We all know about cleans, snatches and box squats for improving power, but the squat jump has a bad rap among many strength athletes and coaches. The idea of jumping up and down with a loaded barbell strikes fear in the hearts of many trainers and coaches. But in my opinion, jump squats are one of the greatest power exercises that you can do. They can improve your squat, increase your vertical jump and better your overall athleticism. And for somebody who doesn’t want to take the time to learn the Olympic lifts, jump squats can also help develop a powerful triple extension. Anybody looking to improve their rate of force development and overall power would be wise to include jump squats in their powerbuilding routine.
How to Jump Squat
Although, there are different variations of the jump squat, the basic performance of the lift is the same. Put a loaded barbell on your back, squat down, explode up and jump.
Here are some pointers:
• The bar should sit comfortably at mid-trap level. A high bar position can put too much strain on your neck when you land, and a low bar position can be a little unstable, so keep it in the middle.
• Keep your upper back tight and the bar pushed firmly against your traps to prevent any movement of the bar.
• When landing, absorb the shock by bending the knees, don’t land on locked out knees.
• Depending on your goals, keep the weight in the range of 15 to 60% of your squat 1RM.
Jump Squat Variations
Quarter Jump Squat
This is probably the most common technique. You only squat down to about a quarter of the way (about the same depth as your countermovement before a vertical jump) and quickly reverse the motion and jump up. As you land, regain your composure before doing subsequent reps. This method utilizes the stretch-shortening cycle, and is the most analogous to vertical jumping. Quarter jump squats are great for improving vertical jump or for athletes in sports that require one all-out, fast movement like a shot putter or high jumper. The weight used in quarter jump squats is very light keep it 10 to 25% of your squat 1 RM.
Full Jump Squat
In this variation you squat all the way down to below parallel and explode up as fast as possible, culminating in a jump at the end of the rep. This type of jump squat has more transfer for the powerlifter who is trying to work on his explosive squatting ability. The full jump squat is a heavier exercise than the quarter squat variation. Keep the weight in the 40 to 65% of your 1RM.
Reactive Jump Squat
This is almost identical to the quarter jump squat except for the fact that, as you land, you squat down again and perform another rep as fast as possible, trying hard to feel the stretch-shortening cycle doing its work. This variation should be kept very light, around 15% of your 1RM. It’s great for athletes in sports who require jumps in succession like volleyball or basketball players.
Jump squats are very taxing on the central nervous system so be wise about how you implement them. Another reason some coaches tend to stay away from them is that they think the compressive forces on your back while landing are too great. I have been utilizing this exercise for 15 years in my own training and have never been injured performing them.
Whether you want to squat more, improve your vertical jump, or just be a better athlete give the jump squat a try in your power training.