Find out how to do pop squats, what muscles they work, and whether they are even any good so you can get closer to your fitness goals.
Pop squats are a variation of bodyweight squats where you do a small jump in between each squat.
While you are in the air, you also switch your feet from wide apart to right next to each other (or the other way around).
If you can only do a few pop squats before fatiguing, this variation will train your muscles slightly more explosively which benefits muscle power.
That being said, many people will need to do squats with weights to see a lot of muscle growth.
In these cases, pop squats are more of a cardiovascular workout that can improve muscle endurance in leg muscles like your quads (front thighs) and glutes (butt).
For both of these categories, there are many exercises that are more effective than pop squats. Even if you do them weighted.
How to do a pop squat
Take the following steps to do a pop squat:
- Stand upright with your feet about shoulder width apart.
- Slowly lower your upper body by slowly folding your knees. Keep your spine more or less straight and your upper legs above your feet. If necessary, you can point your arms forward for balance.
- Push yourself up at a somewhat fast pace so you jump up slightly at the top of the movement.
- While you are in the air, move your feet inward so they are right next to each other when you land. Land with your legs slightly folded.
- Make another small jump and move your feet to about shoulder width so you land in the same position as step 1.
The main attention points during pop squats are keeping your upper legs above your feet and landing with your legs slightly folded.
Additionally, it is generally a good idea to keep your spine in a straight line while doing this exercise.
Muscles worked with pop squats
Some of the primary muscles worked with pop squats include:
- Quadriceps (front thighs)
Some of the secondary muscles worked with pop squats include:
- Glutes (butt)
- Hamstrings (back thighs)
- Erector spinae (lower back)
- Leg abductors (outer thighs)
- Leg adductors (inner thighs)
Compared to regular bodyweight squats, pop squats will work your inner and outer thighs and calves slightly more.
You will also engage your quadricep, glutes, and hamstring muscles in a slightly more explosive way.
This can be slightly more beneficial for muscle growth, strength progress, and power.
That being said, it is still fair to say that many people will need something more challenging than pop squats to see a lot of growth in the strong leg muscles.
In theory, you could do pop squats with weights to make this happen.
In practice, doing this exercise with any dumbbells, a barbell, a weighted vest, etc. will typically not be convenient.
Another option is doing pop squats faster but this would make it more of a cardiovascular workout.
For this goal, running, the stairmaster, or cycling are likely better choices.
Pop squat benefits
Pop squats offer a few potential upsides on top of the typical benefits of bodyweight squats. Some examples are:
- More inner and outer thigh focus: Pop squats work the muscles in these areas slightly more. This could be a benefit for your training goals.
- More cardiovascular training: The extra cardiovascular focus may not be ideal for muscle growth but does offer advantages in other ways.
- More explosive workout: The extra jumps involved in pop squats make the exercise slightly more explosive. This can benefit muscle power (and growth if you only use body weight anyway).
- Coordination and balance: The coordination and balance involved in pop squats can help you get more skillful in these areas.
Whether these benefits of pop squats weigh up against the downsides will depend on details like your training goals.
Something to keep in mind is that the faster movements in pop squats also come with potential risks.
More specifically, there is a higher chance of squatting too low for your current skills.
Additionally, the faster movements make it easier to use suboptimal technique.
These details make pop squats just a bit more risky for body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, and back.
Especially people with (a history of) knee and ankle issues may want to stay away from pop squats for now.
Pop squat alternatives
Pop squats are not the only exercise that can offer the benefits above. You can also consider some of these alternatives instead:
- Jump squats
- Weighted squats
- Weighted leg abductions and adductions
- Box jumps
- Jumping jacks
- Lateral lunges
- Butt kicks
What pop squat alternatives you want to do depends on details like your training goals, physical capacities, and equipment.
Are pop squats a good exercise?
Pop squats are not that good of an exercise. At least compared to many of the other good options available.
For people new to working out, pop squats could be a suboptimal muscle growth exercise that is just not as good as regular bodyweight squats or other leg compound exercises.
Additionally, pop squats will be a suboptimal cardiovascular exercise for people who are used to resistance training.
In theory, this last category of people could use squat equipment to keep seeing muscle growth results.
However, weighted pop squats will typically be too awkward to do.
One last thing you could argue is that people who really like doing pop squats could still do them sometimes.
At the same time, even these people typically want to implement more effective exercise options too.
Pop squats vs jump squats
Pop squats and jump squats are somewhat similar but still very different. Both in terms of technique and results.
When doing jump squats, you just jump up (high) and down whereas pop squats involve a small jump and foot position changes.
In turn, jump squats are also more effective when it comes to building muscle, strength, and power.
You can say pop squats could be slightly better for cardiovascular workouts than jump squats.
However, for this last goal, there are plenty of more effective exercise options.
What are pop squats good for?
You can say pop squats are good for adding more cardiovascular focus to the squat exercise.
That being said, pop squats are generally not the best exercise in terms of effectiveness.