5 Plyometric Exercises for a Stronger Deadlift

Plyometric movements are a great way to increase overall fitness, power, and strength, which can lead to a stronger barbell movements like the deadlift, explains Doctor of Physical Therapy and Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach Dr. Grayson Wickhman PT, DPT, CSCS. Plyometrics are a type of high intensity training that tap into energy stored in muscles for explosive movements, which help encourage muscular development, cardiovascular conditioning, stamina, and power, all of which are important for weightlifting work, explains Yusuf Jeffers, a NASM-certified personal trainer.

This explosiveness is key as you train to build strength for the heavy barbell movements like the deadlifts. Plus they are great in developing general physical preparedness and work capacity that will allow you to increase your training volume as you continue to get stronger. Ready to load up that barbell? Give these plyometric movements a try.



If you’re new to plyometric training, pick 2-3 exercises from the list below and do 3-5 reps of each exercise at the with 30-60 seconds of rest between each movement, depending on fitness level, start of your workout. After completing the last rep in the circuit, rest a full two minutes, and then repeat the circuit at least 2 more times. Then, two days laters, combine another 2-3 exercises from the list and create a similar circuit. One study found that even moderate plyometric training just twice a week in this way was effective in producing strength and power gains. Just remember, explosiveness is key, so take a break if your form slips or you stop having energy to put behind each and every rep.

Broad Jump/ Long Jump

Equipment needed: None

Muscles Worked: Quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors.

What you do:

  1. Clear at least 6 feet in front of you. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and hands at your sides. Face the direction of your jump.
  2. To begin the movement, push your hips back into a quarter squat. As you squat down, swing your arms backward. This should be done with speed.
  3. Without pausing at the bottom of the squat, you are going to immediately jump horizontally forward as far as you can, as you swing your arms forward.
  4. When you land, make sure to absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.
  5. Repeat the movement with speed anywhere from 1-5 times.
  6. Rest the necessary amount of time.
  7. Repeat the movement in succession as desired.

Why it works: The goal of the long jump is distance. The long jump will work the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and hip flexors, explains Mark Barroso, which are the sames muscles worked during the deadlift. Plus, he adds, “the long jump and the deadlift is a similar mental test. Because you are telling your body to produce as much force or distance at this ONE time. You will either succeed or fail. The more you put yourself in mentally similarly situations, the better you will be under pressure at the time of a deadlift PR.” For movements like this, Coach Jeffers adds that it is important to warm up fully because they can come to a shock to the body of an athlete who has not done movements like this in a while, or ever. 

Depth Jump

Equipment needed: Box or bench

Muscles Worked: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.

What you do:

  1. Start standing upright on a box (or bench)
  2. Contract your stomach muscles to stabilize your core and spine.
  3. Step off the bench with your dominate foot. Note, this needs to be a step, not a jump.
  4. Land on the ground with two feet at the same time.
  5. When you land, make sure the absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.
  6. Repeat.

Why it works: While this movement is seemingly simple, explains Coach Jeffers, stepping off a box and then jumping helps train muscular-reflexes and neuromuscular transmitters to fire quickly”. With this movement, you are training your body to react quickly because you are shortening “the firing” between the thought and the action, he explains. “When you are performing depth jumps, you are training your achilles tendon to reflex and work the second you step off the box,” says Jeffers. This increases an athlete’s general explosiveness which is needed to get the loaded barbell off the ground.


“Jumping” Box Step Ups

Equipment needed: Box or bench

What you do:

  1. Stand on the floor directly in front of a box (there should be less than 6 inches between your legs and the box).
  2. When you’re ready to begin the movement place your dominant foot firmly on top of the box while your non-dominant foot remains planted on the floor.
  3. Press up on the box with your dominant foot and explode your non-dominant knee up towards the ceiling. This should cause both feet to lift off the box.
  4. As you explode in the air, your arms should alternate.
  5. Land with your dominant foot back on the box and your non-dominant box back on the floor, as close to starting position as you can. When your feet land your arms should return to their starting position.
  6. Repeat 5 times on this leg.
  7. Switch legs, so that your non-dominant foot is placed on the box, while your dominant foot is planted on the ground.

Why it works: Jumping box step ups are yet another way to use the box to work on explosiveness, says Jeffers. This is a more advanced exercise that should be reserved for athletes who already have a base-level of explosiveness and power because performing this movement can be tricky, especially with box.

Standard Box Jumps

Equipment needed: Box

Muscles Worked: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves.

What you do:

  1. Start standing between one and two feet from the box. The taller and more experienced you are, the further you should stand from the box.
  2. To begin the movement, push your hips back into a quarter squat. As you squat down, swing your arms backward. This should be done with urgency.  
  3. Without pausing at the bottom of the squat, you are going to immediately reverse the direction of the squat, explosively jumping at an angle into the air.
  4. You are going to land as softly as possible with both feet on the box in a semi squat. Coach Margie emphasizes that to prevent injury, athletes should land with their whole foot on the box.
  5. Again, without pausing at the bottom of the squat, stand up on the box and fully extend your hips.
  6. Once both feet are wholly on the box and your hips are fully extended, the movement is done.
  7. Jump or step off (usually recommended to step off) the box onto the ground.
  8. Reset so that you are standing one to two feet from the box, and repeat.

Why it works: Box jumps use all the major muscle groups of the legs: Glutes, quads, hamstrings, and calves. They also build strength and explosiveness in the hip flexors, which can lead to more explosiveness in weight-bearing movements like the deadlift.

Squat Jumps

Equipment needed: None

Muscles Worked: Quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, core.

What you do:

  1. Stand with your legs straight and feet hip width apart. Be sure to keep the weight in your heels. Find a comfortable position for your hands. Either clasped behind your head, on your helps, or dangling at your side.
  2. To begin the movement, squat until your legs are parallel to the floor.
  3. Pause in the squat for 2-5 seconds, depending on your strength training experience (the longer you’ve trained, the longer you should hold the squat).
  4. Without using your arms, jump as high as possible. Coach Yusuf says that for athletes who are new to plyometric movements, using your arms for added momentum is okay. As long as the arm movements don’t compromise the squat-form.
  5. When you land, make sure the absorb the impact of the jump by pushing hips back (as if sitting in a chair) and flexing your knees.
  6. If you did not land with legs hip-width, readjust.
  7. Repeat.

Why it works: A jump squat is an elementary plyometric movement, explains Wickham, but they are essential for building calf, quadricep, and hamstring strength and improving muscle stabilization. Every time your feet land the goal is to stick the landing, says Wickham. Stability is important for barbell movements, and the muscles used in the deadlift are the same activated with the squat jump, he adds.

Related: Romanian Deadlift Guide

Editors note: This article is an op-ed. The views expressed herein and in the video are the authors and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BarBend. Claims, assertions, opinions, and quotes have been sourced exclusively by the author.

Featured image: @lisahaefnerphoto