You need strong legs to jump high. Front squats make the legs stronger. Seems like a logical fit to train the front squat, right?
But how can we quantify that benefit? Does the front squat actually carry over to jumping? Is the front squat the best movement to use? Find out here.
Do Front Squats Help Vertical Jumps?
Front squats, as part of a well rounded strength training program, have the potential to increase vertical jump height.
Unfortunately, contrary to the claims of many programs out there on the internet, you’re not guaranteed a set number of inches.
If you’re starting out as untrained, you’ll be fortunate to add 15-20% to your jump height through strength training.
Why Front Squats Can Help Improve Vertical Jumps
A bigger muscle has more contractile fibres, which means more potential for a stronger muscle.
All things being the same, a stronger muscle has a better chance of jumping higher than a weaker muscle, up to a point which is set by your genetics.
Factors that have the greatest impact on jump height
Sorry. There’s no exercise or program in the world that will take you from a 12 inch vertical jump to a 36 inch vertical jump.
Your ability to jump high is largely down to your genetics.
Your vertical jump will likely peak in your early to mid twenties. As you age beyond this, your body’s ability to express this skill will degrade.
Being good at jumping
Jumping is a skill that requires coordination. In order to improve this skill, you will need to be taught how to jump correctly, and you will need specific practice.
The final 15-20% of your vertical jump potential will come from your strength training.
Go ahead and jump as high as you can, and make a note of the height.
Now, jump up and down as high as you can twenty times in a row, and measure the height of the final jump.
They’re not the same, are they? That’s because fatigue masks your ability to express power.
This is a simple example, but the real world problem is that fatigue can be cumulative from one training session to another.
If you’re constantly training in a fatigued state, you may find your ability to jump becomes compromised.
Because you have this fatigue, your jump training will be sub-optimal, leaving some of the gains on the table.
There’s an individual balance between training and recovery that you (and possibly your coach) will need to establish through careful monitoring.
Are Front Squats Better Than Back Squats For Improving Vertical Jumps?
Scientists have studied this.
It doesn’t seem to make much difference.
The purpose of the squat is to strengthen the legs, not to emulate the movement pattern of jumping.
You can get brutally strong with either type of squat.
If you can’t squat at least your own bodyweight, you’re probably not strong enough to maximise your jump potential. Soviet literature points towards having a 2x bodyweight squat to get the most out of plyometric training.
You might read that and feel it’s excessive.
The stronger you get, the less correlation you’ll see between increasing absolute strength further and jump height.
There’s only one way to find out, right? Get under the bar! You’ll know when it stops working.
Other Ways To Improve Vertical Jumps
Be less fat
If you’re lighter, you might be able to jump a little higher. Studies haven’t shown much correlation between carrying excess body fat to greatly impact jump ability.
When you cut body fat down you are also limiting or slowing potential for muscle and strength gain.
The demands of your particular sport will inform how much mass you need to carry.
A basketball player won’t need to weigh the same as a defensive lineman, for instance.
If your jump mechanics are poor, you need to spend time improving your coordination with specific jump drills.
Train for strength at different speeds
There will be a point where absolute strength will no longer carry over to jumping ability.
There may still be further increases to be had by training to move weights very quickly.
Some popular methods of training for training for speed and power:
Olympic weightlifting movements
Snatch, clean, jerk and their variations.
Power snatches and cleans are popular because they involve moving the weight fast over a longer range of motion.
Speed work with accommodating resistance
This is typically a squat or deadlift variation with bands or chains attached.
As you ascend off the floor or out of the hole, the resistance increases. This forces you to move fast or get crushed.
Bands tend to force the most acceleration, but they are generally reported to be harder on the body (and harder to recover from) than chains.
There are countless plyometric movements. Here are a couple of popular movements to give you the idea:
- Box jumps
- Depth jumps
- Long jumps
Make the rest of your body stronger
Don’t forget! It’s not just about your legs. The rest of the body is heavily involved in the vertical jump motion. There’s a violet swing of the arms as well.
Get strong all around!
Practice your sport
All this talk of vertical jump is nice, and all, but there’s no vertical jump world championships. Outside of the Guinness Book of Records, maybe?
Jumping ability is one aspect of a greater skill set that comprises your sport performance.
If you’ve got the ability to jump high, you already know.
You may have even been scouted for your sport specifically because of this potential.
Be sure to optimise with strength training, sure, but remember that the specific practice of your sport takes priority.
I’ve been in the fitness and strength training industry for nearly a decade. In that time, I’ve gained 30 pounds of muscle, written hundreds of articles, and reviewed dozens of fitness supplements. As for my educational background, I’m a currently studying for my Active IQ Level 3 Diploma in Personal Training.