Jump squats are one of the more popular vertical jump power exercises largely because they’re so easy to perform, extremely versatile, and produce results.
Jump squats will definitely increase your vertical jump and they do so by allowing you to generate large amounts of lower body power, increasing your rate of force development.
They’re also much easier to master than other power movements like the power clean.
In this article we’ll take a deeper look at exactly why jump squats are so effective for the vertical jump, what the best variants are, and how to get the most out of this exercise.
Research Says Jump Squats Give You Serious Bounce!
A 2016 study gave athletes an eight week jump squat training program to examine whether this exercise would make them stronger, more powerful, and more explosive.1https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4974862/
They used ‘isometric half squat maximal force production’ as the measure of strength, rate of force development over 100 milliseconds as the measure of power, as well as countermovement jump, squat jump, and 50m sprint time to determine overall explosiveness and athleticism gained.
The study found,
- Significant improvements in the isometric Fmax – The overall improvement in this test was 18%, meaning athletes got a whole lot stronger by the end of the training program.
- The rate of force development test scores went through the roof – The RFD100 test scores improved by a whopping 44% by the end of the 8 week program. So the participants got a whole lot more efficient at generating force quickly, AKA more powerful.
- The vertical jump heights also increased significantly – The countermovement jump increased by 10% and the squat jump increased by 15%!
- They sprinted faster – Athletes in the test group managed to shave off almost 3% from their 50m sprint time!
This study alone has positioned the jump squat as one of the absolute best overall vertical jump training exercises!
It makes you stronger, it makes you more powerful, and at the end of the day, it makes you jump higher!
How To Do Jump Squats To Increase Your Vertical Jump?
Firstly we should define a jump squat, because the exercise can mean different things to different people.
When I think of a jump squat, I imagine a barbell on back with anywhere up to 45% of your 1RM back squat loaded up.
The goal is to squat down to your typical vertical jump depth and explode upwards into the air as powerfully as possible.
Barbell Is Best
But you could easily perform the movement holding dumbbells, a trap bar, or weighted vest.
Regardless of the type of load you’re using, a squat jump is simply you attempting to jump as high as possible.
It’s not really even a squat – more of a quarter squat. Your focus is simply to generate as much jumping power as possible.
Low Reps, Low Weight, Maximum Power
Typically you want to keep the rep range relatively low as your objective is to maximize power output on each rep.
So 4-5 sets of 3-5 reps is plenty.
It’s always a better idea to use less weight and to move it more powerfully when it comes to jump squats.
If you’re struggling to get 4-5 explosive reps per set and your feet are barely getting off the floor, try reducing the weight a little and jumping higher.
As a general rule I think keeping the load to 35-45% of your 1RM back squat is reasonable for most athletes.
One very important thing to note is that in the study I mentioned above, each squat jump repetition was performed at >=90% of the athlete’s maximum power output.
In this particular study, they were able to determine the ideal load and reps using a force plate but the official recommendation is as follows.
Whether you do 2-3 reps or 5-6 reps doesn’t matter too much – there isn’t a ton of data as to which is better since the earlier study I quoted did four weeks in each of these rep ranges.
I would submit the lighter load to be slightly preferable as it should be a little safer.
Benefits & Drawbacks Of Jump Squats For Vertical Jump Training
Let’s have a look at some of the common arguments for doing jump squats, as well as the reasons some people choose not to do them.
Benefits Of Jump Squats
Highly jump specific movement – When it comes to improving rate of force development, specificity is king.
Jump squats are literally just loaded vertical jumps so they have an excellent carryover to the vertical jump by mimicking the same stretch shortening cycle.
Massive power output, even at the top of the movement – When you’re performing a back squat, you’re generating a lot of force on the eccentric and during most of the concentric movement, but right when you get to the top as you’re about to lock your hips out, you’re no longer generating much force.
The hard work is already done once you move out of the amortization phase and the ‘top part’ of the rep is pretty easy.
When it comes to jump squats, however, because you’re actually jumping into the air, you are generating huge amounts of power right through the entire range of motion.
This is one of the primary reasons people use bands when squatting, so the rep becomes more difficult at the top.
With jump squats, you don’t have this issue.
Really simple to learn/perform – Compared to other power movements you can do with a barbell, like a hang power clean, the jump squat is super rudimentary in nature.
There’s absolutely no learning curve to get it right.
Anyone can stick on a barbell on their back and jump with it.
This means you can focus on loading up and won’t have to spend as long perfecting technique.
This, in my opinion, is the biggest and most practical benefit of doing jump squats.
Disadvantages Of Jump Squats
Potentially dangerous – Some coaches shy away from recommending barbell jump squats because they feel as though the risk/reward isn’t quite enticing enough.
Obviously jumping with a barbell on your back comes with its risks, which is why you should always use relatively low weight.
Even just swapping the barbell for a trap bar or dumbbells makes this lift far safer.
No upper body power generation – Unfortunately when you’ve got a barbell on your back, you’re unable to use any arm swing to help generate power.
The upper body is completely removed from this movement as you’re busy holding the barbell in place.
This isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, it just means that jump squats are a purely lower body power movement.
Jump Squat Best Practices For Vertical Jump
In the earlier section I discussed the research as it pertains to rep ranges.
Reread that section for more clarification but here are my official jump squat recommendations based on the research.
- Aim to maintain >=90% maximum power output while doing jump squats.
- In order to do that, keep the reps per set to 2-5 when using 35-45% of your 1RM back squat.
- Perform up to 8 sets per workout (less if you’re doing a lot of lifting volume).
- Make jump squats one of your primary exercise during your power phase, if you choose to periodize your training in this way.
- If doing strength, power, and plyos all in the same session, perform your plyos first, then your squat jumps, and leave your strength training for the end of the session.
If you can manage each of those things, you should be able to perform jump squats safely and you’ll see some amazing strength, power, and speed gains from them!
The jump squat is one of my favorite power exercises and it’s one of the exercises my former strength coach had us do several times a week for volleyball.
It’s so much simpler than any of the Olympic lifts and the research is pretty clear: jump squats work.
They really work.
I highly recommend including jump squats in your vertical jump training!
There’s good reason why I’ve included the barbell jump squat in my list of the best vertical jump exercises for 2023!