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The gym I currently train at doesn't have equipment for Olympic lifting with barbells, so instead I'm using dumbbell Olympic lifts and box jumps (with either one leg or both) for my power/explosiveness training. However, I'm a bit lost as to how to measure my box jump progress, and how much improvement I should expect in a given period of time.

With my barbell power clean, I knew that as an average-size somewhat-athletic male new to lifting, I can expect to add roughly five pounds to my power clean every week or even every workout until I reached approximately a little under my own bodyweight. I don't know what to add to my box jump (height? reps? weight?), or how much, or how much to expect in a month or a year.

My current program is, roughly:

  • Light 10- to 20-rep back squats, circa 40kg, for hip mobility
  • 3 sets of 5 front squats, circa 75kg, with 2 to 3 minute rests, during which I do a set of 5 box jumps at approximately hip height, making for a total of 3 sets of 5 box jumps supersetted with the front squats
  • 1 set of 5 deadlifts, circa 130kg OR 3 sets of 5 one-arm dumbbell snatches circa 24kg
  • 3 sets of pull-ups, ~10-12
  • 3 sets of dips, ~15-20
  • occasional metcons from Catalyst Athletics or Ross Enamait

Keeping in mind that my goal is to use it as a training tool to develop explosive power (not to improve my box jump per se), how should I measure progress with the box jump? What kind of progress should I expect? Should I be jumping six inches higher after the first month, or an inch higher per month for the first year, or should my ability to do more reps increase while the height stays the same? Should I keep the box height constant and measure improvement with a vertical jump test? Personal experiences welcome, as are references.

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2 Answers

You are asking about measuring two different metrics. One is power/explosiveness, the other is endurance. Technique is a factor, but really only measurable in the initial phases, which it sounds like you are past that point already.

While I have no personal experience with training box jumps, other than as occasional plyometric exercises in the dojangh, I would think that you could treat it much the same as you would your 1 rep maximum on a particular lift.

Figure out what your 1 shot, best box jump height is, and scale down from that, and establish your benchmarks. If your 1 shot best is three feet (And I'm making up the numbers), then the next time set it for two feet and establish your endurance. Train for a few months then remeasure both.

As far as the progression, I don't know if you could introduce an expected standard, simply because the genetic makeup (Fast twitch vs. slow twitch) is going to vary from individual to individual. I would expect, however, that it's much like anything else, large gains in the beginning with decreasing gains the further along the training scale you get.

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I'm not sure the approach you describe will be productive, since I'm entirely uninterested in box jumps for endurance. I train my endurance/cardio with a variety of other methods (currently running + rowing + metcons + kickboxing), I see the box jump as disproportionately dangerous for high rep work, and want to use the box jump purely for explosiveness and power. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 5 '13 at 8:44
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Perhaps just the max height for a single box jump/vertical jump (if you don't want technique to be a factor for improvement). I'm hoping/expecting that your setup allows you to increase height.

I have a friend who was box jump training for a bit, he gained a few inches over maybe 2-3 months of intensive training. But I think doubling your box jump height is a lot harder than doubling your squat weight!

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Your friend's anecdata point is useful, thanks. I can change the height but only by several inches at a time. I am coming to believe that box jumps are not the safest tool for max-effort attempts. I think for testing I would prefer something that doesn't involve pain and embarrassment when I miss. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 27 '13 at 7:31
    
Yeah, plain vertical jumps might just be better. Do you still think it's good to do serious training via box jumping? You definitely can't push as hard doing it, and I think adding weights would be too dangerous. Also that looks like a good contraption, though I imagine with a bit of creativity you could do it for cheap (e.g. black rope, chalk on hands). –  andrewb Nov 27 '13 at 11:51
    
I still use the box (at my gym it's technically a platform) for explosive jumps, but I stopped using its height as a test. Specifically, I can set it to "6" (approx belly button or hip height) and I can do it, but there's little margin for error. Since I'm doing the jumps in between squat sets without much rest, I decided it was safer to put it on "5" (groin/upper thigh height) and focus on a picture-perfect, plenty-of-extra-height jumps. I haven't been doing any testing at all; maybe when I hit 1.5xBW front squat I'll re-test how "6" feels. –  Dave Liepmann Nov 27 '13 at 12:05
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