The Squat is the #1 exercise for increasing your vertical jump. The Squat is so effective because it works your entire body, focusing on your legs, core, and posterior chain. The Squat, along with the Deadlift, is the most important weight room exercise for jumping higher.
You may have heard things like, “Squats are bad for your knees” or “You’re going to hurt your back”. The fact is, these statements are simply not true. The squat is the natural way to sit. Watch a baby pick up a toy, guess what? They have perfect squat form. Someone from a place where sitting in chairs all day is not common. Same thing. Nice deep squat position. Compared to other sports, weightlifting has the lowest rate of injury. Take their word for it, squat right and squat deep.
This baby doesn’t seem to have a problem squatting.
Benefits of Squatting
Squatting will help you gain strength faster than any other exercise. Not just any strength. The strength needed to apply more force and power. This is what you need for a higher vertical jump.
Squats build muscle in your gultes, hamstrings, quadriceps and lower back. This will give you the foundation of strength and flexibility needed to help stabilize your knees and safety do plyometrics.
Types of Squats
There are many types of squat variations. The main versions are back squat, box squat, front squat, wide stance squat, zercher squat, goblet squat and overhead squat.
To improve explosiveness and maximize your vertical jump, focus on box squats. The box squat allows you to explode up off the box to complete the lift. The “exploding” off the box is what develops the force and power in your hips and posterior chain.
More power = Higher vertical jump.
Compared to regular squats, box squats are safer and easier to learn.
- The box is at a set depth. No need to worry about proper depth.
- Proper squat form is to sit back. This happens automatically with the box squat.
- Easy to focus on hip drive from a dead stop on the box.
- Less likely to round your back at the bottom of the squat when you’re sitting on a box.
Setting Up for the Box Squat
To box squat you need a barbell, weights, a squat rack, and a box. If you don’t have a box, you can use a bench, stacks of plates, or build something. Be creative, just make sure whatever you use is at the right height and is sturdy enough to hold you and the weight.
- Stretch and warm up properly. Please.
- Set the height of the bar at chest level.
- Find and position the box at a proper height so when you sit on it your hips are slightly lower than your knees.
- Set the box in the rack so you can sit with just one step back.
- Sit on the box and set the safety pins just below your shoulders.
- Get a narrow grip on the bar with your thumbs over the bar, keep your wrist straight.
- Place the bar on your back on top of your shoulders, squeeze your shoulder blades together, bring your elbows back under the bar.
- Get your chest up, unrack the bar, step back once with each leg, set your feet about shoulder width with your toes slightly pointed out.
Dave Tate teaching proper box squat technique.
Performing the Box Squat
- Take a nice big breath, squeeze your shoulders blades, keep your chest up.
- Slowly sit back onto the box, push your hips back. Keep your back, abs and glutes straight and tight.
- Shins should be perpendicular with the floor. Knees should be out, parallel with your toes.
- Pause for a second then explode up leading with your hips. Squeeze your glutes, keep your knees out, head looking straight, wrists straight, back arched, chest up.
- Drive the bar up with your hips, “push” the floor apart with your feet, and push your neck into the bar. Keep your heels in contact with the ground, wiggling your toes helps.
Mark Rippetoe has been coaching the squat for many years. Listen to him.
Important things to Remember
Warm Up Properly – Warming up allows you to squat more weight without getting hurt. Injuring yourself in the weight room is not going to help you improve your vertical jump!
Start Light – If you have never done a squat, make sure to start slow. Practice a few times without any weight, do a few sets with just the bar, make small weight increases to find your working set.
Focus on Speed – Driving your hips up off the box and accelerating through the lift helps build power. Power is what you need to jump higher.
Sit back on the Box – Sitting back on the box helps build strength in your hamstrings, which is key for a huge vertical.
Lead with the Hips – Hips and glutes are the most important part of the squat. When you are sitting on the box, lead with your hips and glutes, driving them up off the box.
Back Arched – It is very important to keep your lower back arched at all times when the bar is on your shoulders. Remembering to keep your chest up and hips back solves this problem.
Neutral Head – Keep your head in a straight or slightly down position while squatting. Not up or down. This helps with balance and helps with overall form.
Upper Back Tight – Keep your chest up, shoulder blades together and elbows back.
Knees Out – Make sure to keep your knees apart, at the same angle as your toes are pointing. Don’t let them come together at any point in the lift.
Don’t Use the Smith Machine – This piece of equipment should not exist. It is unnatural. You cannot squat correctly with a Smith Machine.
Don’t Use the Leg Press Machine – Don’t substitute the leg press machine for squats. This is a good way to isolate a few leg muscles, the opposite of what we will get with the squat, a compound lift.