Do Squats Make You Jump Higher? (Short answer is yes)

Increasing your vertical jump requires the use of all the major muscles of the lower body, as well as coordination with those of the upper body. This means that you’ll need to train for technique and form, as well as for strength.

The question among many athletes, as well as their coaches and trainers, is do squats make you jump higher?

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Most would say the squat is hands-down the best lower body strength technique.

Not only does the squat incorporate and strengthen all of the muscles in the lower body, it also uses them in a manner very similar to the vertical jump movement, and the more that you can have your training resemble “game day,” the better off you are going to be.

The squat is a classic, old-school strength movement still extremely popular with coaches and trainers and is well known for its ability to create great power in an athlete’s lower body.

Squatting heavy weight is what gives a football linebacker the ability to lower his shoulders and drive into the opposing team. It is what gives an Olympic skier the hip strength to slice into a sharp turn like a razor blade.

But do squats make you jump higher?

The short answer is yes, but only if you are using good form in both movements, and training for both strength as well as speed.

The Anatomy Of A Vertical Jump

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In many sports, the higher the athlete can jump, the more likely they are to be successful. Volleyball and basketball are two sports where this correlation is immediately obvious.

The vertical jump is also an indicator of overall athletic ability, with a clear relationship existing between jump height and running speed. The NFL actually requires that players be tested for both a vertical leap and a 40-yard sprint, no matter which position they play.

Vertical jump is defined as the highest point that you are able to touch from a standing jump, minus the height that you can touch by just standing.

To perform a jump properly requires more than just a Herculean push off of the ground. Body positioning is critical. Think in terms of “everything parallel.”

  • Lower the body until the thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • The angle of the shins should be parallel with the spine. A common mistake is to lean too far forward at the hips, which activates the back muscles and de-activates the glutes.
  • The angle of the shins should be parallel with the spine.
  • Push the arms out behind you.
  • As you push off the ground, bring your arms powerfully forward to create momentum while driving with your glutes and hips straight up through the spine.
  • This ensures maximum power transfer from the ground, legs and hips, with no wasted motion in jerking the spine erect.

So How Does Squatting Help?

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Doing squats not only makes the muscles groups involved stronger with regards to raw strength, it also helps to create the quick explosiveness that is so necessary in many sports.

Squats increase power in two different areas important to a good vertical jump:

  • Increased strength – the amount of power that can be applied to the ground.
  • Increased force – This is where the rubber meets the road. Force is mass times acceleration and is the secret to awesome vertical jumps.

Increasing Your Strength

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The best way to increase strength is by deep squatting, where your hamstring touches or almost touches your calf. This engages the maximum amount of muscle fibers and enables you to reap the most benefit from squatting.

A 2012 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that study participants who did deep squats had an improvement in their vertical jump by over one inch, while a group doing partial squats showed no improvement at all.

So this one is easy to see: Squats make your lower body stronger, therefore increasing the height of your jump. Pretty basic stuff, but let’s drill down and get a little bit more specific.


Increasing Your Force

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This provides the explosiveness that is so critical to a good vertical jump. Force is simply mass multiplied by acceleration. Mass is your bodyweight, and acceleration is how fast you can get it to move. The faster it moves, the higher you are going to jump.

To get your body to move fast, you must train the fast-twitch muscle fibers in the leg. This means focusing on the type of squats that will recruit as many fast-twitch fibers as possible while still keeping strength gains.

This is accomplished with a good mix of squatting exercises. One type for strength and the other for speed.

Examples of training for strength include

  • Training with low reps (1-6 reps per set) and heavy weight (80% or more of your one-rep max).
  • Adequate rest between sets to keep your body in an aerobic state.

Examples of training for speed and acceleration include

  • Very high repetitions (15 or more per set) of bodyweight squats.
  • Plyometric exercises - Plyometric training includes explosive jumping drills, including jump-squats, which are exactly what they sound like. They can even be done with weight. Just keep it light at first.

When training this way, you will develop both the strength and speed needed to make you jump higher than ever before.


Proper Squatting Form

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That is to say, bad squatting form virtually guarantees bad jumping form.

Again, like with jumping, always be thinking in terms of your spine staying parallel to your shins. You don’t want to recruit your spinal erectors while doing a squat, and if you lean forward at the waist, you will be doing just that.

Excessive forward leaning not only places you at risk for a back injury but it also essentially deactivates your glutes, placing the burden on the back muscles instead.

What happens when you do this while jumping is that the spinal muscles end up doing most of the work. The hands come up, and the spine jerks forward, lifting the upper body almost fully upright before the legs and glutes have even begun to really engage.

You’re essentially using two small muscles to perform an activity that requires some of the body’s strongest prime movers.

Remember that if you continuously use bad form, it doesn’t matter how hard you train. You’re just grooving bad body mechanics into your brain that will compromise performance and probably injure you sometime down the road. So make sure to get this part right.


Putting It all Together

So we’ve found the ideal combination of movements that we’re looking for: The building of strength through heavier squats, combined with engaging fast-twitch muscle fibers for the powerful and explosiveness so critical in a successful vertical jump.

It just so happens that squatting was involved in all of these movements, so the answer to the never-ending question “do squats make you jump higher?” is an unequivocal “yes.”

Luke Cafferty
 

Luke Cafferty is a fitness junkie, personal trainer and blogger. He's passionate about living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a strong and well rounded physique, while inspiring you to do the same.

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