I like to think of the squat jump as the cool older-cousin of the classic squat: While the traditional move gets the job done, the squat jump has a little bit more to offer. That’s probably why fitness lovers can all relate to the hurts-so-good, now-or-never moment at the end of class when the instructor says: “Alright now let’s turn that squat into a jump!” You wipe the sweat out of your eyes, and you power to the finish.
As NYC trainer Sashah Handal puts it, a squat jump perfectly combines the strength portion of a squat and the plyometric portion of a jump to “generate lots of power and drive the heart rate super high.” It’s the perfect combination move that utilizes bodyweight strength and can really bring the heat, by spiking your heart with cardio… but only if you do it correctly. As it happens, bad form can totally wreck the effort at hand. Here are the three most common squat jump mistakes Handal sees when teaching her classes—and how to avoid them.
3 most common squat jump form mistakes
1. Landing too forcefully with locked knees
This is a big one. Handal explains that by landing with hard knees, you are hindering the power that your legs can generate; more importantly, you’re creating a “recipe for an injury.” For a smooth landing, you should make sure your knees are soft and you have a good bend in them. This protects your knees and ankles from absorbing any of the impact from the jump so that you stay injury-free and have no good excuse to stop when the instructor says: “Now do five more!”
2. Leaning too far forward
Another common mistake when performing a squat jump is leaning too far forward. Leaning forward means that your hips are being pulled back instead of down, which could put unnecessary strain on your lower back muscles. Your upper body should be nice and upright when doing this move. Listen to Sashah on this one: She has your back—literally!
3. Not using your arms for momentum
There’s a lot to keep in mind when doing a squat jump. As a predominantly lower-body move, it can be easy to forget about what’s happening upstairs. While your arms aren’t doing the bulk of the work here, they can really help you out. Handal points out that you should use your arms to slice through the air to create momentum and control. “You want to think of it as a sprint,” she says.
Now you have all the tools you need to perform a squat jump the right way. By jumping with soft, bent knees, keeping your chest up high, and utilizing your arms for momentum, you will be a squat-jumping pro in no time at all. And now that you know what not to do, click play on the video above to learn the right way to do the squat jump. Then, if you ever end up in one of Handal’s New York City fitness classes and she asks you to just give her five more… you may be able to spring for 10.
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