FOCUS EXERCISE: Weighted Jump Squat

In this post we are comparing the weighted jump squat to unweighted jump squats (counter movement jump), and commenting on which weighted version might be more similar in pattern to the unweighted jumps. When working with younger athletes in a developmental stage, we need to continue to focus on the movement of the exercise and its similarity to athletic movement. In my opinion, movement patterning in this stage is a critical component of athletic development.

As our philosophy states…

  1. Movement Pattern (First)
  2. Add Repetitive/Rhythmic Speed and Confidence to the Pattern (Second)
  3. Add Light Loads, without Disturbing the Pattern (Third)
  4. Increase the Speed with Load to Create Power (Fourth)


The question today is concerned with where to hold the weight as you begin to increase the load and speed with the load during the Weighted Jump Squat Exercise. Here are your options…

  1. Weighted Vest (pattern similarity, but you can only add so much weight before you reach the vests capacity)
  2. DB’s on the Shoulder  (good alternative, as it mimics squatting patterns and challenges the core)
  3. DB’s Held Below the Hip (also good, but could challenge posture and knee tracking if stance is too wide)
  4. BB – Back Squat Style (good for advanced lifters, but increases spinal loading and therefore risk)

We shot a short video of these variations using a mat and gate from our Fusion Sport – SmartJump System, which allowed us to accurately measure the jump height of each jump. Here is a video breakdown of each of these styles.

As you can see the version with the DB’s held below the waist (arms straight) more closely mimics the jump pattern, and verticals were about 1.5 inches higher than the jumps with the BB on the back and 1 inch higher than the jumps with the DB’s on the shoulder. If we have pattern similarity and better function (higher verticals) we should probably think about using the weighted jump squat version with the DB’s held below the waist.

The next question is regarding how much weight to use in these exercises. Most research seems to point to loads around the 30% of Back Squat 1RM. This is what we used in the video. At this load, the weighted movement jump height was about 54% of max vertical when using the barbell (BB), and about 58% of max vertical when using the dumbbells (DB’s) held below the waist.

During a 6 weeks study with 5 sets of 5 reps of jump squats at 30% of back squat 1RM, the subject in the video had almost a 3 inch increase in vertical jump in only 1 session per week. While there are many factors that go into improving vertical jump (lower body power), the weighted jump squats seem to be a functional and beneficial way to train this physical skill.

For more information on improving vertical jump, check out our eBook – Creating Explosive Athletes – Plyos For Sport

You can also stay up to date on all our training program news and notes by following me on Twitter at @AthleteFITcoach


  1. Excellent comparative analysis between the technique of each jump and its similarity to the actual event of a counter movement verical jump. I found this most helpful, interesting and will certainly use this information in my training. Thanks!!

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