Jump squats are an excellent movement for improving overall explosive power, increasing your vertical jump, adding muscle mass to your lower body, and much more. If you are capable of performing them properly, I have no doubt they will quickly become one of your favorite exercises!
However, one of the lesser-known keys to properly using jump squats is that you want to make sure you are not using too heavy of a weight!
Don’t worry about barbell jump squats or any version of this exercise that includes too much weight- you want to keep them light and fast!
For measuring power, a majority of studies recently have shifted their focus to the power exerted upon an external load, usually measured by reference to the displacement features of the body and the weight.
Individual joints also have their unique power outputs, which may or may not change in direct proportion to the external power output.
Personally, I have always thought of jump squats as more of a conditioning/power movement, even before I understood the actual research. I have always felt that using a lighter weight and more reps gave me more benefits.
After understanding the science, it became even more apparent!
Check out these reasons why you should always keep your jump squats “light” for maximum benefit, and other tips on how to properly use them in your training routine!
Jump Squats for Improving Explosive Power – The Research
The goal of many of the recent studies done on jump squats was to find out if the power output at the knee, hip and ankles were affected by changes in external load as the exercise was performed.
To study this thought, one research team recruited 12 resistance-trained males who had regularly participated in resistance training programs during the previous year.
They were also involved in sports such as soccer, football, and basketball. (This is important as they all already played sports where power is a necessity, so they have already created certain stabilities in their bodies).
The researchers recorded different measurements from the subjects during two testing period.
During the first session, subjects performed a 1RM parallel back squat while they performed jump squats in the second session with loads that were equivalent to 0 percent, 12%, 27%, 42%, 56%, 71% and also 85% of their 1RM back squat with 2 to 3 minutes of rest between sets.
Results of the Research – External Power Output
The researchers noticed that the average external power output significantly reduced as the load increased, as shown in previous studies.
The results prove that regardless of the level of athleticism right now, it is better to load jump squats at a low, or minimum level.
Even performing jump squats only your bodyweight is extremely beneficial for all athletes, and you can challenge your body in many ways using them.
The MOST important take from this is that there will NEVER be a reason to load jump squats heavily on your back!
Jump Squats do not need to be weighted heavily to improve your vertical jump, speed, or power! It is proven in science!
Results of the Research – Internal Torque (Joints)
The research showed that movement at the ankle, knee, and hip joints witnesses a significant increase with the load, although they do not show significant differences in the increase of torque as the load increases.
The results of the torque did not align with two well-known studies conducted in 2012. Both of them discovered that as squat load increased, the hip and ankle torque also increased; with significantly greater differences than even in the knee!
If you are looking to work your joints more than your muscles (which is potentially useful in rehabilitation scenarios), adding more weight is possibly a good idea. However, this is not conclusive.
Concluding Thoughts – Benefits of Jump Squats
Considering the results of the research, power output of each of the lower-body joints does not change in proportion to external power output, and power output at the hip increased as the load increased to 42% 1RM.
Researchers also concluded that utilizing loads at a specific percentage of 1RM could lead to the preferential development of either hip or ankle joint power, depending on the load used.
For us, this means that we should never have a reason to load more than 42% of our 1rm at any time, and it is even advisable to move to a comfortable position closer to 0% weighted (bodyweight jump squats).
Choosing a weight somewhere between 15% and 30% of your 1rm (back squat) will provide you with a comfortable load that is safe for your joints and also allowing for maximum results.
For a well-round lower body power development, it is more beneficial to train jump squats with a range of loads rather than a single- optimal load. The hip joint may not be fully trained using a single load, and power will leak in this gap.
A minimum of two loads will be preferable such as 0% of 1RM and also one with approximately 30% of 1RM.
In my opinion, you can add jump squats into your routine one to two times per week for a quick shock to your body, and increase in overall vertical jump, strength, and power.
Since I am a professional basketball player, I prefer to do different variations of jump squats into my training routine two or three times per week. However, I rarely ever duplicate the same weight or repetition structure in the same week.
For a unique twist, try any of these burpee/jump squat combination movements! Such as described in the research, I perform all these movements with light weights. There is a significant endurance and form factor here, so do not consider trying unless you are fully comfortable with the movement!
Regardless of how often you do them, you should never feel the need to load your jump squats incredibly heavy. Jump squats can and should be used to your advantage, just don’t let them be detrimental to your body in the long run!
Also, remember that strength, vertical jump, and power are only a small part of performance and without balance, function, stability, and coordination they are easily wasted!