After doing a few jump squats it becomes clear this exercise works a variety of muscles. Find out which ones and whether jump squats are enough to see results.
Jump squats mainly work your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), and calf muscles.
Additionally, your erector spinae (lower back), hip abductors (outer thigh), and hip adductors (inner thighs) will have to work a good amount too.
By doing the jump version instead of the regular bodyweight squat, you focus more on training muscle power.
However, jump squats could be enough to grow and strengthen the muscles above too if you push yourself hard enough.
To achieve these two last fitness goals, more experienced lifters may need to consider doing weighted jump squats. Do keep in mind that these are not just harder for your muscles but also your ankles, knees, hips, and back.
Main muscles worked with jump squats
Jump squats are a compound leg exercise which means they work a variety of muscles in this area. That being said, some muscles will have to work harder due to your direction and the way you keep your body.
Regular bodyweight jump squats will mainly work your quadriceps (front thighs), glutes (butt), hamstrings (back thighs), and calf muscles.
Especially the quadriceps which are mainly responsible for extending your legs will have to do a lot of work.
The more you tilt your upper body forward, the harder the glutes and hamstrings will have to work to tilt your upper body back in the upward motion.
In this version, your erector spinae will also have to work harder to keep your spine straight under the pressure of your shoulders which “want” to stay in place.
Something similar applies in many jump squat variations with weights. If they require you to tilt your upper body forward to stay balanced, you will generally engage your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae more.
Besides these things, if you really use your arms to create upward momentum, you can also say that jump squats work the front part of your deltoids (main shoulder muscles) a bit.
Do jump squats build muscle?
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to put them under enough pressure, do enough repetitions, give your body nutrients, and rest enough.
Many individuals think that heavy barbell back squats are the only way to grow the strong leg muscles involved.
Especially for people who are not that experienced with resistance training.
At the same time, at some strength level, lifters will likely not build that much muscle with jump squats anymore.
Something else to note is that your training style can influence what fitness components you improve.
More specifically, regular bodyweight and weighted squats will typically train strength or endurance. Jump squats tend to focus more on muscle power (which also inevitably comes with improvements in other areas).
In short, from reviews of studies, it looks like jump squats can help many people build muscle. This especially applies to people who are not that strong (yet).
More experienced lifters may need more of a challenge than bodyweight jump squats to see progress.
Are jump squats better than regular bodyweight squats?
You may be in a situation where you don’t have any fitness equipment available but still want to do the most effective squat variation possible.
That being said, since your muscles will typically have to work harder in jump squats, this variation will generally offer more muscle growth and strength progress in a shorter amount of time.
Something else to keep in mind is that there is a third option too. There are one-legged resistance training exercises like lunges, step-ups, and Bulgarian split squats.
These challenge your leg muscles more than squats even though you are still just using your body weight.
How to make jump squats even harder
One of the benefits of jump squats is that many people can still see a nice amount of muscle growth and strength progress with just this exercise.
That being said, at some strength level, you may need more of a challenge to see these results. Additionally, increasing the challenge for your muscles could also speed up growth and strength progress.
Luckily, there are a few ways to make jump squats harder.
The first way is simply focusing on really jumping higher. There is a difference between just completing your set of jump squats and really trying to jump as high as possible in each repetition.
If the landing in these higher jump squats feels uncomfortable in your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back, you could also consider box jumps. Because you land before building up a lot of momentum, the landing is softer.
The second and main way to make jump squats more challenging is doing the exercise while wearing or holding extra weights like a trap bar, dumbbells, kettlebells, a weighted vest, etc.
As mentioned above, your choice in this area can influence what muscles you focus more on.
If you do weighted jump squats where you keep the weight on your shoulders/upper body, your core muscles and erector spinae will have to work harder to keep your back straight.
Both in the upward movement and the impact of the landing.
In the case of single-handed weights like dumbbells, you can also hold them in your hands by your sides. This will make the exercise a lot harder for the grip muscles in your forearms.
Both ways of holding the extra weights will also make all of the relevant leg muscles work harder.
With these weighted jump squats, you do want to keep in mind that the exercise also becomes harder on your ankles, knees, hips, and lower back.
If you are sensitive in these areas and/or have a history of injuries, you may want to stick to regular weighted squats. Potentially at a faster pace to improve muscle power.