Jump Squats to Bust your Squat Plateau
The following is a guest post from Eric Bach, if you’re interested in submitting a guest post email me at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Squats and Squat Jumps are nearly identical biomechanically, meaning a transfer in ability
- Stick to Single response jumps. Multi-response jumps are far more demanding, advanced, and difficult to program.
- Jump Squats are an ideal speed-Strength Movement
It’s happened again: The dreaded plateau and few plateaus are as frustrating as the squat. The weight feels amplified, the groove is off, and you’re lacking “pop” in the movement.
The common problem is this—you’re strong, not explosive. Being able to generate force and doing it quickly is key in the transition from eccentric to concentric in the squat (gettin’ outta the hole), maximizing your squat, and translating strength into athleticism.
Luckily, this is trainable. Being strong and not explosive is corrected through proper planning.
To maximize gains in muscle, performance, and strength you need to work multiple modes of performance on the force velocity curve, not just maximal strength. It’s time to power up your performance and jump over your squat plateau.
Enter the Force Velocity Curve.
The force velocity curve is a hyperbolic graph that shows the relationship between force and velocity, an inverse relationship between weight (force) and the velocity (speed) that you lift the weight. The heavier the weight the slower movement (absolute strength); conversely, the lighter the weight the faster the speed (speed) of the movement. These qualities make up opposite sides of the spectrum, with speed-strength, strength-speed, and power making up the middle of the curve.
If you’re training to maximize your squat you need to spend a good amount of time towards the maximum strength end of the curve. In addition, you need to add speed to your repertoire by emphasizing speed-strength.
Speed Strength exercises are synonymous with high power outputs. They both produce a super-high power output compared to longer duration, lower velocity counterpart maximum strength. Compare a tractor trailer and a Ferrari– It’s great to have a ton of horsepower, but for high-performance it’s best to generate horsepower rapidly.
In this case explosive exercises are best using loads between 20%-85% for multiple low-rep sets is best. (Baechle & Earle, 2008). If I were a betting man I’d wager you’re already using a sub-maximal squat day plus multiple warm-up sets between 50-80% 1-rm. If you’re lifting every rep like it’s your max you’re already getting sufficient volume with strength-speed. The missing piece is lighter, more explosive work.
Speed-strength movements will address this with high-velocity movements movement against a small external load. Enter the Jump-Squat: The jump-squat is an ideal selection to boost your squat for one major reason: biomechanical similarities. Jump squats train an explosive transition from eccentric-to concentric against a light load with explosive triple extension.
Here are my two favorite variations:
Barbell Jump Squat: Barbell jump squats are ideal if your concern is pushing maximum weight. Use the same foot position, bar placement, and technique as you do in your squat workouts. I’m not a huge fan of these outside the “powerlifting” crowd because it’s tougher to fully extend the hip and make a sound landing. Keep loading light, I stick to the barbell and no more than 20% 1-rm. Barbell jump squats are very stressful with additional compression and stress on the body.
Jump Squat No Countermovement with Dumbbell: Dumbbell jump squats are my ideal pick for those looking to boost their squat with a greater emphasis on triple extension and landing mechanics. I prefer these with everyone except power lifters. The lack of counter-movement shows greater “starting” strength and power versus a countermovement jump.
Jump Squat Considerations:
Like anything else you must take careful consideration with exercise selection. Haphazardly throwing exercises into your program because the “interwebz” said so is potentially ineffective, and even dangerous. You wouldn’t just start playing full-contact Football without proper conditioning and technique would you? Take the following into consideration before adding jump-squats.
If you’re not conditioned to jumping: Condition the tissues to the impact of jumps with hops, jumping rope, and low-intensity squat jumps focused sound landing. Learn to control pronation of the foot—allowing the foot to “dive in” can lead to valgus collapse on the knee. Unless you’d like to groove higher risk of ACL injuries do it correctly before emphasizing weight.
Program Conservatively: Adding too much too soon will hinder your results, not help them. Take into account total training volume, loading, and rest periods when programming jump squats into your training. A progress such as 3×5, 4×4, and 5×3 works well to coordinate lifting intensity with jumps.
Jump Mechanics are vital: Take-off should emphasis driving through the entire foot, triple extension, and a vertical joint stacking of the entire body. Your body should be a straight line from ankle to ear, not leaning forward.
Here’s an example:
On the landing you must bend the knees and hips to absorb impact. Joints should be stacked and feet landing even on each jump. Stick and hold position for each jump to reinforce good mechanics—incase you want to be an athlete off the platform, bro. Pay attention to pronation of either foot (picture), where the foot goes the knee will follow.
Re-set and jump again, all these movements should be single response, not multi-response.
Resiliant Trunk: For transfer of force you need a strong mid-section, that’s why core training is so important. During counter-movements and landings of the jump the trunk should stay engaged and rigid. Avoid bending and kyphosis as they will lead to poor hip extension/ poor power, and poor landing.
Stick to Single Response Jumps: Jumps are very stressful on the body and most people struggle with their execution. That said, single response jumps are the safest way to go for most people. Multi-response jumps (jumping multiple times without sticking the landing and resetting) will expose weaknesses in mechanics and require great relative strength. Prescribing them to you without seeing you jump would be ignorant and irresponsible. Stick to single response.
Incorporating Jump Squats
Day 1: Squat: Speed-Strength+ Maximum Strength
Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills
1a. DB Jump Squat 4×4 w/ 10-20lbs external resistance
1b. Plank 4×45 sec
2a. Heavy Squat 5×2-3 @ 85-95%
2b. lateral band march 5×8
3a. Bulgarian Split Squat 3×8-10
3b. Palloff Press 3×12
- Sled March/ Prowler Push
Day 2: Upper Body Push/Pull
Day 3: Deadlift: Strength-Speed + Speed-Strength
Dynamic Movement and (optional) movement skills
1a.Barbell Jump Squat 3×5 w/bar
1b. Side Plank 3×30 sec.
2a. Speed Deadlift 5×3-5 @40-75%
2b. Fire Hydrant x8
3a. Barbell RDL 4×8-10
3b. BW Glute Bridge 4×12
- DB Walking Lunge 2-3×8-12
Day 4: Upper Body Push/Pull
Squatting big weight takes much practice doing just that—you must emphasis maximum strength. But, when the dreaded plateau hits you’ll need to take your programming to the next level. Step back and evaluate things—what’s missing? Explosiveness.
Emphasize jump squats over your next few training cycles and get on the explosive path to a bigger squat.
About the Author: Eric Bach, CSCS, PN1 is a strength coach, author, and fitness consultant in Denver, Colorado. Eric has been featured in publications such as T-Nation, Muscle & Strength, eliteFTS, and thePTDC. He is owner of Bach Performance where he coaches clients take control of their lives, helping them become stronger, shredded, and more athletic. Get your Free copy of 101 Tips to Jacked and Shredded and a Free Jump-Start E Course Here.