The bodyweight jump squat is a great exercise that is useful for a variety of training goals, be it fat loss, muscle building, or general physical conditioning. The jump squat is simply a combination of a bodyweight squat and a vertical leap – paired together and they become a super-effective tool for athletic strength gains. The problem most people run into with jump squats is how to progress with them to mastery.
Contrary to popular belief, just increasing the number of reps, sets, and time spent on jump squats isn’t the only way to progress – or the best way to progress, for that matter. Increasing the quality of your movement is one of the best ways to progress, and we do this through increasing our movement sophistication. There are endless ways to increase the movement sophistication of the jump squat, and here are some examples.
How to Fire Up Your Jump Squat by Increasing Sophistication
So, after you’ve become adept at the bodyweight jump squat, you should add in an element of travel. Start with short forward leaps into a jump squat. You can then work on backward and lateral jump squats as well.
When you’re ready for a greater challenge, incorporate an element of rotation. Start small with 90 degree turns both clockwise and counter-clockwise. Progress to 180 degree turns and then 360 degree turns.
After you’ve spent some time practicing rotating jump squats, then it’s time to combine both travel and rotation into the exercise. Here is a sample progression:
1. forward jump squat into 90 degree turn
2. forward jump squat into 180 degree turn
3. lateral jump squat into 90 degree turn
4. lateral jump squat into 180 degree turn
5. reverse jump squat into 90 degree turn
6. reverse jump squat into 180 degree turn
7. forward jump squat into 360 degree turn
8. lateral jump squat into 360 degree turn
9. reverse jump squat into 360 degree turn
*Note: Increasing the distance that you leap or the height of your jump will also contribute to further challenge, so you could potentially spend a lot of time on each of these levels by just working on those two factors.
If you’d like to really challenge yourself after that, add in a plyometric box or bench/step to change your height. It’s best to start with a low height step at first and progress to higher objects slowly. The entire sophistication process outlined above can be repeated with the inclusion of a step. Forward jump onto box, Lateral jump onto box, Forward jump with 90 degree turn onto box, etc.
You can always make an exercise more difficult, more challenging, but the key is to do it with the underlying goal of improving movement QUALITY. Practicing natural movement should be a goal of any trainee or athlete, and there should be PURPOSE behind it. If you’re doing reverse squat jumps onto a 36″ box with a 360 degree turn, then good for you, but you’re not done experiencing the potential of your movement quality yet. You can do these on a single leg, or with a weight vest or external resistance. You can always make it harder, but you need to know why – for what purpose are you doing these exercises? If you’re just burning calories, or trying to increase your max lifts, then you’re missing out on the pure joy of exuberant natural movement. There is so much more to be had than just rote technique and routine. Just some food for thought…
Here are some additional resources relating to jump squats:
To your health and success,
Fitness Professional and Bodyweight Training Aficionado
P.S. A great bodyweight training program that has movement sophistication built-in to each exercise is the Bodyweight Exercise Revolution. I had a great interview with the program co-creator, Adam Steer, about bodyweight training on this page.