Box Jumps: Step Down if You Like Your Achilles

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A growing number of CrossFit coaches are programming only “jump up-step down” box jumps in their training sessions. Why? Achilles tendon tears happen way too often in high-rep box jump sessions, making it one of more dangerous exercises in CrossFit – especially if you are a guy. The male to female ratio for Achilles tendon rupture varies between 7:1 and 4:1 across various studies.

Step down vs. Jump down

CrossFit Snohomish covers the basics of the jump up-step down box jump:

The jump up-jump down method in my opinion should really be reserved for those looking to be competitive in the sport of CrossFit and even at that, should possibly be saved for game day performances.
This method trains the explosive component of the movement that is the hallmark of the box jump. While providing the power and coordination of the jump, it also minimizes the risk on the descent back to the ground. It lacks some of the coordination and agility of our final option, the super speedy jump up-jump down version of the movement. This type of box jump is by far the fastest and I believe has the most potential to train the physical abilities that we are shooting for on the box jumps. It also has the most inherent risk due to the potential to get out of control and due to the rapid and forceful stretch/contract sequence in the calves and Achilles during the quick bounce off the ground.

And what method do they recommend for their clients?

I believe that the jump up-step down provides the most training effect while minimizing risk. The jump up-jump down method in my opinion should really be reserved for those looking to be competitive in the sport of CrossFit and even at that, should possibly be saved for game day performances.

…Most of these [injuries] are probably occurring at the point at the bottom of the jump down when the tendon becomes the most stretched and then is forced to contract for the next jump.
How did I come to this opinion? First, I have seen enough people struggle with the coordination of the jump up-jump down method and rake shins, twist ankles, hurt knees (me) etc… This is why I originally did not allow them at all. After our recent box jump injury, I have been doing my own informal research and have heard of enough other athletes getting the same torn Achilles injury that I am beginning to feel there is a connection between the jump down method and this particular injury. I believe that most of these are probably occurring at the point at the bottom of the jump down when the tendon becomes the most stretched and then is forced to contract for the next jump.

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