The squat is a staple exercise among all strength and conditioning programs. This is because the squat has been shown to be one of the best exercises for building both lower body strength and mass.
But, does the squat make you jump higher? Yes, building strength in the squat has been shown to increase vertical jump performance by 12.4% after only 8-weeks of squat training. When comparing the squat with other lower body exercises, such as the leg press, the squat is 3.5X more effective in increasing jump results.
Using the squat to make you jump higher is extremely effective. But there’s more to the story.
In this article, I’ll explain:
- Why squatting is so effective for increasing jump performance
- 4 studies that prove squatting is one of the best things you can do
- How to train your squat so you can jump higher
- Sample squat training program
- Other things you can do to jump higher
Let’s get started!
Why Is Squatting So Effective For Increasing Jump Performance?
Jumping is like any other sport skill. With practice, you can train yourself to jump higher.
A lot of coaches use squats to accomplish this. But why are squats so effective?
There are three factors.
1. Squats allow you to increase your rate of force development
Rate of force development is a measure of explosive strength, or how fast you can develop force.
Simply put, it’s how fast your muscle contract at the point in which your brain decides to send the signal to your muscles to move. It’s the intent to move your body quickly.
When you improve your rate of force development, you become more explosive because you’re able to develop larger forces in a shorter period of time.
There are only two ways that have been shown to improve rate of force development:
- Resistance training (using barbells and dumbbells to get stronger)
- Ballistic training (using various jumping exercises with the intent to ‘move quickly’)
This brings us to the first reason why squats improve jump performance:
When training squats, you need to think about having a high intent to move the barbell quickly out of the bottom range of motion. If you don’t think about ‘moving the barbell quickly’, then you won’t be successful in lifting the weight. Thus, squats can increase your rate of force development (especially heavy squats).
2. Squats will allow you to generate greater levels of force production
In addition to being able to produce force quickly, if you want to jump higher you need to produce a lot of force all at once.
This is because higher forces lead to faster acceleration, and when you can accelerate faster, you can jump higher.
Here’s how it works when we break things down:
- Inside the muscle, you have what’s called ‘motor units’
- These motor units are responsible for producing force
- You have smaller motor units and bigger motor units
- The smaller ones are responsible for lower threshold activities like picking up a coffee mug
- The larger ones are responsible for higher threshold activities like jumping explosively
- Our goal is to get the larger motor units capable of producing greater amounts of force
So how do we get our larger motor units producing greater force?
You use resistance training to increase maximal strength. If you can increase your 1 rep max strength, then you can guarantee your higher threshold motor units are producing more force.
This leads us to our second reason why squats improve jump performance:
Using the squat will increase lower body strength, and consequently, train the larger motor units to produce greater levels of force. Also, because the squat mimics the vertical range of motion needed for jumping, the increases in force production are specific to the task.
3. Squats will allow you to increase your tendon strength
Tendons are what attach your muscles to bone.
For example, if you feel just below your knee cap, you’ll touch your patellar tendon.
The interaction between your muscles and tendons have an impact on your jumping performance.
This is because your tendons store elastic energy. Think of elastic energy as loading a spring or stretching a rubber band.
Here’s how it works:
- When you bend your knees to perform a jump, your tendons lengthen
- When your tendons lengthen they store elastic energy (loading the spring)
- The elastic energy is then released during the jumping phase
- Creating stronger tendons (aka tendon stiffness) creates greater elastic energy
- The more elastic energy, the higher you jump
So how do you increase the strength of your tendons?
One of the most proven ways is to perform ‘eccentric training’.
Eccentric training refers to overloading the ‘lowering’ phase of the range of motion. Note: I will be going over a step-by-step approach later in this article that discusses how to implement eccentric training properly.
But this brings us to the final way squats help improve jump performance:
By using the squat to overload the eccentric range of motion, you’re creating greater tendon strength, which is responsible for storing potential energy during the jumping movement.
4 Studies That Prove Squatting Is One Of The Best Things You Can Do For Jumping Higher
So you might be wondering whether there’s research to back up the idea that squats improve jump performance.
Because jumping is such an important sport skill, there has been extensive research on methods and interventions that help contribute to higher jumping abilities.
Here are four studies that give confidence to the idea that squats can make you jump higher:
Study # 1: Squats were shown to increase jumping performance by 12.4%
In a study by Wirth et al. (2016), they found that after 8-weeks of squatting participants performed 12.4% better in a jump squat test.
In this same study, they looked at whether the leg press had any effect on jump performance as well. They found that the leg press increased performance by 3.5%
So while both exercises improved jump performance, the squat was much more effective. They concluded the reason was that the squat assumed a body position that closely corresponded with the squat jump.
If you want to know more differences between leg press vs squats read our full guide HERE.
Study #2: Squatting just before you do your vertical jump test can increase performance by 2.4%
In a study by Gourgoulis et al. (2003), they tested whether performing weighted squats as a warm-up before a jump test improved performance. The results were that participants jumped on average 2.4% higher.
While this might only seem like a small improvement, understand that this was an extremely short-term intervention. The participants DID NOT have to train for 8-weeks to see improvement like the previous study. They simply had to perform squats prior to their vertical jump test.
The protocol they used was 5 sets of 2 reps at 20%, 40%, 60%, 80%, and 90% of their 1 rep max squat. Then they rested and performed the jump test.
Give this a try before the next time you test your vertical jump.
Study #3: The squat 1RM is a strong predictor of jump performance
In a study by Wisloff et al., (2003), they found that among an elite group of professional soccer players that their 1RM back squat strength was a strong correlating factor for how they were going to perform on a jump test.
In other words, the stronger their back squat was, the higher their jump performance tended to be. They concluded that the improvements in ‘rate of force development’ (described above) were the primary reason why 1RM back squat strength could predict jump squat performance.
The picture is pretty clear: get your 1 rep max squat up and you’ll have greater potential in your jump test.
Study #4: Deep squats are significantly better than quarter squats for improving jump performance
In a study by Hartmann et al., (2012), they found that not just any squat variation is good for improving jump performance, but that deep squats, in particular, were much more effective when compared with quarter squats.
They concluded that deep squats provided the stimulus necessary for the hip and knee extensors to positively impact the acceleration phase of the jump test.
They even went so far as to say:
“Deep squats should rarely be excluded from an athlete’s training program”.Hartmann et al., (2013)
They only suggested that deep squats should be avoided if an athlete is experiencing an injury.
Therefore, if you’re healthy and want to improve your jump performance then make sure you’re squatting deep (thighs below parallel).
Read my TIPS ON HOW TO SQUAT DEEPER.
How To Train Your Squat So You Can Jump Higher?
So now that we know why and how squats improve jump performance, let’s go over a step-by-step approach to using squats to jump higher.
One important thing to mention is that in a research review conducted by Baker (1996), he said that athletes looking to increase jump performance should be aiming to squat between 150-200% of their body mass for 1 rep.
Therefore, if you are 200lbs, this means you would aim to increase your 1 rep max squat to 350-400lbs. If athletes fall below this, they may be lacking jump performance.
Here are my six recommendations in order to hit those targets:
1. Squat twice per week
You’ll want to expose yourself to the squat at least twice per week in order to positively adapt to the movement.
This higher frequency of training will not only allow you to practice your squat technique, which will make you feel more comfortable in the movement, but will also let you accumulate more training volume that will translate to greater levels of overall strength.
I wouldn’t start squatting heavy twice per week though.
I would have one workout that is medium-heavy using a moderate rep range (4-6), and another workout that is light-medium using a higher rep range (8-10).
2. Improve both hypertrophy and strength adaptations
The bigger your muscles, the greater the potential for increasing strength. If you increase your strength, you increase both your rate of force development and maximum force production.
You can view your muscle mass similar to a car’s engine. If you have a bigger engine, you will likely be a faster and more powerful car.
So you can see how building muscle and building strength go hand-in-hand.
Therefore, I would start with a training phase of 6-8 weeks, primarily using the squat and other lower body movements to build hypertrophy (the process of enlarging your muscle fibers). Then, I would move into a training phase of 6-8 weeks with the focus switching to strength building.
I’ll give you a sample training plan in the next section.
3. Focus on linear progressions
Linear progressions simply mean tracking your sets, reps, and load, and then doing ‘more’ of ‘something’ over time.
There are a few ways you can focus on linear progressions:
- Do more weight for the same number of sets/reps
- Do more sets/reps with the same load
- Do more load for more sets/reps
If you’re not tracking your workouts and you’re just simply doing the same sets, reps, load over time, then you’re not providing the stimulus needed for your body to positively adapt.
4. Use eccentric training methods
As you remember, overloading the eccentric range of motion will help strengthen your tendons, which are responsible for storing elastic energy.
Therefore, having one squat workout throughout the week where you’re slowly lowering yourself into the bottom position, will help you strengthen your tendons.
While the absolute load on the barbell won’t be as heavy compared with if you did ‘normal squats’, the purpose is to implement a method that gives the tendons an opportunity to positively adapt. So lower the weight, and be strict with the method.
I would aim for a 5-sec eccentric tempo, then drive as fast as you can out of the bottom to stand up.
5. Use banded squats
Once you’ve built up your eccentric strength, you want to train your musculotendon springs to move as explosively as possible.
This is where band squats help.
Band squat provide additional resistance to the barbell where you need to have a ‘high intent’ to move the weight quickly throughout the entire range of motion.
This method will maximize your elastic energy storage and utilization, and improve your acceleration.
Simply add a 0.5-inch band to either side of the barbell – you don’t need much band tension to get the benefit.
6. Squat deep
Since squatting deep was shown to produce a greater acceleration in the jump squat test compared with training quarter squats, make sure you’re going as low as possible.
However, not everyone will be able to squat deep similarily because people differ in their levels of mobility.
With that said, mobility can be improved through your hips, knees, and ankles through some targetted exercises. So if you’re someone who lacks the range of motion to squat deep, start implementing a mobility routine.
In my article on HOW TO WARM UP FOR SQUATS, I discuss a series of mobility exercises that you can start with.
Sample Squat Training Routine For Improving Jump Performance
So how do you put those 5 things into practice?
Here’s a squatting routine that should be able to improve your jump performance in 8-week’s time.
Note: The percentages indicate a percent of your 1 rep max. Make sure you have an accurate 1 rep max before starting.
Hypertrophy Phase: Week 1-4
|HYPERTROPHY PHASE||Day 1||Day 2|
|Week 1||Squat – 3 sets of 10 reps @ 60%.||Slow squat (5-sec) – 4 set of 5 reps @ 62.5%.|
|Week 2||Squat – 3 sets of 8 reps @ 62.5%.||Slow squat (5-sec) – 4 set of 4 reps @ 65%.|
|Week 3||Squat – 4 sets of 10 reps @ 65%.||Slow squat (5-sec) – 4 set of 5 reps @ 67.5%.|
|Week 4||Squat – 4 sets of 8 reps @ 67.5%.||Slow squat (5-sec) – 4 set of 4 reps @ 70%.|
Strength Phase: Week 5-8
|STRENGTH PHASE||Day 1||Day 2|
|Week 1||Squat – 4 sets of 4 reps @ 80%||Band squat – 5 set of 3 reps @ 60% with 0.5 inch band|
1 set of 3 reps @ 80%
1 set of 2 reps @ 82.5%
1 set of 1 rep @ 87.5%
1 set of 3 reps @ 82.5%
1 set of 2 reps @ 87.5%
1 set of 1 rep @ 92.5%
|Band squat – 5 set of 2 reps @ 62.5% with 0.5 inch band|
|Week 3||Squat – 4 sets of 4 reps @ 85%||Band squat – 5 set of 3 reps @ 65% with 0.5 inch band|
1 set of 3 reps @ 85%
1 set of 2 reps @ 87.5%
1 set of 1 rep @ 92.5%
1 set of 3 reps @ 87.5%
1 set of 2 reps @ 92.5%
1 set of 1 rep @ 97.5%
|Band squat – 5 set of 2 reps @ 67.5% with 0.5 inch band|
Other Things You Can Do To Jump Higher
Now that you have a solid squat plan to help you jump higher, you might want to consider some other things that have been proven to improve jump performance.
Plyometric training has shown to improve jump performance by 4.7%.
Exercises to focus on are the squat jump, countermovement jump, countermovement jump with the arm swing, and drop jump.
No extra benefit was found if you perform these exercises with weights. Therefore, use bodyweight when training plyometrics.
Use dynamic stretching technique to warm up
On average, those who perform dynamic stretching prior to a jump test out-perform people who either don’t stretch or do static stretching by about 1-1.5 inches, which was statistically significant.
Dynamic stretching is when you move your muscles through a range of motion 10-20 times (i.e. leg swings) rather than holding a stretch.
Use trampoline training
On average, athletes who used a mini-trampoline to practice jumping increased their jump test by 3.3cm, which was statistically significant.
The protocol had athletes perform 12 sets of 5 jumps on a mini-trampoline twice a week for 5-weeks.
Increasing your maximal strength for the squat can improve your jump performance in as short as 8-weeks. The reason for this improvement is because squats enhance the rate of force development, maximal force production, and tendon strength. These factors directly correlate with higher jumping abilities.
Baker, D. (1996). Improving vertical jump performance through general, specific, and specific strength training: A brief review. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 10(2), 131-136.
Bridgeman, L. A., McGuigan, M. R., Gill, N. D., & Dulson, D. K. (2016). Relationships between concentric and eccentric strength and countermovement jump performance in resistance trained men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, DOI: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001539
de Villarreal, E., Kellis, E., William, K., Mikel, I. (2009). Determining variables of plyometric training for improving vertical jump height performance: A meta-analysis. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 23(2), 495-506.
Gourgoulis, V., Aggeloussis, N., Kasimatis, P., Mavromatis, G., Garas, A., (2003). Effect of a submaximal half squat warm-up program on vertical jumping ability. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 17(2), 342-344.
Markovic, G. (2007). Does plyometric training improve vertical jump height? A meta-analytical review. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 41(6), 249-355.
Perrier, E., Pavol, M., Hoffman, M. (2011). The acute effects of a warm up including static or dynamic stretching on countermovement jump height, reaction time, and flexibility. Journal of strength and conditioning research. 25(7), 1925-1931.
Wirth, K., Hartmann, H., Sander, A., Mickel, C., Szilvas, E., Keiner, M. (2016). The impact of back squat and leg press exercises on maximal strength and speed-strength parameters. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 30(5): 1205-1212.
Wisloff, U., Castagna, C., Jones, H., Joff, J. (2003). Strong correlation of maximal squat strength with sprint performance and vertical jump height in elite soccer players. British Journal of Spot Medicine. 38(3), 285-288.