Poor landing form and inadequate hip stability is a concern for many of the athletes I work with. One of the first things I like to assess is their ability to land and absorb force. You can learn a lot about asymmetry and weakness by observing a drop landing sequence. Today's exercise is designed to work on landing form as well as improve lower extremity strength and stability. This exercise also serves as a shock and lays the ground work for building explosive power and moving on to depth jumps.
Step-up onto the Body Sport Standard Plyo Box (choosing appropriate height for the client). Next, leading with either the left or right foot, step off the box and land on the floor with both feet at the same time. Descend into a squat position while extending the arms back behind the body. Pause for 1-2 seconds and then stand up. Repeat this sequence for 5-8 repetitions. Rest 1-2 minutes and then repeat for 2-3 sets.

The emphasis on the landing should be symmetrical foot placement and equal WB, while directing the client to not shift the center of mass too far forward. Observe any frontal plane collapse (valgus moments) and provide verbal and/or tactile cues to correct that. It is not uncommon to see some external rotation of the lower leg, but encourage clients to keep the toes pointed forward as much as possible.

Beyond increasing the height of the box itself, the next progression is to introduce a countermovement jump for power development (also known as a depth jump). I like to add this once the client demonstrates good form and control with the drops. Further, you can introduce a second box where the athlete drops down from the first box and then performs a rebound jump up and onto the second box. With these types of progressions, the goal is to decrease amortization time and build explosive power for the athlete. Using this exercise and progression will be beneficial for sprinters, jumpers and all field/court sport athletes.

This exercise is an excellent assessment tool as well as way to improve eccentric strength and stability in the entire lower kinetic chain. It also provides an opportunity to improve hip control which in turn reduces injury risk with pivoting and cutting sports. Coaching the athlete to land soft and into proper squat form will maximize strength development and set the stage for higher level plyometric training exercises. More importantly, it can be used as an entry screening tool to assess mechanics and motor patterns/control. Most of the ACL literature references a using a 30 cm box for drop landings so this may be a good place to start with your clients.

This exercise would be contraindicated in clients with stress reaction injuries, acute patellofemoral pain, active lower extremity tendinopathy and post-operatively until they have been cleared for higher level training. Caution should be used in novice clients and those with poor control/mechanics. As a regression, consider having clients perform a low amplitude squat jump or simply using a small aerobic step to get started, prior to advancing to a plyo box.

Brian Schiff, PT, OCS, CSCS, is a licensed physical therapist, respected author and fitness professional. Currently, he serves as the supervisor for EXOS API at Raleigh Orthopaedic. Brian conducts live continuing education webinars and presents nationally at professional conferences and seminars on injury prevention, rehab and sport-specific training. For more information on his products and services, visit