This is how it is: You can’t achieve optimal performance in Muay Thai just by training Muay Thai on its own. Every pro fighter incorporates a range of other exercises into their training program. This may include -but not limited to- road work, weights training, and high intensity interval training. To work every possible aspect of a fighter’s fitness, many trainers now integrate every thinkable workout and equipment into the fighters’ training programs. In the last few articles, I wrote about the benefits of battle ropes, neck strengthening and calisthenics for Muay Thai. This article, let’s explore a simple device called the Plyometric Box.
What is Plyometrics?
I mentioned Plyometrics in our article on battle ropes (“Battle Ropes for Muay Thai”) but for the benefit of those who missed that: Plyometrics are exercises in which muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time, with the objective of increasing power (speed-strength). Performing plyometrics increases muscular power and develop the fast-twitch muscles necessary for fast and powerful movements. Plyometrics are also known as jump training and were originally designed to improve track (running and jumping) performance, targeting lower body explosive power. One of the best known and commonly used equipment for jump training is the aptly named Plyometric Box (or Plyo Box).
The Plyometric Box
Plyometric boxes are basically platforms to jump on and off from, hence the exercises are known as box jumps. They are designed mainly for lower body plyometrics training, and can go from 6 inches and taller, depending on the athlete’s fitness. As will be seen below, they may or may not look like boxes and can be made with wood, metal or high density foam. Due to their popularity, many fitness equipment brands manufacture their own plyo box which can be purchased readily from stores. Alternatively, you can do-it-yourself if you have the means and basic skills to do it.
The boxes are fairly common in gyms and have been around for a long time but are receiving renewed attention the last few years. Jump training has never really gone away and martial artists of different discipline have long been employing it for jump and kick performance.
Benefits of Plyometric Box for Muay Thai
In order to add serious destructive power to your roundhouse kicks, you need to work on explosiveness. Jump training with plyometric box will do just that. Here are some reasons why plyometric training for lower body is an ideal exercise to add to your routine and how the plyo box can add value to your performance in Muay Thai:
More Powerful Kicks
This is the number one reason why you should consider plyometrics training. Plyometrics train the quick response of major muscles and plyometrics box training focus on the explosive power of the lower body. While punches are faster, kicks are more devastating and so it is important to exploit this power in the art of 8 limbs. If you want to be able to dish out fast and strong kicks repeatedly, box jumps are the training you need.
Build Muscular Endurance
Feeling jelly-legged after 50 roundhouse kicks on the heavy bag? Wobbly thighs after pad work? You need more muscular endurance in your legs and again, box jump training is a great way to achieve it. Box jumps take a significant amount of strength and endurance, especially as the heights of the box used are increased progressively. A few reps, a few sets later, your legs will be smashed. But keep training and your lower limb endurance will increase by leaps and bounds -pun intended.
As simplistic as they look, plyo boxes can provide a lot more types of workout than you think. Besides the obvious box jumps, you can use it for step-ups, depth jumps, bulgarian split squats and upper body workouts like elevated/decline push-ups, and elevated knee touch. For a more thorough workout, the plyo box can be combined with other exercises such as burpees to increase the difficulty and intensity. Plyo boxes are more than meets the eye!
Jumping can introduce a lot of impact to the legs but box jumps lower this impact. Box jumps offers the benefits of tuck jumps but eliminate the impact of the landing on the ground which can cause damage to the achilles tendon and knee joints. For even greater safety, stepping off the box one foot at a time after a jump instead of jump-landing on the ground can further lessen the impact. Muscle and bone loss are the two most common age-related issues which start when a person reaches around their late-30s. For effective and safe lower body training, plyo box is an ideal option.
Types of Plyometric Box
If you are considering to get plyo box for your training, Plyo boxes come in a few variations. Here are the 5 main types available in the market at the moment:
These plyo boxes are metal frames and usually come with non-slip rubber or latex landing. They are often sold in set of 3 pieces, each of a different height, and can be stacked on top of each other for easy storage. The convenience of have 3 plyo boxes means you can get more creative with your workouts too e.g. jumping from one to the other. Not all steel frames are welded with the same skillful hands so do read the user reviews to get an idea of the quality before dropping the cash.
By creating just 1 box with 3 different sides, you get 3 different heights with just 1 box. Clever! A boon for easy storage and saving space. These are quick and easy to assemble and are sturdy, strong and solid. They come with a middle support for added strength just so you know you aren’t jumping onto hollow boxes. If you have the tools and basic carpentry skills, it seems easy enough to DIY. There are many instructional videos on how to make your own plyo box on the web.
Foam Plyo Box
For the least impact on your lower limbs, foam plyo boxes are the best options. They come in either a stackable design or a 3-in-1 (like the wooden box) for different heights. Besides lower landing impact, foam plyo box also minimize shin banging or scraping injuries that can sometimes happen especially with metal frames or cheap wooden boxes. A poorly made soft plyo box can be wobbly, so read some user reviews before deciding. The biggest downside of these boxes is that they can be considerably pricier than other plyo boxes, so shop around before deciding.
Adjustable Type 1
If not well made, this type of plyo box can get wobbly at its tallest height. Otherwise, it is as good a plyo box as any other. The only foreseeable issues are that they are harder to assemble (comes unassembled) and that adjusting the heights can take a while to get used to. It is a good looking piece of fitness equipment that would probably look as good functioning as a furniture piece.
Adjustable 2 Type 2
This other type of height-adjustable plyo box offers better stability -compared to the previous one- due to the designs of the legs which have more contact with the ground. The clever design allows it to be adjusted to 4 different heights compared to the usual 3. And no assembly is required! This is a very solid, stable and space-saving plyo box that is well worth the price tag.
Nobody says it was going to be easy. To be the best that you can be requires mental fortitude and persistence. Identify your weaknesses and overcome them; know your strengths and enhance them further. The route to excellence in Muay Thai is a long and arduous journey. There are few geniuses in martial arts. The remaining champions rely exclusively on pure grit and hard work.
You can get good at Muay Thai just by training Muay Thai but sometimes good is not good enough. If you want to be better than the average folk at the gym, you need to do more than what the average folk is willing to do. You need to invest more time and you need to explore ways to get better in every way possible. Upper body strengthening, lower body strengthening, endurance training, aerobic and anaerobic fitness, power, conditioning, anything. Plyometric box and jump training? Let’s go!