Tuck jumps have their advantages but they may not be for you. Discover some effective alternatives to tuck jumps with similar positive effects.
Among the other benefits they offer, tuck jumps can train muscle power in your quadriceps, glutes, hip flexors, calves, and a few other muscles, they can improve mobility, improve balance and coordination, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy tuck jumps, you want a more knee-friendly option, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these alternatives to tuck jumps can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
Keep in mind that implementing these alternatives can offer benefits but like any exercise, there is always some risk of injury.
Implement a good technique and warm up sufficiently to keep your injury risk low. When in doubt, talk to an expert.
1. Box jumps
For the first tuck jump alternative, you need an elevated platform that is strong and stable enough to jump on. An example of a suited object is a good plyo box.
Take the following steps to do a box jump:
- Stand upright in front of the box with your feet at shoulder width.
- Bend into about a quarter squat while you swing your arms back.
- Swing your arms to the front again and at the same time jump forward on top of the box. When landing you want to have your knees more or less at the quarter squat again. If you are squatted lower, this may be a sign the box is too high for your current jump level.
Make sure you pay attention to using the right technique to avoid any injuries. For the box jump exercise it is also smart to start with a low height and build up from there. Being too optimistic about your capabilities can be especially punishing when doing this exercise.
Box jumps look and are very similar to tuck jumps. However, by landing on the box, you land with less momentum.
This can make the exercise easier on body parts like your knees while at the same time still offering a good plyometric workout for the same muscles.
2. Jump lunges
Take the following steps to do two jump lunges:
- Stand up straight with your feet at more or less hip width.
- Take a big step forward so that you get into a position where both of your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Your front foot should be flat on the ground and your back foot should only touch the ground with the ball of the foot (front). Keep your back straight up throughout the exercise.
- 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.
- While in the air move your back leg forward and your front leg backward. The goal is to land in a way where you can take a similar position as in step 2 but with the other leg forward. 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.
- Land and take the same position as step 2 but with the other leg forward. Repeat the same movement with most of the upward movement coming from the other leg.
Jump lunges can be a good substitute if you feel like tuck jumps are too easy on your muscles. This is because you put the full weight of your body on one leg at a time with jump lunges.
One potential downside is that it is hard to make this plyometric leg exercise exactly equally hard for each leg. This could create or worsen muscle imbalances.
3. Explosive weighted squats
There are many different weighted squats with different weights and placements. Take the following steps to do an explosive back squat:
- Find a squat rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your higher back, and hold it there with your hands.
- Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Slowly lower your hips by bending your knees. How far depends on different factors like knee health but at your lowest point you 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.
- Push yourself up again fast into starting position by stretching your legs.
- Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.
Explosive weighted squats can be a good tuck jump alternative if you want to train your legs in a plyometric way with extra weights.
Make sure your regular squat technique is good before the weighted and explosive versions.
Similar to tuck jumps, explosive weighted squats can help you train the muscle power of your quadriceps, glutes, calves, and hamstrings.
One potential downside is that this exercise does not really train your hip flexor muscles a lot.
Take the following steps to do a burpee:
- Stand up straight with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Squat down and place your hands on the ground about shoulder-width apart.
- Kick back your feet so that you stand in a plank position. Make sure you keep your back straight.
- Slowly fold your arms at your elbows until your face is close to the ground. Your upper arms should be at an angle of about 45 degrees or less to your sides. Another way to put it is if someone is looking down at you from above your arms should make an arrow, not a T.
- Stretch your arms again until you are back in the position of step 3.
- Kick your feet forward so that you are back in the position of step 2.
- Push yourself up with the help of your legs at an intensity where you jump in the air.
- Land with your legs at least slightly stretched to absorb the shock of landing.
Burpees are more of an all-around exercise that targets many more muscles than tuck jumps. Additionally, this exercise focuses more on cardiovascular health too.
If you are interested in a substitute for tuck jumps with very similar effects, burpees will likely not be the best choice. Even so, burpees can be a fun way to switch up your plyometric leg training.
One of the downsides of burpees is that after you do a few of them you can easily start to neglect the technique due to fatigue.
5. Skater exercise
Take the following steps to do a skater exercise:
- Stand up straight with your feet at about shoulder width.
- Swing one leg sideways and jump to that side. To start with the actual exercise this first jump can be slightly smaller. How you want to land depends on what body parts you want to absorb the shock. You generally want to at least fold your leg slightly so your knees don’t absorb all the weight.
- Land on the outer leg and let the inner leg continue behind the main support leg and touch the ground with the front of your foot for balance.
- Lower your body by bending the knee of the foot that is fully on the ground. 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.
- Push your body up and sideways, mainly with the help of the leg that is bent.
- Repeat the movements in steps 3, 4, and 5 but this time your other leg will be the main support and driver of the jump.
Due to jumps to the sides on one leg, you engage your outer and inner thighs more compared to tuck jumps. This can be both an advantage or disadvantage depending on your training goals.
The balance between how far vs how high you want to jump during the skater jump exercise depends on what muscles you want to focus more on.
Jumping far will focus more on the outer thigh muscles. Jumping high will focus more on the quadriceps and glutes.
6. Broad jumps
Take the following steps to do a broad jump:
- Stand up straight with your feet about shoulder-width apart.
- 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.
- Start leaning forward, depending on your calf flexibility you may have to lift your heels off the ground. You can move your arms back if you want to use them in the broad jump.
- Push your body up and forward fast, mainly with the help of your front upper leg muscles. You have to generate enough upward power so that you jump. You can swing your arms forward to jump farther.
- 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.
Besides slightly more focus on the calves due to the bent-over position, broad jumps will engage your muscles in a similar ratio as tuck jumps.
A potential benefit of choosing the broad jump exercise over tuck jumps is that gravity will speed up your momentum slightly less. This can make broad jumps a bit easier on your knees.
Even so, keep in mind that this tuck jump alternative is still not the most knee-friendly.
7. Power skips
For power skips you preferably have some room, both in height and length, to do the exercise. If that is in order, take the following steps to do the movement:
- Stand upright with your feet at about shoulder width.
- Move up one thigh as far as comfortable while folding this leg, push offer the ground with your calf of the other leg, and move up the arm opposite of the leg that is in the air. Do all of this in an explosive way so that you jump off the ground.
- Land first with the foot closest to the ground. Make sure your leg is slightly less than stretched so it can fold a bit on impact.
- Stretch the leg that is in the air to slightly less than stretched and land with this leg on the ground.
- Repeat the movement but while raising the other leg first. To do multiple power skips you keep alternating.
You can do the power skip exercise in a slow, less explosive, way as a nice warmup exercise.
At higher intensities power skips can be a one-legged alternative to tuck jumps to train calves, hip flexors, and to some extent quadriceps and glutes, in an explosive manner.