Get a…Jump…on Your Goals

I tried for about ninety seconds to think of the corniest possible name for this entry and pretty sure I succeeded.  Terrible consideration was also given to “Jump Start Your Strength” but I didn’t want this to come off as a strength only blog entry.

In the past six months I have become stronger and leaner than I have ever been, and that includes my days as a college athlete.  My body fat generally sits at around 9-10% (depending on whether or not I’m treating myself to Chic-Fil-A after an 80-hour week), maximum pulls are right around 230% of body weight  and maximum overhead pushing capacity is around 140% and counting.  As I have put in much hard work, these are numbers I am proud of but not satisfied with and hope to continue to improve in 2012.

A few things have caused me to break the personal plateaus I had reached.

  1. By and large, I have adopted the Paleo/Primal eating habits on a consistent basis which has shed unneeded body fat.  I’m not a freak about it, but just the overall habit of veggies and meat over carb-heavy meals is very legit.  Most people eat like they are training for a marathon and not expending the energy they need to burn of that carbohydrate intake.  Don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
  2. I opened a gym.  It’s much easier to get stronger when your commute to the gym and work are the same thing.
  3. I started doing more complex pulling (deadlifts, hang cleans) and pushing (push press, jerk, bench) on the regular, roughly three times per week.
  4. I started jumping a lot.

#4 is hugely responsible for the reduction in body fat and increase in pulling strength.

Jumping is the new running.

Or at least that would be my slogan if I ever ran for Supreme Meathead.

Launching your body off the ground for a maximum effort either for peak height or high-volume will drastically change the make-up of your body and strength.

As my maximum height box jump continues to increase (57″ shown below) so to does my maximum total body strength.  There has been direct correlation to it almost at an exact fixed percentage.

Currently, every time my box jump goes up one inch my deadlift seems to increase roughly ten pounds along with eight.

While jumping is incredibly primal in nature, hence it being a plain fun way to work on your fitness, there is some serious modern science behind its benefits.

Box Jumps for Strength

Training for strength works one metabolic pathway and that is ATP and Phosphocreatine (ATP-PRc).  True strength training lifts do not last any longer than fifteen seconds from start of set to finish (with the exception of volume squats and very advanced technique).  By and large, you are getting under/picking up the bar and putting it down in a few seconds when training at maximal capacity.

The act of applying pure power, such as jumping on the highest point you are physically capable trains the ATP-PCr system, as well as pure Type-II muscle fibers which are responsible for picking up very heavy things.

When you train that kind of maximum power application, and we’re talking MAXIMUM, like 2-3 jumps at your highest capable level, it has a very profound carry over to your heavier lifts like squats and deadlifts.  You are working the same set of muscles, energy systems and fiber types within those muscles.

Box Jumps for Fat Loss

Box Jumps are also an incredible exercise for fat loss and conditioning when applied to the right context.

Basically, the difference between any kind of training goal whether it’s strength, muscle growth or fat loss boils down to how long you are performing a certain activity and when you kick into a different metabolic pathway (fuel tank).  This is a large generalization but one that will suffice as you learn that what you are doing directly effects your abilities and body composition.

When you get past about ten to fifteen seconds of continuous movement you exit the ATP-PCr system and switch over to glycolysis, where you are no longer burning stored ATP and creatine phosphate, but now working towards burning glycogen, your bodies stored glucose/carbohydrates that is uses as energy (again, massive simplification).

In order to tap into your body fat as fuel, you must first burn through ATP-PCr, glycogen, and then you reach body fat so it’s critical you enter a period of continuous movement during your workouts.  Avoiding that dreaded 3×12 routine, straight sets with far too much rest is a start.

So you can see that a prolonged set of box jumps (12-15 reps) will take you into that needed zone of working towards glycogen depletion and then moving into that desired fat burning zone when it’s compounded over the course of a 25 minute circuit.

Note:  This is exactly why you cannot sustain a 50″ box jump for high reps.  That type of jump is so power-dependent on the ATP-PCr system that once it’s depleted, it’s gone unless you rest a minute or so. 


Regardless of your goal, box jumps will absolutely help you.

If you want to deadlift twice or even three times your body weight then maximal height box jumps in the 1-4 rep range will be a great compliment once per week, and done on fresh legs.

If you want to burn fat and improve your conditioning then throwing 50 into a circuit spread out over three to five rounds is a welcomed component.

Not to mention, being able to jump high is just a plain cool feeling.


  1. “In order to tap into your body fat as fuel, you must first burn through ATP-PCr, glycogen, and then you reach body fat so it’s critical you enter a period of continuous movement during your workouts.”

    Are you saying that by doing 12-15 box jumps then immediately playing soccer for 25 minutes, I’d burn more body fat? Or would I need to be doing some sort of lifting instead of mostly cardio (soccer)?

    1. It’s a tricky and not always exact science, Jason. My guess is that 25 minutes of soccer is not enough expenditure to get into the fat burning zone. I could be wrong since I don’t know hard you are getting after it but that’s my educated assumption. Outside load (weights) with volume (high reps) is generally what does it. 12-15 box jumps would be a nice warm-up to going out on the pitch but wouldn’t make a fat-burning difference. You are better served using soccer as a cardio/fun compliment that as work towards your training goals…in my opinion.

      1. Ok, I think I understand… Generally we’re using 1 source of energy (ATP & glycogen) but if we exercise hard enough we’ll move past that and burn fat instead?

        And although it’s a tricky and in-exact science, getting to that body fat can be accomplished by doing some max effort exertions. But to remain in that fat burning range we must maintain a high intensity workout?

        1. Jason, more or less, yes.

          The main point is that if you are only working out for 15 second bursts and then resting (3×12 format), you are only using stored and re-generated ATP. You don’t come close to glycogen thus come nowhere close to fat burning. It all depends on how hard your effort, muscle groups used, etc. but by and large, from what I have seen, that point of fat burning will kick in around 20 minutes if you are using a weighted circuit. Cardio alone typically does not achieve that unless it’s a heavy sprint/interval.

  2. Crazy. I was just asking McKee sat week on pointers on getting a plateau I have been in for a month or so

    Is there a height you recommend to start at? Or just see how high you can go starting out?

    I also asked about supplements I think the same day you posted about supplements. Werid.

    Love the blog though, putting good information. Keep it comin!

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