If you want to tone and shape your lower body, squat jumps are a great way to go about it. They will generate muscle power, improve body balance, firm the thighs, calves and glutes, and burn calories in the process. It is also a great exercise if you can’t make it to the gym, because you can do squat jumps even if there is no gym in sight.
You should stretch your quadriceps and hamstrings and do a couple minutes of light stationary cycling before beginning this exercise. This is important because squat jumps are rather explosive as you thrust upwards from the squat position, so the muscles and joints should first be warmed up appropriately. In addition, your shoes should have a good rubber sole so you won’t slip on the bench.
1. If you have not done these before, start with a low bench that is about 12 inches high.
2. Straddle the bench so that one foot is on either side of it. Your feet should be about shoulder-width apart.
3. Squat down until your knees are flexed to an angle of about 90 degrees. You may wish to raise your arms in front of you to near shoulder level to improve your balance during the jumps.
4. Explosively spring upwards. Bring both feet closer together as you jump so that both feet simultaneously land on top of the bench. Bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and squat when your feet hit the top of the bench. The squat on the bench will increase the work for your thighs and buttocks and it will also absorb the jarring forces that are generated during the jump.
5. Once you are on the bench, thrust upwards from the squat position and jump off the bench. Widen your stance so that both feet hit the floor simultaneously.
6. Immediately squat as your feet hit the floor. This will both absorb the jump downward and also prepare you for the next jump upwards.
7. Continue for a minimum of 15 repetitions but work up to 25. Rest about a minute, then repeat the set. You can work up to 3 sets. Once you have mastered this, select a higher bench (e.g., 18 inches) and gradually work up to a bench that is 24 inches in height. Don’t worry, you will master the exercise quickly and find yourself looking for higher benches very soon.
The relative degree of muscle activity differs among the quadriceps muscles during the jump. The tension in the vasti muscles diminishes as you approach the top portion of the lift (with the knees straightened). Conversely, the rectus femoris is less active at the bottom but becomes more activated when the hip and knee are being extended. Since the gluteus maximus muscle and hamstring muscles are strong extensors of the hip, they are very active during the jump upwards.
This is a really intensive exercise. The muscles of your lower body will be stretched under your bodyweight as you jump off the bench during each repetition, which means your muscles can become sore from this exercise. When done correctly, the squat jump can be a great complement to other weight training or aerobic training. Alternatively, squat jumps can work independently to effectively firm your lower body, burn a lot of calories and give you greater jumping ability or just bring a spring to your step.
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