When it comes to fitness, don’t underestimate the simpliest of movements.
A squat jump, for example, is second to none when it comes to developing explosive lower body power. Whether you’re an athlete, or simply want to make everyday activities easier, the benefits of squat jumps are certainly nothing to sniff at.
But once you start feeling comfortable with squat jumps, how can you increase difficulty to keep progressing?
Well, one popular variation is to add dumbbells to the exercise.
Dumbbells create additional resistance, forcing your muscles to work harder as you squat up and down. Instead of just simply increasing the amount of reps or sets you do, using dumbbells means you can add progression with lower repetition workouts, which is better for developing overall strength and power in the legs.
In this handy exercise guide, we delve into everything you need to know about dumbbell squat jumps, including how to perform them safely, the muscles worked, benefits and an example workout to follow.
How to do Dumbbell Squat Jumps
- Hold a dumbbell in each hand by your side. Or alternatively, hold a single dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest (as you would with a goblet squat).
- Lower yourself into a squat, keeping the dumbbell(s) as stable as possible.
- Pause for a moment, before pushing yourself up out of the squat and into a jump.
- Land softly by bending at the knees and lower yourself into a squat again, repeating the movement.
Coach’s Tip – To really push the muscles into overdrive, try and lower yourself into the squat slowly but then push up out of the squat as fast as possible. Try to really explode off the floor, engaging the quads, glutes and calves.
When selecting a dumbbell, think about how much you could squat regularly and opt for around 20-30% of that weight. For example, if you can normally squat with 100kg, choosing 20-30kg (so 10-15kg on each dumbbell) would likely be enough resistance for you to feel it, but light enough that you could still lift yourself off the floor).
Dumbbell Squat Jump Workout
Dumbbell squat jumps can be incorporated into all sorts of workouts. You can either set up a specific number of repetitions and sets, such as doing 3 sets of 6-12 repetitions.
If you select heavier dumbbells, you’ll probably need to drop the amount of repetitions you do.
Similarly, you could follow a timed workout, or “as many reps as possible” style routine (also referred to as AMRAP). This could be integrated into a HIIT workout, such as squat jumps for 30 seconds, followed by 20 rest, repeated 5 times.
Benefits of Dumbbell Squat Jumps
Muscles Worked During Weighted Squat Jumps
Squat jumps help develop explosive strength in the quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. There are very few sports that wouldn’t benefit from having explosive power in these muscles. Your whole lower body will be engaged and activated to fulfil the squat and jump.
Your core will also be engaged to provide balance and stability during the movement. The jump will naturally require more balance, so the core will be activated more than with regular squats.
Holding the dumbbells by your side will also mean your arms, shoulders and back are engaged too, helping to keep the dumbbells stable.
Dumbbell squat jumps also develops better coordination. At the top of the jump, you have to be very aware of your body, the dumbbells and how you’re going to land safely.
Dumbbell Squat Jump Benefits
As well as developing lower body power for athletic performance, any sort of weighted squat jump also helps improve everyday activities. If you imagine having the strength and power to launch your feet off the ground from a squatting start… something like standing up from a chair suddenly feels very doable.
It is a movement that helps force muscles to go above and beyond what you often need them to do, so you are better prepared for everyday activities.
Dumbbell squat jumps will be impacted by the type of dumbbells you have. Large, bulky dumbbells aren’t ideal as they might rub against your thigh during the movement (which is going to be painful or distracting at the very least).
The best sort of dumbbells for any sort of jumping workout will be small and compact. This usually means adjustable dumbbells are out, as they tend to be larger in shape.
Our recent buyer’s guide on the best dumbbells for women include some popular smaller dumbbells (that still go up to a decent weight).
Kettlebell or Barbell
Swapping your dumbbells with either a kettlebell or barbell is the easiest way to change up the exercise, whilst maintaining the resistance.
It really boils down to personal preference and how you want to hold the weight.
If you want to try using a weighted barbell, make sure you select a much lighter weight than you would for a regular squat (again, around 20-30% of your max squat would be a good starting point). You also want to ensure you are in control at all times. Remember, the focus isn’t about trying to do the heaviest squat possible, but rather adding a bit of resistance to a squat jump… so if the resistance is too much, you simply won’t be able to lift your feet off the floor.
If you opt for a kettlebell, you’ll probably want to adopt a goblet squat position.
If you enjoy squat jumps and want to add resistance but don’t enjoy holding weights, using a weighted vest is a great alternative.
Weighted vests come in a range of sizes and features. Having ones where you can adjust the weight is probably the most useful. This means you could create a dynamic workout where you increase or decrease the resistance for different sets.
If you’re all about those jumps, but find adding resistance simply isn’t working for you, the next best thing is opting for box jumps. Box jumps involve jumping onto a box or any raised surface. The box or surface is usually high enough that it’s a bit of a challenge, meaning you really have to power up and jump as high as you can (as well as ensuring you land softly and balanced).
Box jumps have become a staple in functional workouts like CrossFit.
Although any sort of weighted jump brings with it lots of benefits, there are some drawbacks worth noting, mainly around it being a high impact exercise.
If you have weak knees, sore ankles or troubled hips, you’ll want to proceed with caution. It’s worth speaking to a Physical Therapist or healthcare professional to discuss if such a movement is suitable for any problems you have.
If you do need to avoid high impact exercises, we recently reviewed some of the best home glute machines and equipment, ideal for lower body workouts that don’t involve jumping or squatting.
There are lots of squat variations that all help to build lower body strength and power. The dumbbell squat jump is a fantastic progression, that offers a beautiful blend of benefits, from explosive power to improved balance and coordination.
By increasing the weight, you can create workouts that put more emphasis on strength and power, or by decreasing the weight, you can put more emphasis on HIIT style workouts and cardio routines.