How to Do Jump Squats

By Kim Nunley

Athletes like basketball and volleyball players often use jump squats to build explosive power in the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves. Jump squats are a plyometric exercise that are effective at training your hip and leg muscles to produce a high amount of force very quickly. Plyometrics can help increase your vertical leap and improve your sprinting speed. Add jump squats to the beginning of your strength-training workouts. If you're an athlete, add them during the preseason and offseason.

Jump Squat Technique

To perform jump squats, stand with your feet hip-width apart and with your hands either clasped behind your back or interlocked and held behind your head. Push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a full squat. Once your thighs are parallel to the floor, explode into a maximum-height vertical jump. Land in the same spot with your feet at hip-width apart and absorb the impact by pushing your hips back and bending your knees. After you stand back up, immediately lower into a squat to go into the next rep.

Adding Jump Squats to Your Workout

Only perform jump squats after you’ve thoroughly warmed up your body with a 15-minute dynamic warm-up. Jog or jump rope for five minutes and then go through an array of dynamic stretches, such as walking lunges, bodyweight squats, walking quad stretches and walking straight-leg kicks. If you’re adding jump squats to your strength-training or conditioning workouts, do jump squats at the very beginning of your session. You don’t want to be fatigued when doing plyometrics.

Sets and Reps

It’s important to begin by performing jump squats at a low volume and then progressively increase the sets and reps as your muscles, bones and soft tissues get stronger and adapt to the stress of landing. When you’re starting out, do three sets of six reps of jump squats. Beginners should have less than 40 contacts per workout, which means less than 40 times landing from a jump. After a few weeks of consistent training, you can increase your workout volume to three sets of eight or 10 reps. Rest at least one minute in between sets.

Frequency

Plyometric exercises like jump squats are extremely strenuous and your muscles need three days off in between workouts. Therefore, add jump squats to your training for a maximum of two days per week, such as Tuesday and Saturday. If you play sports and are in season, only do jump squats once per week and don’t schedule them the day before games to keep your legs from becoming fatigued during competition.

The Question of Adding Load

There are several ways to increase the intensity of jump squats. You can perform the exercise while holding a pair of dumbbells down by your sides, with a medicine ball secured by your hands at the front of your chest or while wearing a weighted vest. These are good options if you’re simply using jump squats for conditioning and cardiovascular-training purposes. However, if you’re an athlete and are using jump squats to build power in your legs and to jump higher, it’s most effective if you just do the exercise with your own body weight. A 2010 study published by the "Journal Strength and Conditioning Research" found that one's body weight is the optimal load for maximizing power output. Focus should be on exploding and jumping as high as possible on each rep rather than adding load.

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