Box jumps are an excellent plyometric exercise for building explosive muscular strength in the hamstrings, glutes and quads—strength that comes in handy during the final miles of a long run or at the end of a race, and also for helping you ward off injury.

If you’ve never done a box jump before, start with a 6-inch platform (which can be done on a box, stairs or a park bench) and slowly progress to 12, 18 and eventually 24 inches—but no higher. “The injury risk increases with higher boxes,” cautions Jim Wharton, co-author of the Wharton Health Series. Attempt 6–8 reps per set, and 3 sets every time you progress in height.

How to do it:

Step 1: Stand 12–18 inches away from the platform with your feet flat and shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Bend at the hips while keeping your back straight. Swing your arms forward as you jump up onto the box. “Keep your feet flat on takeoff,” suggests Wharton. “Make sure you land mid-foot on the box and that your heels are not hanging off it.” He also recommends landing on the box with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Keep your head, neck and shoulders relaxed during the jump and swing your arms to assist with momentum.

Step 3: After landing, step back down off the box and return to the starting position. Wharton says a good rule of thumb is to attempt three sets of 6-8 box jumps, progressing in height with each set.

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