Squat Jumps With The Trap Bar

I’ve been trying to incorporate safe explosive exercises into my workouts recently. A few weeks ago I sustained a minor elbow injury which limits some exercises. Not a big deal. But I have been trying to keep my arms semi-active with movements that don’t bend the elbow too much.

Deadlifting doesn’t aggravate the elbow but I have been doing more legwork than usual. To introduce a bit of variety, I’ve been trying two exercises that are fairly new to me, though I have been lifting regularly for many years. Since they are slightly novel, I wanted an expert opinion on whether they are useful, in your opinion.

The first is doing a squat jump using the trap bar. It has been briefly mentioned on the site, with a recommendation to jump high with 20% of maximum to keep the spine safe. I’ve been trying to push this, out of curiosity. I haven’t had any back pain or difficulty landing - it’s much easier than high box jumps in CrossFit which I really think to be unsafe at moderate to high volume.

Emphasizing weight I’ve worked up to multiple jumps at 350 lbs, much higher than 20% for me. I could definitely feel the abdominal and psoas muscles after that, but no real soreness. Emphasizing volume I’ve done 12,000 pounds of jumps in one session.

Is this wise? Seems like a great exercise to me, did not notice any breakdown of form or difficulty. I’d never do it with a straight bar on my neck. Seems like a wonderful exercise and bonus if it works the abs with decent weight. But what are the downsides? It doesn’t feel hard on the spine, with the trap bar anyway.

The other exercise is back and front squats in the Smith machine, incorporating extended pauses in the bottom position and when the knee is at 90 degrees. Depending on the weight, the pauses last from three to thirty seconds. This also seems a good exercise, I can definitely feel it in my legs the next day. It seems to help with range of motion too. Is this exercise a keeper, or does it have minimal benefits if doing them in the Smith?

Many thanks for any tips or advice. And thanks for your great contributions to lifting, love all your books.

Loaded jump squats are to be done at 10-20% of your maximum, no more.

It is stupid, counterproductive and not aimed at the proper physical quality to do them with more.

It’s not a strength movement.

You do not use typical progressive overload like you would with lifts aimed at increasing strength. The goal is not to use more and more weight; it’s to jump higher and higher.

I’ve been using the jump squat for decades with athletes. The heaviest I EVER had an athlete use was 155lbs and that was with a VERY explosive athlete who could back squat (full) 600lbs.

Using 365 is dumb and will not train what the exercise is designed to do.

Just because your feet can “leave the ground” doesn’t constitute a true jump.

Scientific studies are clear: maximum power output is produced at 10-20%.

As you can see, power production rapidly decreases when you use more than 20%

Again, the loaded jump squat is NOT a strength exercise.

A loaded jump squat is NOT an hypertrophy exercise.

The loaded jump squat is a POWER development exercise, for that reason it needs to be done with loads that maximize power output.

It’s your life, it’s your body, it’s your training… ultimately you can do whatever the f**k you want. But heavy jump squats defy logic and purpose.


Yeah, that’s stato-dynamic training. I use that a lot with athletes. The pause can be at various positions depending on the training effect you want.

Just for future reference, I understand that by saying a 90 degrees angle you probably (hopefully) mean when the thighs are parallel to the floor. In reality this is closer to 70 degrees. When we talk in degrees for squat, we refer to the angle of the knee joint. A 90 degrees knee angle is essentially a quarter squat.

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Squatting is squatting. While free-weights have some benefits that the Smith doesn’t have, the opposite is also true. For one thing, exercises in the Smith machine are less neurologically demanding and more easily focus on the quads whereas the free-weight squat will involve more core ad synergistic muscles.

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Thanks. I was basically just trying to push myself. But if it isn’t serving much purpose it certainly isn’t worth the increased risk of injury.

My squats are in the range of your student. I had wondered if there was a benefit that would carry over to the initial lift of a trap deadlift. But there are smarter ways to do that, such as deficits. I was unaware of the power curve you showed, so thanks for that too. Where is it from?

I started limiting my good mornings on the advice of Tate, and will limit my jumps as well.

Why are you working on power movements, do you have a particular goal ?

Have you tried/mastered basic common bodyweight movements. Horizontal and vertical jumps, hops, bounds, med ball throws. They are much lower injury risk and transfer well to athleticism.

In addition to your use of heavy loads as pointed out by CT, how many reps/sets do you do ? Volumes should be kept low even for bodyweight.

If you do power work, push yourself to go faster/higher. Not heavier.

If the goal is to jump higher, the posted power curve shows limited added weight is more effective. I accept that. It might depend on studied population and specifics (one subject) but clearly you mean in your experience the same curve applies in general for jump squats, both with free weights and in the Smith (even for a trap bar which may load the spine less). A 10-20% guideline might apply to explosive movements in general.

My goal was more to try new things. It doesn’t always work. But it’s kept my workouts fresh for decades. I’ve done well making gains and avoiding injury by switching what I do every four to eight weeks, and spending a random unscheduled day every two or three weeks following whims instead of the more tightly planned schedule at other times - just doing a few rarely done exercises, or chasing volume just because, or using more machines or otherwise switching things up beyond the usual set/reps, grip width (and girth, FatGripz work), etc. it keeps things more interesting.

I do tend to push myself too hard and have to consciously moderate volume, do some lighter workouts and schedule very short workouts with only brief sprinting and nothing else. I can’t imagine that is unusual among natural lifters. I take a couple days off each week and often a week off every couple months.

It was probably an error to call this “explosive” though I do ballistic stuff too. Speed strength may have been a better term although is also wrong; it was a faster and higher jump than you might think. My thinking is likely flawed, but my initial goal when playing around with it was not to jump higher. I was thinking that it might help deadlift heavier. The rationale was that with a jump and moderately heavy deadlift, the total weight including my bodyweight exceeds what I can currently deadlift without jumping so maybe this would help somehow. I am aware of force and power, but people rarely talk about impulse, a change in momentum similar to power and force but also different. It’s not like you can’t combine load and dynamics doing say, heavy loaded carries - though the distance one can go is obviously affected…

And naively I thought this might be a good way to “get used” to higher loads in the same sense one can overload a quarter squat after doing a bunch of normal, full range ones and maybe get used to the feeling of a larger weight or provide accommodation to reduce neurological restrictions if one buys into a central limit type theory. The problem was the goal should be to jump higher and not lift heavier, because this is also generates increased impulse in ways that are safer. Probably neither carry over all that much to increasing deadlift anyway

That doesn’t mean it was an extensively planned thing - doing more leg days than usual anyway, it was something I tried once. First I did jumps at 10% and 20% and they seemed straightforward. Going a little bit higher, I initially did not lose height or apparent speed. I lost some of both at higher weights, of course, but less than I expected, but again I only tried this once. It occurred to me there was a good reason for the 20% advice - but I did not really know what that was. Now I have seen the power curve and an better informed, if it applies broadly.

That doesn’t nullify the idea of impulse helping at the beginning of a movement, but it certainly doesn’t mean it is true or wise either - particularly if injury is easy by landing wrong or simply by overdoing it. If it is as stressful as all that, it may still not be worth doing due to recovery penalties (already a thing deadlifting at my age) or cortisol generation. It certainly won’t make you jump higher, which might be a specific goal training many athletes, but doesn’t affect me much. But being quick interests me a lot, so again I thank you for your insights and experience.

I do some bodyweight stuff. This was more a one time thing, and was the only exercise I did that day. Maybe it wasn’t the smartest thing in retrospect. But I did learn something without much cost. It is odd how often learning something involves not doing the smartest thing. Such is life. I’m not afraid of making mistakes; I hope I never am, as I’ll make them in any case. But I thank you for pointing them out - no need to make them repeatedly, or not learn something after making them.

I feel youre really complicating impulse

The only reason anything moves, ever, is if an impulse is applied to it

CTs whole thing is there are many ways to break down F=ma and so there is value in increasing explosive acceleration, not just mass. This tends to imply you need smaller masses to do it, and the balance leads to a spectrum, divided into different degrees of speed and strength. (One could complicate this approach by talking angular acceleration and angular velocity with decreasing moment arm radius, but to little benefit).

In the moment, I was hoping to get decent amounts of both. The rationale for the 20% limit in squat jumps I heard was because having a bar on your neck is hard on your spine when you jump.

A trap bar on the floor is not as hard on your spine as a traditional squat. But.if you generate less power beyond 20% there is no benefit on that basis. The problem in trying to game this is the training effect might even be negative: making you both slower and weaker, even if injury is avoided.

Things move if applied forces are out of balance. Impulse removes a differential time component. But since this depends on speed, it isn’t much different, maybe jumping even helps you get a heavy bar off the floor quicker. That doesn’t mean it’s worth it in terms of injury, recovery or power.

I am so confused by what you’re trying to say here

Is there a time and place for training the full spectrum of loads and speeds? Probably, but in general people see the best results by sticking to the extremes - highest loads possible, or highest speeds possible.

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On the subject of F=ma. I shall try and remember my school physics !

The level of acceleration of a weight is dependant on the amount of forced applied.
Increasing an objects acceleration is achieved by applying a greater force. a=F/m. Applying a given force will overcome the inertia of the object (on the floor) and start it moving. Keeping this force constant causes the bar to accelerate, ie move faster - against the downward force of gravity on the object. If your lift applies increasing force the acceleration will consequently be greater. The bar will move faster at a greater rate.

In the speed strength spectrum the strength of the lifter determines the force you can apply. The speed of the objects movement is an output from that force.
Therefore the question is what type of lifting - heavy, light, explosive, slow - will increase strength. Where strength is a product of neural speed, fibre size and type, elasticity/stiffness of muscles/connective tissue.

What I am trying to explain is that the speed of the lift is not something you apply, the force you apply from your strength creates the speed.
Sorry if I have got this arse about face but correct me if i am wrong.

Jumping is an accepted training method for sprinters. Using high impact body jumps/rebounds applies high forces to ground contact. Achieving some of the components that drive improvements in strength. Using this method on your legs will have a direct benefit on the legs, the most important part of sprinting.
I guess the question is what part of the body contributes most to a lift like a deadlift.

I am not clear on the meaning of impulse. Can someone explain.

Back to CTs point about light weights, 10-20%. Using a light weight with a significant amount of force will produce a higher speed movement. Presumably working on the reactive strength qualities of muscles/tissues and hence developing power capabilities.

These are the high school physics. But maybe they are not important and just muddy the waters.

The weight m has a downward force mg acting on it from gravity. It is reasonable to forget about friction (which is small) and acceleration from angular acceleration and changes in angular velocity (since the lift is vertical). You apply a force F1 to the bar to deadlift it. On the way up, the acceleration is (F1-mg)/m. (It’s the sun of the forces over the mass and lifting us in an opposite direction to gravity.). On the way down, you might apply a force F2 to stop the bar from crashing to the floor, and the downward acceleration us (mg-F2)/m, which is g if F2=0 because you just drop it. In practice F1 is not a constant, you lift the bar and it accelerates then decelerates to stop around your hips. At this point, a=0 and the bar is not moving, so F1=mg.

If force was a constant, and is also mass times acceleration, you could increase either to get different spots on the speed-strength spectrum. But the force you apply to lift a 135 lb. may not be the same as you apply to a 405 lb. lift. The force is also complex and distributed among many muscles in the legs, back, shoulders and elsewhere. You can control the force and this the acceleration to some extent, but there is a maximum force F you can apply. At this maximum, as you say, the acceleration is F/m minus g. The maximum force you can apply at the end of a workout when fatigued is not as high as at the beginning. It differs from day to day too.

Power is energy (or work) over time, or force times speed (which is distance over time). Since speed over time is acceleration, force is also mass times (changes in) speed over time. Changes in mass times speed are changes in momentum. So force is momentum over time. Impulse is force over time (or the area under the force-time curve), also the change in momentum. In this case, nothing is initially moving, so the change in momentum is mass times bar speed.

But to jump with the deadlift, both the bar and your bodyweight must overcome gravity. What I found odd was my mass plus a somewhat heavy jumping deadlift was more than the mass I could deadlift without jumping. I don’t normally try to jump when doing deadlifts. This might mean jumping increased the maximum force I could apply. Since jumping essentially uses the legs, maybe this means I am not using my legs optimally during my deadlift and if I did I could apply more force without actually jumping. Maybe I’m keeping my legs too stiff or something. The acceleration seemed about the same, but maybe I was wrong and it wasn’t.

This is different from a discussion of explosive lifting at 10-20% to work different points of the speed-strength spectrum. There is very little discussion of jump trap bar squats on T-nation but a 20% limit was suggested, to protect the spine. This is certainly an issue with jump squats where the bar is on the neck, but of course protecting the spine is always relevant. What I learned from CT is that in the study shown, increasing mass did not increase power beyond 20% or so because that subject slowed down too much, and in a similar way between the bar and Smith jump squats.

The goal of using light weights is to increase power, not strength (force) as such. Power is also energy over time, including kinetic energy K=0.5 times mass times speed times speed, and potential energy P=mass times gravity times distance. So a higher jump is a bigger distance with more (potential) energy, as is a faster (kinetic) jump.

Clear as mud? Of course, my understanding might also be wrong.

Ah, you are using the scientific definition of Impulse not the colloquial, I like that and thanks.
I am aware of 2 types of jump squats.
Barbell Jump Squat - How To - YouTube ; where you leave the ground.
460lbs x 10 reps jump squats.mpg - YouTube ; where you pulse on the ground. Hence my confusion on the meaning of impuse.

I would suspect that version 1 is more approprate to explosive athletic endeavours by developing power. It also requires lighter loads, the 20% referred to by CT and obviously needs to use lighter loads to avoid excess spinal loads.
Version 2 is maybe (?) more strength oriented.

I would be interested in what @Christian_Thibaudeau thinks about variants on the jump squat. And whether lfting is ideally improved by more + better lifting. And sprinting etc is improved by more sports specific movements such as plyos.

In terms of improving deadlift I have no idea which is best. I tend to stick to the basics of lift technique improvement and weight progression to lift more.

Physics is never muddy ! Formulae are measurable, repeatable, precise etc.
It is the Biology of lifting viz CNS, muscle fibre types, as you say the range of muscles engaged, etc that is muddy.

I kind of assumed the point of using different places on the speed-strength spectrum was to emphasize different types of muscle fibres. If this is so, the goal might be to maximize involvement of a specific type of fibre and not to generate maximum power. But I have no idea how well it is known to map these to a percentage - this may also be where the 20% comes from (by research or “experimental intuition”).

I had always assumed a jump squat meant you left the ground. I’d never tried or seen the other type, so thanks for something new.

It isn’t obvious to me a trap bar jump is by definition particularly hard on the spine if one limits volume (compared to supramaximal partial squats or stuff which rotates it, without diminishing the importance of spinal biomechanics - I follow McGill’s work). It is an axial load however this does not constitute a recommendation for anyone to do it. After doing it, and the next day, I felt the good type of soreness in my abdominal muscles and psoas. I assume it meant I used these muscles more to generate jump which I don’t in a normal deadlift.

This article, for example, used ballistic loads of 30%. But it is sport-specific to athletes who shotput, is a small study with younger and inexperienced subjects, etc. The problem with these studies, in addition to conflicting results, is it is difficult to know if it applies to you - results need to be interpreted with caution. But ballistics and power training developed different muscle fibres than strength training.

It is hard to study spinal load and in practice several studies use back pain as a substitute. Understanding is far from complete.

Some of this ground was covered here, in a general way, by CT in 2007. I guess I should be pre-stretching before doing ballistic movements. There have been a lot of good tips here but it is hard to remember everything.

Thanks for the articles. I guess it all depends on what you are trying to achieve.

Strength, hypertrophy, power (esp if you are training for sports), They are not mutually exclusive but one needs to prioritise and/or periodise for focus.

The guy doing the “remaining on the ground” pulses was an elite thrower - national, olympics, world record holder for a short period. He became equally elite in masters throwing. So is not a template for ordinary mortals.
The first paper you reference covers shot putters. Throwers have extreme level of strength and explosiveness.

I consider both a jump squat and TB jump deadlift to have a risk component. I prefer to stick to simple versions of lifts. Plyos I do (occasionally) with body weight jumps and running bounds. Lower risk IMHO.

I consider myself an “athlete” who lifts for strength benefits. I dont have time or energy to complicate my secondary training. But thats just me.

The problem I have with many T Nation articles is they often lack context of who for and why. They typically dive into a load of details. The same content is repeated. As you say it is hard to remember everything. I guess their business model is to drive traffic to this site with content, and are running out of ideas.
I rarely read the articles. The forum is more interesting as a method to pick up tips from ordinary people.

I’ve been lifting for a long time. When I started, a fantastic resource like T-Nation was unavailable. There have been many articles here which caused me to change what I do and get very comfortable creating routines which work well for me. Then tweak these as new nuggets of good advice appear.

Obviously goals are important to what one does. Many of them also change over time. Some of the research has changed over time. Some of the goals haven’t changed - I have always wanted high strength with some endurance and some athleticism, have always prioritized health and been unwilling to do anything unhealthy to accomplish this.

Lifting has helped me deal with stress and given me much enjoyment. It has not made me very flexible, still working on that, but it has improved my diet and, I believe, my health span and life span. I don’t always agree with TC, but some of his nutritional reports and opinions have helped me. I think some of his contrarian views are likely correct, and I have enjoyed his writing for many years.

I don’t generally care for forums. Not all advice is helpful. I would consider reading CTs books if you have not. I would also recommend old columns or even e-books by CT, King, Berardi, Staley, Poliquin and Contreras (many others, but these are the ones I liked most). Of course, a website is a smorgasbord. Take what is useful to you, leave the rest. Everybody’s plate is gonna look different. Even CrossFit had some useful things for me.

And if the forums do that for you, I wish you luck and success. It is true you gotta write about something, and some authors just write about stuff more in line with my interests or which I found more beneficial. That said, I disagree on some points with everyone I mentioned.