy to move.
Wood often has the least grippy surface and is not suitable to be used outside often. When wood gets wet, it starts rotting and that’s not something you want with an object you put your whole weight on. Wooden boxes are better suited for use inside (or if you’re very, very sure they’re going to stay dry outside).
Very sturdy and will last forever. On the flipside, these are often just a single height. These often have a rubber layer on top which provides a bit better grip than wood or bare metal.
Metal lasts longer than wood or foam boxes. If you want to have something that can stand a lot of abuse, metal plyo boxes are a good bet.
Metal is good for use outdoors. Although metal can corrode, paint and protective caps can keep all the water away from the bare metal and so prevent corrosion.
Foam + Vinyl
These are relatively solid (for foam) blocks, covered in vinyl. This means you have a soft landing if you don’t make a jump. Most people don’t enjoy slamming their shins into a hard wooden or metal edge. The foam means that you’re much less likely to hurt yourself.
Also, many of these foam boxes are stackable. You can attach them to each other with Velcro for extra height. For example, if you have a 24” and 6” box. You could combine them for a total 30” height. So with a set of these, you can create many different heights. Not all foam boxes have this option though.
They are a bit less durable than wood or metal but in a home gym, they’re unlikely to see so much use that it makes a big difference. The vinyl on the outside usually has an anti-slip texture for added safety.
How tall should your plyo box be?
A big part of buying the right box for you is getting the correct height.
So what is the right height for you? That obviously depends on how high you can jump. You want the height to be possible but a little challenging. If it isn’t challenging, you’re not pushing yourself and you probably won’t improve.
Everyone starts from a different level. You can’t expect to jump to the same height as an NBA player while trying for the first time. Of course your height plays a role as well. Taller people tend to be able to jump higher although that’s by no means a guarantee.
That’s why it’s impossible to tell you exactly how tall your first plyo box should be. The only way to find out is to jump and measure.
Don’t know how high you can jump now? Stand next to a brick wall. Ask someone to video you while you jump. Jump as high as you can. Then check the video and count how many bricks are between the ground and your feet. Then measure how high that is. This will give you a rough idea of your current capability.
Don’t forget to pull up your legs on the top of the jump. This is not a pure vertical jump with stretched legs.
After you figure out how high you can jump, you know your starting point. However, if you measured a 20” jump, it doesn’t mean you should start with that exact height box. Especially if your technique isn’t all the way there yet, it’s better to start a few inches (+-4”) lower than that. That allows you to train your technique before really pushing yourself. If you have to push to the max from the beginning, you can make some mistakes that could end up hurting you.
Of course over time, you try to become better e.g. jump higher. That’s the way you become better at something. That means over time you’ll need taller boxes. For that reason, the foam boxes that can be stacked are a great option. They can grow with you over time.
Where can you use plyo boxes?
Before you buy a set of boxes, it’s a good idea to give some thought to where you can actually use these boxes.
The main reason to get plyo boxes is to jump on them. There are some other uses but they are more accidental than that they’re designed for that. Jumping tends to happen vertically. That means you need some headroom to actually properly use them.
You don’t need all that much floor space to use a plyo box. A space of 4’ by 4’ would be enough for most people. You do want to leave enough space on the sides so your arms don’t swing into anything during lift off.
While floor space is necessary, the headroom is even more important. You really don’t want to hit your head on the ceiling during a jump. Hitting your arm hurts, hitting your head can be very dangerous.
So it’s important to verify the ceilings are high enough. What is high enough is completely dependent on how high you can jump of course. You want the ceiling to be at least as high as you can jump + a few inches as a margin.
How tall of a ceiling you need exactly depends on a two factors;
- How tall you are
- How high you jump
In practice this will look like this; Your height + the height of the box + about 5”.
E.g. 6’ + 2’ + 5= 8’5
You need a bit extra headroom because you’ll likely jump slightly higher than you need to in order to be able to get your feet on the box. Especially if your technique is not 100% correct.
How high you can jump will change over time. If you’re successful training your jumping, you’ll likely be able to jump higher over time. So if it’s tight in the beginning, you’ll really get in trouble after a few months of training.
Of course if you use these boxes outside, you won’t have any problem. The sky is the limit, literally. But, it’s not always possible to work out outside.
What to look for in home gym plyo box
Above is a lot of information. Let’s pull all of that together and summarize what you’re actually looking for in a plyo box for a home gym;
- Correct height: The most important feature of any plyo box is the height. Get one that’s suitable for you. Preferably get one that has different heights so it can grow with you without having to get a new one.
- Right material for you: Steel is the best for outdoor use. Foam is the safest and often most flexible although the least durable. Wood is a cheap and durable option but not great for use outdoors if it can get wet.
- Sturdy: Of course you want it to be sturdy and durable. On wood and metal you want rounded edges and a solid construction. On foam the vinyl has to be of high quality. It’s something you’re going to land on and trust your body with. It has to be well built.
- Non-slip surface: The surface you land your feet on should have some sort of non-slip treatment. This can be a layer of rubber, a special coating or a grippy pattern. Slipping during a landing can be quite dangerous.
- Good fit and finish: No sharp edges. Peeling coatings, bad stitching in the vinyl, etc.
In the end plyo boxes are pretty simple; it’s something you jump on. There are a few things to look out for but by far the most important things are that it can handle what you throw at it while being tall/low enough for your needs.
Recommended Plyo boxes
Here are the top three plyo boxes for home gyms;
#1: Yes4All stackable foam plyo box
The best option for your home gym is this foam plyo box. Foam boxes are great for training because if you make a mistake, it doesn’t hurt as much.
The biggest benefit of this specific model is that you can stack them on top of each other. All the boxes have Velcro on the sides so you can safely attach them to each other. That means you don’t have to buy a big new box when you are ready to jump higher. Just get one a few inches high and attach it to the other one and you have a taller box. This is much easier for storage as well.
This model is available in many different heights so you can tailor your stack to exactly what you need. No matter which height you get, they all have
#2: Yes4All wooden plyo box
If you want something simpler, this wooden box is for you. It’s a very well executed version of a wooden plyo box.
It is shaped in a way so there are three dimensions. So putting it on a different side will give you a different height to jump on.
The edges are rounded for a little more safety. The construction is solid with puzzle joints and internal bracing. There are two cutouts for easy handling which are also finished nicely with rounded edges.
These boxes are relatively cheap and will absolutely do the job.
#3: Rage Fitness Steel plyo box
You need the strongest thing to jump on you can get your hands on. These Rage Fitness ones are a good way to go for you.
They are a single fixed height like is normal with this style of box. However, you can ‘nest’ the smaller ones into the bigger ones so it doesn’t take up too much space if you’ve got multiple.
The frame is made from steel but the top part is plywood and rubber. The rubber provides good grip during landings.
These are boxes that are suitable for use outside. They’re easy to wash and can get a little wet without problems. Wood and foam boxes are less suitable to use outside. You don’t want the wood or foam to get wet because it can deteriorate the material very quickly. That means those are more suitable for inside use.
Metal can corrode but these frames are well protected with paint and plastic caps that seal off the inside so with proper maintenance, these frames should last a long time even when used outside.