Scaling Shouldn't Be Stupid, Part 2

As said in my last installment, the views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author. They may or may not reflect the same ideals espoused by other trainers or coaches you have worked with. This is totally fine, but they might suck, so take that into consideration as well.

I'm going to be honest: I don't like high-rep box jumps. I'm sorry. I just am not a fan. I think if risk vs. reward comes into play, the former far outweighs the latter. Now, this isn't to say that box jumps have no place whatsoever in a fitness program, but it all depends on context and appropriate application. The unfortunate truth is that box jumps will always be a utilized aspect of CrossFit's conditioning movements, so the best I can do is try to convey why I don't like them and how you can best avoid injury when doing them.

I know what you're thinking: what risk is there when it comes to jumping on a box a bunch of times? I'm kidding, of course, because if you're actually thinking that, then you're stupid. The obvious answer is combining the fatigue from other movements with the accuracy and coordination box jumps require. Which is why we often see things like this sprinkled across the blogs of many a CrossFit gym...

While many people wear these injuries as badges of honor, they're completely unnecessary and avoidable with a little common sense. Now, the smashed up shin is the more common and known box jump related injury. The one many overlook or maybe choose to ignore is the dreaded and far-too-frequent Achilles rupture. These are occurring more and more and they take months to fully recover from. Performing high-rep box jumps, particularly under the stress of fatigue, is the culprit.

The potential for a ruptured Achilles lies in the execution of the box jump. In the pursuit of speed, people do this. It looks harmless enough, but the shock absorption of the landing to immedate switch to concentric contraction puts an enormous amount of strain on the Achilles. Remember Workout 2 from the 2011 CrossFit Open? Sure, you do.

Unfortunately, this kind of injury is far too familiar to me because it happened to one of my clients. This is Eric and he is fabulous:

During a workout I designed, Eric ruptured his Achilles tendon. Luckily, since he's a baller, it didn't completely derail his training. He spent a lot of time doing handstand work, Airdyne intervals, and a ton of single-leg training. Nevertheless, it took him roughly a year until he was back to top form. His words: "After surgery I had two weeks of not being able to put my foot on the ground. From there I was in a walking boot for six weeks. Physical therapy started soon after. I went twice a week for four months. So six months after the actual surgery, I was done with therapy but I was probably at 65/70% in terms of what I could do physically since I had to rebuild my calf. It was probably a full year before I felt comfortable enough to add some serious weight to squats, but even now if I do 'Annie' my right calf takes much longer to recover." The moral of the story is that the recovery process is a long and arduous one.

If you find yourself facing a workout with high-rep box jumps, it's incredibly simple to avoid injury, be it torn up shins or ruptured tendons. These scaling options are especially important for beginners, mainly women. Why? Because a lot of women have a mental block about jumping on a box. It's very common and I get it. Here are some potential options:

1) Step-ups

2) Less height

3) Less reps

4) Step down

Number 4 is particularly important for the more seasoned CrossFitters as well. This relates back to my previous post about control. Stop focusing so goddamn much on how FAST you do a workout. How much time will you really lose stepping down rather than jumping? Twenty seconds total? I'd rather give up twenty seconds now instead of seven months for an Achilles rupture. Use your brain.

In the long run, box jumps are better used for explosive max effort training. Joe DeFranco uses them for power development for his higher level athletes:

As I stated, unfortunately box jumps are a part of CrossFit and here to stay. So if you have a workout with a lot of reps, please approach them responsibly and try to control your ascent and descent to avoid unnecessary injury.

1 comment:

  1. I'm another one who completely ruptured my achilles on 12.3 doing rebound box jumps (and 'no' it could never happen to me either).... sadly it ruined my regionals chances in Asia. And 10 months on I'm still not running..... and definable not yet box jumping!