Home Equipment #14: Boxes and Standing Boards

And the home equipment list continues, this time with some DIY items. First up is boxes. They seem pretty boring, but they're actually quite useful.

Boxes

Boxes are probably best known for jumping, as in "box jumps." Here's a video on them I did a few years back:

The box in the video is one of those I still use. A friend designed and built them for me (with some menial assistance from me). I have four boxes: two 12-inch (one of them is in the video) and two 8-inch. This gives me lots of options: 8-inch, 12-inch, 16-inch, 20-inch, 24-inch, 28-inch, 32-inch, and 40-inch. But we can get other increments too, as we'll see later.

My boxes are 24-inch square. They're fairly heavy but that's a side-effect of being sturdy. You don't want wimpy boxes. You can find DIY plans for boxes online. (Search for "DIY plyo box".) Or you can buy boxes, but they're generally not cheap.

When stacked, they can slide on each other so I put a weight on them to help hold them in place. A 40-pound kettlebell usually does the trick.

In addition to jumping onto boxes, you can jump off them (really, just step off them). In a depth jump, you would jump up and/or forward right after hitting the floor. In a drop jump, you just land well (but no superhero landings). These are surprisingly stressful on your body so don't overdo them.

You can also just step up onto boxes (cleverly called "step-ups") or down ("step-downs"). These are no-impact and are particularly good for rehab (or prehab). There are, of course, variations of both. One potential downside is that all of these still require headroom that you may not have, although you can pretty easily adjust your posture to give yourself more room.

Alternatively, you can lower yourself down to the box, bringing your butt to it in a squat. You can just touch the box ("squat-to-box") which is a great way to ensure consistent depth. Or you can effectively sit on the box, putting most of your (and the bar's) weight on it to eliminate the stretch reflex and make standing back up harder. As always, there are variations, including bodyweight-only as shown here (with bench instead of box):

Standing Boards

A problem with boxes is that they have rather large differences in height. For example, mine are 8 inches and 12 inches. Stacking them, I can get 16, 20, 24, etc. But 4-inch changes can be too much. So I use what I call "standing boards" because you can stand on them (although you can also sit on them). Mine are 1/2-inch thick. So let's say I want to go from a 12-inch box to an 11-inch box. Rather than lower the box, I can raise my feet by stacking two standing boards and standing on them. (Depending on the size of the boards and the width of your stance, you might need to use two boards side-by-side.)

Standing boards
Standing boards...misaligned for visibility.

Alternatively, you can put the standing boards on the box to raise it up. For example, two boards on a 12-inch box make it a 13-inch box. This is easier than standing on them, particularly if your boards are the same dimensions as the top of your box like mine (2-feet square).

Standing boards on box
Note kettlebell on boards to help keep them in place.

You can get fancy and cut your standing boards to fit nicely around the corner of your box, but I haven't needed to do anything like that so far.

Conclusion

Boxes and standing boards are a great addition to a home gym. I use mine regularly, mostly for box squats. Just be sure your boxes are sturdy and stable, whether you make your own or purchase some.

Be seeing you.

-gary

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