Jump squats wake up your whole body and your brain to prepare you for weight lifting or as a way to increase power, strength, and speed.
They might look simple enough, but knowing how to perform a jump squat properly is essential for avoiding injury and making the most out of this powerful exercise. To find out how to correctly perform jump squats and why and when to do them, we turned to personal trainers Cam Countryman and Morgan Dowd. Read on for what they had to say.
Meet the Expert
What Are Jump Squats?
"A jump squat is a plyometric exercise that tests not only your power but also your ability to generate and then transfer force in a short period of time," says Countryman. Plyometrics are movements that are dynamic, explosive, and performed in short bursts to build speed, power, and agility. They are often used in athletic training or high-intensity interval training and will increase your heart rate in a hurry. The jump squat is a perfect example of a plyometric exercise.
"The exercise requires explosive movement where you drop down into a full squat and on the way up you push through the balls of your feet to jump off the ground, landing softly to return to a full squat position," adds Dowd.
As for programming, Countryman says "they can be used as a single exercise in a routine or be placed pre or post an exercise to add difficulty or more of a focus on balance and explosiveness." For instance, use jump squats as part of a dynamic warm-up to wake up your central nervous system and prepare you for exercise. Alternatively, perform them as a superset with a traditional barbell squat to really exhaust the muscles and encourage adaptations that will lead to more muscle mass.
Jump squats are an advanced movement, and they can be hard on the joints unless you really know how to land softly. If you are new to training, master the basic squat first before moving on to more challenging variations like a jump squat.
Jump squats are more than just a fun way to increase your heart rate. Check out these benefits, according to Countryman and Dowd.
- Strengthen the posterior chain: "Jump squats are incredible for the entire posterior chain," says Countryman. This includes the muscles of your back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
- Recruit many muscle groups: "Many coaches and trainers incorporate jump squats into their workout regimens because they benefit so many muscle groups all in one movement," says Countryman.
- Increase athleticism: "Jump squats are also great to help with balance, agility, and athleticism and can increase your vertical jump," says Countryman. "They are a wonderful exercise for athletes, runners, or anyone who participates in activities that require quick changes of direction or quick, explosive movements because the move strengthens your fast-twitch muscle fibers."
- Target fast-twitch muscle fibers: "The explosiveness of jump squats will help train the fast-twitch muscle fibers which can help you sprint and jump faster, as well as help with things such as catching yourself if you trip," says Dowd.
- Full-body cardio and strength training: "Jump squats target the quads, hamstrings, and glutes for one of the best lower body burns, while the plyometric portion of the exercise can help improve cardiovascular health," says Dowd.
- No equipment needed: "A jump squat is a perfect exercise to add to your routine in the gym or at home where no equipment is needed," says Dowd.
Proper Jump Squat Form
Follow our step-by-step guide from the experts to learn how to do jump squats with proper form.
- Start with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Lower down into a squat, toes pointed forward, knees tracking over your second and third toes. Your arms should reach forward as you lower down.
- As you come up from the squat, use your arms to create momentum by swinging them in a downward motion, pushing through the balls of your feet, and jumping straight up off the ground.
- Bend your knees and return to the squat position with your arms forward as you land. Be careful not to let your knees pass your toes on the squat and land toe to heel on the way down.
The glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads, and hips all engage as you squat down to generate force. The hands are also used to swing down for stabilization and power.
At the point when you are in a loaded position, spring into the air, pushing as hard as you can off the floor, using your hands to reach up to the sky and get as high off of the ground as possible.
Landing is just as important. It is imperative that you absorb the landing by decelerating with the feet and calves first, landing back into the loaded position so that you are ready to launch right back up for a second rep.
How to Modify
Modifications to the jump squat can help you hit additional muscles, focus on specific body parts, or adjust the difficulty to be more or less of a challenge.
"One common modification is adding a knee tuck as you lift off of the ground," says Countryman. "This gets the core involved a bit more while also adding a challenge with the landing and deceleration." You'll really need to push off the ground explosively to have time to tuck your knees toward your chest.
"You can modify your speed and height off the ground to make the action comfortable and safe for your body," Countryman continues. "Increasing the speed between reps will most likely increase your rep count, resulting in a shorter squat depth and less height in your vertical jump. If you are increasing your height of the jump, there will be a deeper squat depth and more time is taken in-between reps to generate more power."
There are a couple of options when modifying jump squats to be more accessible for those starting out. "One option is to do regular bodyweight squats but speed up the time between reps to create more explosiveness," says Dowd. "Another option is to do the squat, but instead of jumping off the ground, come up onto your tiptoes at the top and return back to a squat."
As with any exercise, performing a movement safely and with proper form is vital. Additionally, warming up the muscles and listening to your body in terms of volume and intensity is key with plyometric exercises.
"Jump squats are a very athletic movement. Make sure that you have warmed up the proper muscle groups so that you can be safe and explosive," cautions Countryman. "Also, landing back on both feet at the same time is going to be very important to make sure your weight distribution and force coming back to the ground does not result in injury."
You should steer clear of jump squats if you are unable to perform a full squat, or if you have any pain when squatting or jumping. "They are high-impact so it is important to work up to them if you are a beginner," says Dowd. "It is also important to land with your knees bent and toe to heel to avoid any knee, hip, or back pain."
The Final Takeaway
Adding plyometric exercises like jump squats to your fitness routine will boost your power, agility, and overall athleticism. When used before a workout as a priming movement, your central nervous system will wake up and get ready for the workout ahead.
It's vital to master the bodyweight squat movement pattern before adding in explosiveness with the jump squat. Be sure to go slowly and jump carefully, following the pro's tips for proper form to protect your joints from injury.