Strength & Conditioning: Squats & Jumps

Squats and jumps improve explosive and reactive power.
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Different squat and jumping exercises can help you build muscle, improve sports performance and burn calories as part of a cardio workout. Using boxes and weights to increase the intensity and number of exercises you can do, you’ll be able to vary your workouts for maximum fitness and conditioning.

Explosive and Reactive Power

Certain squats and jumps help you improve your explosive power, or your ability to make a powerful move in one direction. Examples of exercises that help train explosive power include box squats, box jumps and one-leg split-squat jumps. To run and jump higher, you’ll need to coordinate the movements of multiple muscles, such as when you bend down before jumping up during a volleyball spike or tennis serve. Depth jumps, reactive squats, jump squats and 1-2-3 jumps are examples of plyometric exercises that help you train reactive power.

Cardio Conditioning

To burn calories with exercises that improve your explosive and reactive power, add squats and jumps to a circuit-training exercise. Perform each exercise repeatedly and at a high intensity for 30 seconds, take a short break, then start a new exercise. Add squats and jumps to pushups, crunches, pullups, burpees, running stairs and mountain climbers to create an intense workout.


Squats are exercises that require you to attain a position similar to squatting down, then standing or jumping up. Standing squats, performed with or without weights, start with you standing straight, then lowering yourself while keeping your torso straight as you bend your knees and move your buttocks backward. Keeping your toes over your knees, you bend as low as you can comfortably go, pause, then stand back up, squeezing your buttocks as you rise. You can perform these with a barbell on your shoulders, dumbbells or kettlebells in your hands, using a resistance band, or with no equipment. Reactive squats start with a quick downward drop, rather than a slow movement, finishing with a slow stand as you straighten your legs. For squat jumps, bend down halfway and then jump up. Box squats train explosive power by having you start from a seated position, then standing up quickly.


A box jump is a simple jump onto a box with both of your feet. As you improve your jumping ability, increase the height of the box or platform. Start with one foot on the box, then push yourself up as high as you can with that leg. Stepping off a box, then quickly jumping back into the air creates helpful depth jumps. Perform 1-2-3 jumps by taking two running steps, then jumping on the third stride. Do this the length of a basketball court, walk back, then repeat. Shocks jumps recreate the shock your feet, ankles, knees and hips experience when you run, creating the same type of quick muscle lengthening and shortening. To do these, step off a box and land on the balls of your feet, trying not to move after you land. Using a calf-height box, perform a variety of footwork drills that have you jump on, off, around and over the platform one foot at a time and with both feet simultaneously.

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