Jump to Bigger Squats and Deadlifts

By: Josh Bryant

In traditional sports, assuming you don’t enjoy pulling splinters out of your ass from riding the pine, the objective is to produce large amounts of force rapidly.  Contrary to what the latte-sippin’, box-gym trainer tells you—powerlifting is no different!

One of simplest, most effective ways to enhance explosive power is with jump training.

Strength Standards

The rites of passage are simple: have a body fat percentage below 20 percent, injury-free hips, knees and lower back, and be able to squat 1.5 times your bodyweight raw, deadlift 1.75 times your bodyweight raw and if you are over the age of 40, be cautious.  

If you are not at this level yet, you have a higher risk of injury and will not derive the benefits of jump training and should focus on building your base strength.

Powerlifting Benefits

The faster you move a squat or deadlift (assuming proper technique), the less likely you are to encounter a sticking point.  Additionally, I have an experiment for you to try; walk over to a dumbbell rack and slowly lift a 25-pound dumbbell, set it down then snatch it off the rack quickly.  Dollars to donuts says snatching makes the dumbbell feel lighter.  A barbell is no different; simply having the intention to move it from point A to point B fast will make it feel lighter.  

How quickly you can develop force is called rate of force development (RFD). Jump training is one of the best ways to improve RFD and, unlike the Olympics lifts, has a simple learning curve.  Think about it, it is impossible to jump high slowly.  When jumping you must develop large amounts of force in a short amount of time, which will have a direct transference to your squat and deadlift.

As a powerlifter, I used jump training to take my squats and deadlifts from above average to some of the best in world. I have terrible leverages for deadlifts and was told by one famous powerlifting champion that I would never deadlift 700 pounds; he was correct, I did 810 and broke out of the genetic deadlift prison.   I had to kick, scratch, fight and throw everything, including the kitchen sink, to deadlift over 800 pounds; my kitchen sink was jump training.  

Author Josh Bryant Deadlifting 810

Since then, I have used jump training with a plethora of my world record-setting powerlifting clients.  Jump training played a huge role in Steve Johnson deadlifting 909 for an American record; six months earlier, Steve’s best was 843.  At this level, these types of gains are almost unheard of, jump training played a pivotal role. 

Steve Johnson’s 909 American Deadlift Record


No need to do bizarre jumps that make you look inebriated in the guise of functional training.  Basic jumps are the safest and have the most direct transference to powerlifting.  The following three is all you will ever need.

Box Jumps 

This is a medium impact jump. Stand in front of a box that is approximately your vertical jump height (you are capable of much higher). From there, rapidly raise your arms above your head. Rapidly swing your arms down by your side as you descend into a quarter to half squat position (each person will be different). Quickly swing your arms back up as you explode onto the box. You want to jump as high as you can, even though this box height will not be challenging. 

Box Squat Jumps 

This is a medium impact jump. Place a similar size box behind you and in front of you. Sit on the box behind you and briefly pause. Then swing your arms down then back up as you explode to jump onto the box in front of you. 

Depth Jumps 

These are along the lines of what original plyometrics were all about. They are a very high impact, shock method. I would not recommend doing these more than a month in a row and make sure you can squat at least double your body weight before attempting these. Stand on top of a 12”-18” box, step off the box and once your second foot hits the ground, jump as high up as possible. The main objective is to spend as little time as possible on the ground. 

I would highly recommend watching this detailed technique video about these featured jumps. 

Here are some guidelines to adding jump training to your program:

  • • The duration of jumps should be no longer than eight to 10 weeks cycled in your training program. 
  • • Depth jumps should be used no longer than one month.
  • • Jump one to two days per week. 
  • • Do not exceed over 40 jumps in a workout, most will derive a huge benefit from 10-15. 
  • • Jumps should only be done after a proper warm up. 
  • • Jumps can be done before squats and deadlifts or between sets. 
Jump Training Tutorial

Final Thoughts 

More is not better! Some famous textbooks recommend up to 200 jumps for athletes. I personally don’t see the need for this for regular athletes, but it’s downright insanity for the strength athlete.  Over the long term, jump training will build more explosive squats and deadlifts. In the short term, it can help your central nervous system more effectively recruit the most powerful motor units, i.e., lift more weight faster at the drop of a hat. 

Take the jump so your squats and deadlifts jump to the next level.