When I was training mostly athletes, and good athletes at that, I used to think of squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps as pretty basic exercises and assumed that with a little practice most people could do them pretty well.
Just about every athlete I worked with could do squat jumps and make them look pretty athletic, and I can’t recall even having any of my athletes complain of pain when doing them. In fact, it was usually my regression for people that couldn’t Olympic lift for whatever reason.
Here is an example of one of the kids making them look ridiculously easy, even with a weighted vest.
Rear foot elevated split squat jumps took athletes a little practice before they got the hang of them, but for people who were already proficient with regular rear foot elevated split squats, it usually only took them a few times before they got the hang of them and could do them well.
Again, here is an example of one of the kids getting some pretty serious hang time and making it look like a walk in the park—again with a weighted vest.
I’ll admit that working with good athletes spoiled me and made me take a lot of things for granted as a coach. Athletes pick things up extremely fast—even really advanced stuff—and make coaches look good. Damn kids.
When I transitioned from working as a strength coach to working as a personal trainer working with non-athletes though, I quickly realized that squat jumps and rear foot elevated split squat jumps actually aren’t that easy for most people. A lot of clients struggle to do them well and find that they bother their knees, hips, and/or lower backs. Squat jumps no longer looked athletic, and rear foot elevated split squat jumps were basically out of the question for the vast majority of my clients, both due to knee pain and just because they were too difficult.
If you’re a strength coach working with athletes, you might not have this issue. If you’re a personal trainer, then you can probably relate to exactly what I’m describing.
If you or your clients struggle with regular squat jumps of rear foot elevated split squat jumps, try using a little assistance from rings or suspension straps.
Set up with the rings or straps at about shoulder height when you’re standing up straight and then perform the exercises just like you normally would but use your arms for a little assistance.
Here is what the assisted squat jumps look like:
And here is what the assisted rear foot elevated split squat jumps look like:
You can also do alternating split squat jumps, like so:
The rings help with balance and let you use your arms to generate a little more oomph as you push off and to help absorb some of the force upon landing.
I’ve been able to use these assisted jumping variations with clients of all ages and abilities. Some jump higher than others obviously, but it works well for a lot of different clients. I use the assisted squat jumps all the time, and though I just started using the assisted rear foot elevated jumps about two months ago, they are quickly becoming one of my favorite exercises.
Most of the assisted jumping variations I’ve seen before involve setting up behind the anchor point so the straps are at an angle. I’ve tried them this way, but I much prefer setting up with the straps more vertical right underneath the anchor point because I find it allows for a more natural jumping pattern and lets you use your arms to absorb more of the force upon landing.
Even though I can personally do regular squat jumps and rear foot elevated squat jumps just fine, I’ve been using the assisted version myself and doing them explosively because I’m finding it lets me get a little more oomph in my jump while at the same time taking some of the stress off my knees. So I think they have value both as a regression for clients who struggle with the regular version and as a variation for more advanced clients.
Give these a try and I think you’ll like them.
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