It’s amazing what a few inches of air can do! New testing shows that replacing bodyweight squats with weighted squat jumps can increase muscle activation by ten! Here are the facts… 

We know squats work wonders. Challenging all the muscles of the lower body and core, a set of squats will build strength, lift your fitness and help maximize fat burn. We also know that when you add weight and/or a jump to your squat routine the challenge goes up a notch and you’re quickly gasping for air.

Now, thanks to new testing by Dr Jinger Gottschall, we can see exactly how the added challenge of a squat jump benefits your muscles and transforms your fitness.

Gottschall compared a conventional bodyweight squat with a jumping squat holding a 5kg weight plate. The difference in muscle activation was considerable.

The dynamic squat jump resulted in 9 – 12 times the activity of a bodyweight squat. The gluteus maximus was nine times more engaged, the hamstrings and quads saw ten times the activation and the calf muscles had 12 times the muscle activation.

Gottschall explains that the jumping requires an increased rate of force production in the propulsion muscles, which are the gluteus maximus, the quads and calf muscles. This activation accelerates the body away from the ground to overcome inertia and gravity.

The increase in muscle activation also drives an increase in calorie expenditure, propelling your heart rate into a higher training zone as the demand for fuel and oxygen increases. “This creates a rapid onset of fatigue which helps stimulate a training response as the body adapts to improve the ability to generate this force in the future,” says Gottschall.

The addition of a jump also increases the core challenge. Both the rectus abdominis and external obliques work 10 times harder during squat jumps than regular bodyweight squats. This is because the core muscles are required to generate a high level of support during squat jumps. When the core is properly stabilised, the force generated from the leg muscles is transmitted to the upper body efficiently through the spine without reducing acceleration as you lift off the ground.

Gottschall also tested the muscle activation when you add a jump and a 5kg plate press into the mix, highlighting how it is even greater when you add a plate press above the head. 

TOP TIP: It’s important to make sure you’ve mastered your bodyweight squat technique before adding any intensity to your squats. Watch technical expert Corey Baird explain how your muscles work when you squat and what you should do to get the most from this fundamental exercise.

Thanks to Les Mills for the insights! Originally shared on


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