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Jump Squats: How To, Risks, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing jump squats, what will the effects be?

Jump squats are a form of squats where you generate enough upward force so that you jump in the air instead of stopping at the top of the movement. They are mostly good for improving jump height and athletic performance.

Regular squats and jump squats are very similar in what muscles they target but the jump version focuses on a different fitness component and adds extra risk.

Whether you should choose jump squats, regular squats, or any other variations depending on things like your personal situation and training goals.

How to do a jump squat

The first thing you need to know is that jump squats are not for everyone. Especially if you have sensitive knees, ankles, hips, and back this exercise may not be for you. If you have a softer surface or shock-absorbing shoes these may be a good option.

If you do want to give this exercise a try make sure you warm up sufficiently. Jump squats use your legs in an explosive manner, being warmed up helps you avoid injuries. Once these things are in order, to do a jump squat take the following steps:

  1. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width. Keep your arms hanging still besides your body throughout the exercise to focus more on leg muscles.
  2. Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you ideally want your hips to be at or lower than your knee height. You will likely have to bend forward for balance but keep your back in a straight line throughout the movement.
  3. Push up your body fast, mainly with the help of your front upper leg muscles. You have to generate enough upward power so that you jump in the air. Try to avoid using your arms for momentum if you want to target your leg muscles.
  4. How you want to land depends on what body parts you want to absorb the shock. You generally want to at least fold your legs slightly so your knees don’t absorb all the weight.
How to do a jump squat

How you want to land depends on what body parts you want to absorb the shock. As mentioned before, you generally want to at least fold your legs slightly so your knees don’t absorb all the weight.

Besides that, you can for example land on the front part of your feet only. This will be mainly burdensome on your ankles and calves until your heels hit the ground.

If you land with your feet flat on the ground, or once your heels hit the ground, the shock of landing will mainly be absorbed by your knees, hips, and back.

One way of landing is not necessarily better for everyone. Absorbing the shock is also not necessarily bad if you don’t overdo it. Putting joints under safe amounts of pressure can strengthen them in the long term. A completely healthy individual can start out by distributing the shock between body parts to avoid overloading a single one of them.

Jump squat variations

The jump squat done with just your body weight is the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few jump squat variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.

Easier varations

Some people are not ready yet for a full jump squat. Before you do the full version you want to make sure that your regular bodyweight squat technique is good. If any body parts hurt during the regular squat you likely don’t want to do a jump squat.

Once you have taken that step, you can consider doing the exercise without going for the full 90-degree angle in your knees and hips and only jumping a small distance in the air. This will help you train similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

A variation that is easier in the sense that it is less rough on your knees is the box jump. This is where you jump in a similar way but on a sturdy surface like a plyo box or stepper. This does require extra equipment but in turn, your body undergoes softer shocks.

Harder variations

If you are more experienced with leg resistance training, bodyweight jump squats may be too easy to build a lot of extra muscle mass fast. At this point, you need to turn to other leg exercises or make jump squats harder to keep growing your leg muscles a lot.

Making jump squats harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up muscle growth compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.

The first and simple way to make jump squats more challenging is to focus on jumping higher. This will require a bigger effort from your leg muscles which in turn can benefit muscle growth.

To achieve more muscle strength and growth you can also do jump squats with weights. For example by wearing a weighted vest, holding dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.

Keep in mind that these jump squat variations also cause a bigger shock when landing.

You can also do jump squats at a faster pace to make this exercise more of a cardio challenge. However, this exercise is generally done as plyometric resistance training. For cardiovascular training, a different exercise like running may be a better choice.

Muscles worked with jump squats

Even though jump squats add more explosiveness to the exercise, they train more or less the same muscles as regular squats. That means that some of the primary muscles worked with jump squats include:

  • Quadriceps
  • Glutes

Some of the secondary muscles worked with jump squats include:

  • Calves
  • Hamstrings
  • Core

Although these other muscles play a role as well, jump squats will mainly focus on your quadriceps (front thighs) and glute muscles.

The way you train your muscles influences what fitness component you improve. Regular squats at a slower pace will train either muscle endurance or muscle strength. Jump squats can be a good alternative if you want to work on your muscle power fitness component.

Benefits of jump squats

There are two main categories of benefits of jump squats. The first category is the benefits of jump squats over regular squats. Some of these include:

  1. Trains muscle power more: Whether this is an actual benefit for you depends on your personal situation and training goals.
  2. Improves athletic performance more: Compared to bodyweight squats, jump squats are better for training explosive power of your leg muscles. This leads to an improvement in sports where you benefit from fast running.
  3. Likely strengthens bones more: Similar to muscles, your body can strengthen your bones if you put them under safe amounts of pressure and then offer them enough nutrients and rest. As long as you don’t overdo it this makes it so jump squats can strengthen bones more than the regular version.

While changing the stopping point and speed of the exercise does influence a few small things, jump squats are still squats. This means they also offer regular squat benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Jump squats are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing jump squats likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like jump squats promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. No equipment or location required: Since jump squats are a bodyweight exercise you don’t have to invest in equipment or be in a specific location.
  5. Improves sleep: Exercise like jump squats can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  6. Slows down aging: Jump squats won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than jump squats, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main risk to keep in mind when doing jump squats is the shocks body parts like ankles, knees, hips, and back will experience. Even if you land with good technique and do the rest of the exercise right, jump squats can be hard on these body parts.

If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

As mentioned before, don’t forget to warm up before doing an explosive exercise like jump squats.

Jump squat alternatives

While jump squats can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your leg muscles. Some of these jump squat alternatives include:

  • Box jumps
  • Jump lunges
  • Regular squats
  • Lunges
  • Step-ups
  • Bulgarian split squats
  • Pistol squats
  • Lateral lunges

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.

Conclusion

For specific training goals, mostly better athletic performance and improving jump height, jump squats can be a good addition to a workout routine. Jump squats may also be better for strengthening bones as long as you don’t overdo it.

That being said, for the most popular goals people have when it comes to exercise, losing weight and building muscle, jump squats are likely not worth the extra injury risk over regular squats. For these goals there are also better exercises than bodyweight squats.

Remember is that doing jump squats can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are sensitive in these areas you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing jump squats is a workout you love, great. If not regular squats and other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more jump squats make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles and joints.