How to Do Squat Jumps: Complete Guide, Technique, Benefits and Variations
The squat jump (or jump squat if you prefer) is a simple but effective plyometric exercise that develops strength, power and explosiveness in the lower body. Here's a quick example of what they should look like...
Complete 'How to Do a Squat Jump' Technique Guide
To safely and effectively perform a squat jump, follow these four steps... 1) Start by standing upright with your feet at shoulder to hip-width apart, and your toes pointed out at around 30 degrees (the 10 and 2 positions on a clock face) 2) Brace your core, then descend with control into a full-depth squat position. Your knees should track and remain in line with your toes, and your torso should remain as upright as possible.
3) Once you reach the bottom, change direction and forcefully push against the floor with your legs, driving as hard as possible until your feet are completely off the ground. 4) As you come back down, aim to land as softly as possible through the balls and middle of your foot. Your knees should still be tracking in line with your toes, and your posture should still be upright.
Benefits of Squat Jumps
Squat jumps have two major benefits... 1) Squat jumps help to develop explosiveness and power in your lower body muscles. This is especially useful if you play a sport that requires jumping and sprinting movements.
2) Squat jumps help to build what we call a good kind of 'stiffness' in the calf and ankle complex, making it better at absorbing and transmitting forces. This is useful for running and sprinting economy and injury prevention.
Common Misconceptions and Squat Jump Mistakes
The squat jump has been seriously misused over the past few years, mainly by lesser knowledgeable coaches and trainers who don't fully understand why they're making clients do them. The two biggest mistakes are...
1) Performing squat jumps as a form of cardio
Squat jumps are an exercise designed to make you more powerful, that means maximal effort repetitions for a low amount of reps. Performing dozens of repetitions in one go massively reduces the quality of each jump, and makes you more likely to land badly and injure yourself.
2) Performing too many squat jumps
Linked to mistake number one, doing too many jumps within a session, week or month can place too much stress on your joints, leading to injury. Research shows that a beginner to intermediate athlete should only have 50 to 80 plyometric foot contacts per session, and only 100-160 contacts per week. (Davies 2015) So if you do a session if you start doing silly things liked timed sets, as many reps as possible or jumping circuits, you can easily end up accidentally exceeding this recommendation and increasing your risk of injury.
What Muscles Do Squat Jumps Work?
Squat jumps are best considered as a complex lower body exercise that uses multiple muscles, these include... Quadriceps: These work as the primary mover to create your upward drive.
Adductors: These work to provide stability at the bottom of the squat. Glutes: These work to extend your hips, giving you that last bit of snap before take-off. Calves: These are the final muscles to work right before take-off as you push your toes into the ground. They'll also be one of the first muscles to absorb your downward forces as you land.
Squat Jump Variations and Other Exercises Similar to the Jump Squat
Whilst there are literally dozens of variations we could look at, let's focus on the three most common, which have the most in common with the squat jump.
Although they might look harder, box jumps are actually an easier, lower-impact version of the squat jump. The box essentially catches your fall, meaning that your downward forces are greatly reduced. As a strength and power coach, the biggest mistake I see people make with box jumps is choosing too high a box. Aim to choose a box that allows for a comfortable jump with a good landing.
Weighted Squat Jumps
Weighted squat jumps are a harder version of the squat jump that uses an external weight to make the movement more challenging. For reference, this video is of a competitive, world-level weightlifter, and she's only using 25kg, so you really don't need to add much weight to make the exercise effective.
Tuck jumps are another variation of the squat jump that make it harder by increasing the amount of landing forces you'll have to absorb. They also place extra demand on the abs and hip flexors.
How to Incorporate Squat Jumps Into Your Workout
Now that you know how to perform your squat jumps with good technique, as well as the muscles they work and the benefits they offer, you're probably wanting some specific guidance on how to add them into your own training programme. Here are three essential rules to follow.
1) Do squat jumps at the start of your workout when you're the most fresh and able to produce the most force, and the best quality movements. 2) Use them sparingly, with just a few sets of low reps. Personally, I recommend starting with something like 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps. It might not seem like much, but I promise you that it's enough to deliver good results.
3) Only use once or twice per week. Squat jumps (and all plyometric type exercises) have a fairly long recovery cycle as your joints, connective tissues and muscles all need time to recover and grow stronger. Therefore, keep your squat jump sessions limited to 1-2 times per week.
Summary - Squat Jump TLDR
Squat jumps are great exercise for lower body power and explosiveness that work your quad, adductor, glute and calf muscles. To execute them, focus on an upright posture, braced core, and knees in line with toes stance. Programme them into your training once or twice per week for 3 to 5 sets of 5 reps. . And that's it for today. If you've found the article useful, consider joining my mailing list for regular updates, training programmes and coaching advice. And if you're looking for a coach, you can check out my coaching pages. 'Til Next Time Alex
MSc Strength & Conditioning British Weightlifting Tutor & Educator
References / Further Reading
Davies, G., Riemann, B. L., & Manske, R. (2015). CURRENT CONCEPTS OF PLYOMETRIC EXERCISE. International journal of sports physical therapy, 10 (6), 760–786.