The jump squat (either with dumbbells, barbells, bodyweight, or vest) is a great exercise to be used for power purposes, increase one’s ability to harness and transfer energy during ballistic athletic movements (sports, weightlifting, squatting, etc), as well as increase firing rates of motor units. When determining what equipment one should use when performing a weighted jump squat, the two main options are often a back loaded barbell and/or a pair of dumbbells.
In this piece, we will specifically address the dumbbell jump squat, what things to consider when performing them, and how you can properly program them into nearly every routine to reap the powerful benefits that they can offer.
Execution of the Dumbbell Jump Squat
The dumbbell jump squat is nearly identical to other loaded jumping versions, requiring an athlete to transfer force into the floor to create enough energy to explosively jump themselves up into the air. While in flight, the athlete must remain contracted yet also be aware of the body in space (proprioception), both of which are necessary for ballistic Olympic lifts (cleans, jerks, snatches), as well as many formal competitive sports (football, baseball, basketball, etc).
In the video above, I breakdown how to properly set up the jump squat and cycle the jumps correctly (when looking to increase the elasticity and stretch shortening properties necessary for ballistic movements).
What to Know About the Dumbbell Jump Squat
Below is a list of all the vital information you should be aware of when programming and performing the dumbbell jump squat.
For most plyometrics and power exercises, optimal loading is between 20-30% of one’s maximum, in this case, their back squat. The weight should be enough to allow the lifter to work against a load, yet light enough to not distort the joint and jumping mechanics, as too heavy of a load will negatively impact the velocity of the movement. When performing this movement with dumbbells, a lifter may find difficulty jumping with heavier, bulkier dumbbells (when compared to the barbell), especially for more advanced and stronger athletes who squat heavier loads that require heavier, often larger dumbbells. If this is becoming a nuisance, lifters can also look to the barbell back loaded jump squat to allow for increased loading and comfort.
The dumbbell jump squat has a lifter hold two weights at the side, which I have found to be a useful exercise when teaching beginner and intermediate lifters how to explosively drive with the legs in the same way one would drive in the clean and/or snatch. By using dumbbells for jump squats, coaches and athletes may be able to better teach beginner and intermediate lifters the concept of strong, firm arm tension with minimal pulling of the arms during a lift (aka the barbell in the formal lifts) so that he/she can maximal knee and hip extension and engrain a more vertical force output.
Proprioception is needed in most jumping and plyometric movements, which can be very beneficial for weightlifters and other dynamic athletes. By using dumbbells for the jump squat, greater demands of muscular control and coordination are needed as both dumbbell move independently from one another, forcing a lifter to stay controlled and minimize any unwanted rotational and lateral movements.
Unlike the back loaded barbell jump squat, I often find that dumbbell jump squats allow for slightly more forward lean of the torso during the jump. Coaches and athletes should be aware of the pattering on the squat in the jump so that it can have the best transition to the main lift. For weightlifters, assuming too much of a forward learn in the jump may force the barbell out front during the clean and snatch, however, for dynamic sports athletes (sprinters, contact sports, etc) that increased lean may actually better mimic a starting position specific to their sport (sprinter out of blocks, tire flips, contact athletes on line of scrimmage, etc). Coaches and athletes are advised to pay attention to the squat patterning to best individualize the jumping experience.
The profound performance benefits of squat jumps and other plyometrics have been well documented, making this squat jump variation a reasonable training exercise for nearly every power, strength, and dynamic sport athlete. Coaches and athletes may opt to use dumbbells in the execution of this lift for various reasons (availability, ease of setup, coordination, specificity to patterning, etc), however all should be aware of the important training considerations when programming for teams, classes, and individual purposes.
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