I recently strained my foot going a little too aggressive on sprinting, so in approaching this week’s CrossFit Games Open WOD 13.2, I opted for step-ups vs. traditional box jumps (step-ups are, quixotically, still Rx for this WOD).
As a rower, I am used to full squat jumps or plyometric jumps up onto a high box, but have always had a love/hate relationship with CrossFit box jumps onto a standard 24-inch box. I’ve always found them to not have as deep a range of motion as the other exercises, which may be due to my height. So while they certainly train the finish and hamstrings (last 3rd of the drive), I feel like they are not addressing the front or middle of the rowing power curve, where the quickness is really needed. I also find them incredibly jarring on the joints and they sometimes give me vertigo.
Initially I felt kind of silly for doing the step-ups, but quickly came to love them. They require a lot more balance, and are more akin to pistols – which are highly effective for rowing. Whereas box jumps tend to hit my hamstrings and calves hard, step-ups really worked the quads as well as the hamstrings. The range of motion is much greater, and the asymmetric nature really requires core stabilization.
In summary, I feel that step-ups are a much more effective rowing-specific exercise than standard box jumps. I would combine them with a deeper-range plyometric movement such as squat jumps or seated box jumps to work the explosive angle.
I’m not officially signed up for the open this year, but logged an Rx 210 reps for the WOD, which I’m happy with.