There’s no shame in being a little worn out on endless sets of squats and deadlifts. Training is supposed to be fun and varied. Even if you’re a competitive strength athlete, you might want to consider dipping your toes into another dimension of fitness.
The jump squat is a dynamic movement with myriad benefits to aid your workout program. It comprises dynamic motion, power, and plyometric variables that are advantageous to both function and athleticism. It can also add more variety and enjoyment into your existing workout plan and provide another dimension to lower body training.
There are many aspects to nailing the jump squat. Here, we will go through everything you need to know, including:
- How to Do the Jump Squat
- Benefits of the Jump Squat
- Muscles Worked by the Jump Squat
- Who Should Do the Jump Squat
- Jump Squat Sets and Reps
- Jump Squat Variations
- Jump Squat Alternatives
- Frequently Asked Questions
To perform the jump squat from a static position, you will bend down into a traditional squat position and, with the most power you can generate with your legs, drive up as fast as you can while launching yourself into the air. See below for a more in-depth explanation of how to nail the jump squat.
Step 1 — Set Up
Position your feet a few inches beyond shoulder width. This will give you a good, solid base to begin. Your feet should also be slightly turned out a few degrees since this is the natural anatomical position.
Coach’s Tip: Always begin each jump from this position and have a slight bend in your knees. This will engage your quadriceps and hamstrings from the get-go.
Step 2 — Load Your Legs
Sink into a partial squat position, with your thighs hitting somewhere slightly above parallel. Feel the tension in your quads and glutes as you descend. As you lower yourself, you can also sweep your arms behind your torso.
Coach’s Tip: It’s extremely important that you keep your knees directly in line with your feet to produce maximum power as you drive.
Step 3 — Explode Up
Once you reach the bottom position, rapidly reverse direction with power and speed. As you leave the ground, you can draw your arms up in front of your body to assist with producing vertical momentum.
Coach’s Tip: Be sure to apply all of your power in a straight line upward using your hips, quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
Step 4 — Land Safely
On the descent, brace and cushion your landing by keeping your knees, hips and ankles flexible and slightly bent. These will act as shock absorbers, protect your joints, and position you correctly for the next rep.
Coach’s Tip: When landing, be sure to keep your knees in line with your feet and allow your body to descend into the bottom position once again.
Due to its rapid dynamic motion, the jump squat generates a significant amount of power. It utilizes your fast-twitch fibers to move at a high speed. This explosive momentum is distinct from an exercise like the squat, for example, which uses a lower speed of movement. This high-speed strength is often an untapped advantage for most lifters.
Lower Body Functionality
In real life, your actions and movements are rarely done in a controlled environment. You don’t have the opportunity to set up and execute everyday motions with exact form. Life is organic and unpredictable. The jump squat is one of the many exercises that can prepare you for real-world demands. Combined with other training variables, the powerful nature of the jump squat is useful for functional purposes.
The jump squat has the added benefit of increasing mobility, particularly in the hips. No special equipment is needed. Whether you are training in a commercial gym, at home, or even outside at a park, it goes with you wherever you are. It can easily be an integral part of any bodyweight training program.
If you train with a program replete with traditional bodybuilding lifts such as squats, leg presses, and leg curls, jump squats will be a welcome addition. Not only will they add a more dynamic element to your training, but they also stimulate your legs in a whole new way while keeping your interest.
Much like many other lower body exercises, the jump squat works several muscles at the same time. Below are the main muscle groups affected during each and every rep of the jump squat.
There are four muscles that make up the quadriceps which contract the lower leg. The vastus lateralis extends from the top of the femur to the patella and is located on the outside of the thigh. The infamous tear-drop muscle of the inner thigh is the vastus medialis.
It attaches on the femur and extends down to the inner portion of the patella. The vastus intermedius sits between the vastus medialis and the vastus lateralis at the front of the femur. Finally, the rectus femoris attaches to the kneecap as it crosses the hip. All four compartments of the quadriceps work together to help launch you into the air.
The hamstrings muscle group comprises three muscles in the back of the thigh that create motion at the hip and knee. These three are the biceps femoris, which extends down to the fibula near the knee, semimembranosus that originates from the pelvis to the tibia, and the semitendinosus that not only flexes the knee, but also extends the thigh.
Your hamstrings help to absorb the shock of landing after a high jump.
The glute group is made up of three key muscles. The gluteus maximus moves the hip and thigh, the gluteus minimus extends the hips, and the gluteus medius rotates the thigh outward and provides stability.
Your calves play an important role in the jump squat, and the key muscles include the gastrocnemius and the soleus. The gastrocnemius is the heart-shaped part of the calf that flexes and extends the foot and knee. The soleus sits below the gastrocnemius and extends from the back of the knee.
No matter your athletic status or area of interest, jump squats can be beneficial for all athletes interested in progressing their training to a new level.
The first and obvious benefit would be optimizing explosive power for sports. Nearly every athlete will reap rewards from the jump squat by improving their lower body power, strength, and whole-body awareness — controlling your body through a dynamic action.
Since the jump squat does not utilize any type of machine or apparatus, the individual is required to apply several muscles to work in concert to gain the desired effect.
Look at any Olympic weightlifter and you’ll see a definite need for explosive power. Jump squats provide that much-needed fast contraction that help a weightlifter perform in the snatch and clean & jerk. By training the hips specifically, the jump squat can assist with many power movements from power cleans and hang cleans to snatches and jerks.
Functional Fitness Enthusiasts
As the trend of functional training spreads so does the need for variety, convenience, and effectiveness. Jump squats and all of their variations are a perfect fit for any functional training program. Combined with other dynamic exercises, they fill the need for a challenging and comprehensive plan that calls for a spectrum of training variables such as power, plyometrics, muscular endurance, and cardiovascular conditioning.
As an unlikely candidate, jump squats do however have their place in a bodybuilding routine. Aside from giving the traditional hypertrophic training style more variety, the addition of a power variable and more dynamic movement may prove to be an advantage for some who especially find their lower body training lacking results. It may be just the thing to shock your legs into gaining muscle and strength once again.
As a plyometric exercise, jump squats don’t necessarily adhere to the same rules of program design as other barbell or dumbbell exercises. As such, you should follow some general set and rep principles when considering how to add them to your routine.
Jump Squat Sets
Generally speaking, jump squats are to be treated a bit differently than traditional strength training sets. If developing pure power is the goal then you’ll need to treat each set with focus and intent. For beginners, three sets are plenty to get into the groove. The main goal would be to perfect form and work on developing maximal power with each set.
Jump Squat Reps
Depending on when jump squats are performed, reps can vary anywhere from five to 15. If you’re focused on maximal power, the lower end of the rep spectrum should be considered. Others who desire more cardio-driven workouts will want to jack up the reps to 10 or more.
How to Load
To begin, your body weight will be sufficient. After some time and experience, you can experiment with holding dumbbells or wearing a weight vest. But don’t sacrifice form for more load. Always practice safe and effective form.
You may also be concerned with overlap and overtraining. That is, adding in jump squats may be believed to hinder other lifts and requirqe more recovery time between workouts. If that’s the case for you, simply replace another leg exercise with jump squats and pay close attention to your strength levels, energy, and perceived exhaustion.
Other than the traditional execution, there are several variations to the jump squat that can fit anyone’s routine and preference. Let’s take a look at a few ways you can benefit from tweaking the exercise.
Weighted Jump Squat
After some time and experience, you can wear a weight vest or hold a pair of dumbbells for added resistance. Weighted jump squats can be effective for Olympic lifters as part of their warm-up, or to get some blood flow going before a powerlifting workout.
Depth Jump Squat
For those who want to develop maximum plyometric power, step off of a box and upon landing, immediately perform a squat jump.
Low Jump Squat
Start the squat jump by beginning the exercise in as low of a squat as you can, with a pause. You will have eliminated the eccentric (lowering) of your body and are forced to generate power from a static position.
In addition to variations, there are several alternatives you can utilize to challenge you further or to regress the exercise. Try these out if the standard jump squat isn’t right for you.
Double Pulse Squat
If impact on your joints is an issue, try adding a double pulse and eliminate the explosion. Lower down into the squat position, raise up half way and pause for a count, lower into the squat position again, and then raise up all the way for a count of one rep.
The box squat helps you in many of the same ways as a traditional bodyweight jump squat, but you can also load up on weight. By beginning from a seated position, you can develop explosive concentric power while still working under resistance.
To add more challenge to the traditional jump squat, as you jump into the air rapidly tuck your feet up under you. This will cause a more intense contraction in your abs, giving you a bit of extra core stimulation.
It may seem simple, but adding an explosive vertical jump to a standard bodyweight squat can really ratchet up the difficulty — and the benefits that follow. While calisthenics are fantastic, convenient, and accessible, the real magic lies in how easy they are to tweak and change to fit your personal needs.
It’s simple at a glance, but the jump squat might leave you with a couple of nagging questions. Let’s unpack a couple common ones to help you decide if this exercise is right for you.
Will jump squats build muscle?
As you build more power in the jump squat you will have also built more efficient neural pathways to your quads, hams, calves, and glutes. In turn, this will aid in your other traditional strength training lifts by allowing you to be more in touch with those exercises.
Should I go to muscular failure on jump squats?
It’s not advised to go to muscular failure on the jump squat. Since it is such a dynamic exercise that requires proper technique, balance, and execution and the fact that it’s explosive in nature, you’ll need to be able to perform them properly for safety. If your form starts to dwindle, risk of injury increases and, subsequently, the exercises efficacy decreases.
When can I add weight to the jump squat?
Once you feel you’ve mastered the jump squat and feel comfortable performing different variations you may add weight. A word of caution: when adding more resistance, be sure to only add small amounts to begin with. The added weight will force you to adapt your form to the new challenge.
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