Question: I’m trying to increase my vertical jump for basketball, so I started doing jump squats. But the barbell hurts my shoulders when I land. Is there a technique I can use to prevent this from happening? 
-R. Gallo, Enfield, CT

Answer: Few leg strengthening exercises are as effective as the jump squat for building leg power. However, using a loaded barbell might not only hurt your shoulders and spine, it may also limit your ability to improve jump height. Research has found that when subjects use just their body weight on jump squats, they have up to 40% more power than when they use a loaded barbell. Since more power equals more height, your best bet is to stick with the unloaded jump squat.


To do it: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Quickly drop down into a squat then reverse direction, driving your heels though the floor to jump as high as possible. Do this exercise at the beginning of your leg workouts, before your fast-twitch fibers are fatigued.


The Workout

Try the following leg routine for greater leg power, strength, and size.



1. Jump Squat

Sets: 3   Reps: 2–5 n  Rest: 2–3 min.



2. Power Clean

Sets: 3 n  Reps: 2–5 n  Rest: 2–3 min.



3. Squat

Sets: 3 n  Reps: 6–8 n  Rest: 2–3 min.



4. Deadlift

Sets: 3 n  Reps: 6–8 n  Rest: 2–3 min.


Quick Tip: On power exercises like the jump squat, limit reps to no more than five per set. Research shows that power drops significantly after the fifth rep.