Walk into any gym and you’ll probably see at least one person catching air—and for good reason. Explosive jumping moves, aka plyometrics, burn calories to the tune of nine or more a minute—the equivalent of jogging. And they work to super-sculpt muscles too.
You can reap even more body benefits by doing your reps with a plyo box—a mini platform, typically made of wood, steel or foam and available in heights from 4 to 42 inches—that you jump on or over. Research from the American Council on Exercise shows that you’ll burn an average of 15 calories per minute during a HIIT workout that includes the box.
The spike in calorie burn probably comes from the added challenge of sticking your landing on a specific target, says Kenny Santucci, the creator of Body, a HIIT class at Solace studio in New York City. Take, for instance, the basic box jump, which is exactly that: jumping from the floor up onto the box, then back down again. “It revs up your heart rate because you’re hoisting your body weight up against gravity; it works major muscles, especially the abs, glutes and quads, to propel you; and it builds smaller stability muscles as you land,” Santucci explains.
In fact, a plyo box can be a one-stop shop for reshaping from head to toe. “Doing strength moves on the box increases the intensity of the exercises by changing up angles, which works muscles differently and also requires more balance or power,” Santucci says. He designed the 31-minute plyo-box workout shown here to hit every major muscle and to push you to work a little harder every round—and to get a little more burn and firm. Each time you hit the burpee-box jump combo, keep track of how many burpees you do. At the end of the routine, you’ll add up all your burpee reps.
“Whenever you perform this workout, set a goal to bang out at least one more burpee than you did before,” Santucci says. “Every session you accomplish that, you’ll see the evidence of you getting stronger.” Not to mention slimmer and more sculpted.
Intensity: Hard (rate of perceived exertion: an 8 or a 9 out of 10)
Total time: 31 minutes
You’ll need: A watch (or something to keep time with) and a plyo box (most gyms have at least a few different heights). If you’re a beginner, start with a 20-inch-tall box (or shorter), and if you’re more advanced, go for a 24- or a 30-inch one. If you’re home or outside, you can sub a sturdy bench (backless, if possible).
How it works: Complete the warm-up. Then start with round A, working as quickly as you can with good form to complete the reps in less than one minute. Use any remaining time left in that minute to rest. Continue through rounds B, C and D just like that. (Remember to keep track of every burpee you do in round D.) Complete this four-round circuit seven times total and add up the number of burpees you performed. Do this routine three times a week on alternate days, aiming to increase your burpee total by one each session.
Calories burned: 250 (based on a 140-pound woman)
In 3 minutes, do as many rounds as possible of 10 squats, 10 jump squats, 10 single-leg step-ups on the box and 10 butterfly sit-ups (with soles touching). Then do the following circuit seven times through for a 31-minute scorcher!
Start in plank facing away from box with palms on floor and feet on top of box. Lower chest to floor, elbows tight to sides, then push up to plank. That’s 1 push-up rep. Do 10 reps. (Beginners, do these with feet on the floor and hands on the box.) Without resting, stand, face away from box, then hold on to edge of box with arms straight and fingertips pointing toward floor; walk feet forward until legs are straight (newbies: bend knees to make it easier) to start. Keep butt close to box as you bend elbows directly behind you until arms form 90-degree angles. Push into box to return to start. That’s 1 dip. Do 10 dips. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
Stand facing box with left foot on top of box with knee bent and arms by sides to start. Push into right foot to explosively stand on left leg on box, bringing bent right knee toward chest. Lower right leg to start (land with knee slightly bent). That’s 1 rep. Do 4 reps. Switch legs; repeat. That’s 1 set. Do 2 sets. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
Sit on top of box, close to edge. Lean torso back (lower and middle back will rest on box), reach arms overhead and fully extend legs (parallel to floor) to start. Sit up, lifting straight legs and straight arms until body forms a V. (To make it easier, bring in knees toward chest instead.) Slowly lower to start. That’s 1 rep. Do 25 reps. Rest for the remainder of the minute.
Stand perpendicular to box with feet hip-width apart to start. Crouch, plant hands on floor, jump feet back to plank and lower chest and thighs to floor. Push up to plank and hop feet toward hands, then as you stand (that’s 1 burpee), turn to face box and jump onto it, swinging arms forward and landing with both feet on box, knees soft. Stand. Step down on other side of box, then turn so that body is perpendicular to it. Do another burpee, then repeat box jump, stepping down to other side. Continue alternating for the entire minute, adding up each burpee you complete. (Record your burpees per round.)
Complete this circuit 7 times.