Ahhh… Squats. Yes, Squats! We all know what Squats are. If you don’t, you’re stupid! No, just kidding… but seriously…
The Squat is commonly referred to as the KING of all exercises, and for damn good reason! The muscle recruitment and the shear power built from heavy Squats is second to very few, if any, other power exercises. The most common type of Squat is the good old fashioned back squat, as seen below…
Simple – effective – necessary!
As with most exercises, there are variations of the Squat. In this piece, we wanna talk about the Jump Squat. Seems like not too many people are doing Jump Squats these days, and much to our dismay. Jump Squats are tremendous for building explosive strength and power in the legs. For a more detailed view of explosive leg training, make sure and hit up our article, Time To Explode – Explosive Training: Legs Edition. But anyway, back to the Jump Squat…
Christian Thibaudeau, an awesome strength coach, wrote a really good article for T-Nation, called Violent Jump Squats for Dense Muscle Growth, detailing how Jump Squats can be utilized to develop monstrous explosiveness in the lower body, and guess what?? We are gonna break down the best parts and make you see the latter!
While there are several versions of the jump squat, you must first master the basic version before branching off. Not many people are naturally explosive, and fewer still are explosive when lifting weights, so your first goal is to learn to be violently explosive.
And there we have a very basic version of the Jump Squat, for reference. Those Jump Squats are good and all, but they aren’t really those kinda Jump Squats that elitists would consider “violent.” When we wanna really build that violently explosive strength, we gotta be, well, animalistic, so to speak…
A Few Key Points
1. Don’t dip too low. Many people mistakenly think they’ll jump higher if they dip down lower. The best knee angle to jump from is about 130 degrees, or roughly a quarter squat. Even if your natural tendency is to dip lower, force yourself to only go down into a quarter squat.
2. Don’t bend the torso forward too much when dipping down. Many do this because they think it makes them jump higher, but what really happens is that their head travels a greater distance, giving the illusion of more height achieved. The fact is, lifters who bend their torso too far forward jump more with their back than their legs. An easy way to spot this is to look for the lifter leaning back while the hips go forward in the air.
These 2 are the key points you will hold dear when getting ready for these monstrous Jump Squats. These ain’t no joke, so be mindful!
3. Focus on a violent turnaround. A rapid turnaround isn’t fast enough. When you turn around it should feel as if you were punching someone with all you’ve got.
4. Don’t rush between reps. Land solidly, and then take your time to reset properly.
Jump Squats are different than regular Squats in the sense that you are gonna want to use significantly lesser weight than you would for traditional Squats. We aren’t going for max weight, we are going for max explosiveness and fast twich muscle recruitment.
To that end, the number one jump squat mistake people make is going too heavy.
So Now What?
Let’s talk weight. When planning a good Jump Squat routine, we would say go for about 25% or so of your maximum Squat weight. This is a good base for good and efficient power output. We are here to build explosive power and strength, so a weight that can be moved violently and explosively is what we’re after; we ain’t after bragging rights for how much weight you can move going South to North…
Take it away, Coach Thib…
Sets of 3-5 are ideal when using the basic jump squat to improve maximum power. Sure, you could probably do 10+ awkward reps with the weight recommended, but if you’re trying to be violently explosive, you won’t (or shouldn’t) be able to do more than 5 quality reps. Any more than that will result in an erosion in power production that’s counterproductive to the goal.
As for sets, I like the total number of jumps to be around 20-25 for a workout, so that equals between 4 and 8 sets, depending on how many reps you do.
Some individuals can certainly up the weight, the sets, the reps, whatever. It all depends on the person and how advanced said person is. This is a pretty solid guideline and should serve as the foundation when embarking on a Jump Squat program to develop explosive and functional strength and power!
Rest And Recovery
Depending on which training protocol you incorporate, generally, rest periods between sets is just as important as the execution set. Too much rest and you aren’t giving the muscle as much shock as it could potentially handle, and too little rest, and well, you aren’t as strong, obviously. Plan accordingly!
When doing sets of 3 to 5 at 20-30% of your maximum, 45 seconds is the most rest anyone should need to maintain a proper violent performance. If you can do 30 seconds or less and still maintain the same level of violence, even better.
Obviously, if a set suddenly feels flat and less explosive, then extend the rest period a bit. Density is great, but maximal performance is still more important.
As far as frequency goes, Jump Squats can be performed on a more frequent basis, as they are not as stressful to the muscles and / or tendons. Jump Squats stimulate the Central Nervous System (CNS) quite nicely, and aren’t really all that taxing, so a workout day starting with Jump Squats will benefit that explosiveness you are striving for.
Violent Jump Squats are explosive and violent by nature => Explosivness is built => Explosiveness spurts muscle growth via multiple muscle fiber recruitment => Ballistic athletes are born!
Furthermore, most people aren’t naturally explosive, but if they become more explosive they’ll build muscle easier. Being explosive is a motor skill, though, and learning a motor skill requires a high frequency of practice.
In other words, starting every workout with jumps squats is perfectly fine and a great way to reprogram your body and get great gains in muscle and strength.
Variations Of The Animal
As with any and all exercises, variations are inevitable. There isn’t just one way to Jump Squat, just like there isn’t one way to Bench Press, nor one way to Deadlift, and so on and so forth…
Jump Squat Series To Burn More Fat
The main difference with the jump-squat series is that you don’t reset between reps. When you land, go back down to a quarter squat and jump as high as you can again….
…In the jump squat series, use 15-25% of your max squat weight and perform as many jumps as you can in a specific period of time (20-30 seconds is recommended). Be careful not to “cut your jumps” – many lifters that want to fit more jumps in the 20-30 second block fail to finish their jump (they don’t jump as high as they can). On the contrary, every jump should be done violently and explosively, especially when fatigue sets in.
Contrast Jumps To Build The Quads
In the contrast variation you dip down to your regular depth (quarter squat), but instead of violently changing direction, you pause for a solid 3 seconds and then – without re-bending the knees farther –jump up violently as high as you can. Do sets of 5 repetitions and after the last rep go down to a half-squat position and hold it for 30 seconds.
Fast twitch muscle fibers are called upon and recruited more so in this Jump Squat variation, and that’s a good thing! The static hold you will perform will also stimulate Growth Factor production, and your muscles will thank you by growing, developing ballistic explosivness, and of course – getting stronger.
Low Squat Primed Jump
Go down into a full squat. From the full squat, go up to the quarter squat position and then back down to the full squat. Repeat for 3 reps, but when you hit the third rep, don’t stop at the quarter squat position – jump as high as you can. The 3 bottoms squats plus the jump is equal to one repetition and I recommend you perform 3 to 5 reps per set.
Since this is still a Jump Squat by the time you’re done the set, keep the weight at about 25% of your max Squat weight…
Jump Squats, and violent explosive work in general, is a great protocol to add to your arsenal. Explosive power yields great athletes. If you are salivating and want more, check out Gone Liftin’s Explosive Series