Five Kettlebell Exercises to Jump Higher – At-Home Athleticism!

By on February 21, 2021

If you want to increase your vertical jump as much as possible, squats alone are not going to get you there. Squatting will improve your jump height to a certain degree but there are better exercises to jump higher.

It’s also true that squats are not for everyone. Squatting with very heavy weights is tricky if you’re stuck at home with no access to a power rack. It doesn’t suit all biomechanics. It’s technically challenging for beginners. And pro lifters will begin to see diminishing returns.

Kettlebell exercises to jump higher

Kettlebells to the rescue! Here are five exercises to jump higher and boost general explosiveness using the dumbbell’s weird cousin.

Goblet Squat Jump

The first exercise we’re going to take a look at is the goblet squat jump. This is a goblet squat performed while holding a kettlebell in front of your chest with both hands.

This has several powerful benefits as an exercise to jump higher. Firstly, this is a form of squat that uses a necessarily lighter weight, while at the same time increasing the velocity. It’s well established that beyond a certain weight, adding resistance to a movement will actually slow you down. Whenever you squat your 1RM, you are forced to grind through the movement, which alters your intent and stops improving “rate of force production” (study).

Perform a bunch of goblet squat jumps, place the weight down, then finish with regular squat jumps.

Focusing more on “bar speed” or explosiveness forces a different adaptation: increased rate coding speed (study). So, by jumping with a 20kg, 30kg, or 50kg weight, you are triggering the right kind of nervous system adaptation. Keeping the weight lighter also allows for a better strength-to-weight ratio, which you hopefully don’t need me to tell you is crucial for optimal jump height!

See also: Nervous System Training – Muscle Fiber Recruitment and Rate Coding Explained

Likewise, the front-loaded nature of the goblet squat jump makes it ideal for training not only the leg-portion of the jump, but also the torso. To get maximum height, an athlete should be able to explosively hinge at the hips as they spring off their feet. While the goblet squat jump only includes an isometric contraction for the core, this anti-flexion move trains the same muscles in the same patterns.

And when jumping off one-foot from a run, you’ll find you actually keep the torso upright more often. This is perfectly trained with any anti-flexion movement, such as the goblet squat.

An Exercise to Jump Higher, Instantly!

Better yet? Perform a bunch of goblet squat jumps, place the weight down, then finish with regular squat jumps. You’ll be leaping in the air with the benefit of some “post activation potentiation,” feeling as light as a feather!

Jump Height

Oh and one more great thing about this is that it can be done anywhere, by anyone. If you don’t have a kettlebell, you can use a dumbbell, or even a backpack full of books!

Hardstyle Kettlebell Swing

Of course, we can’t ignore the “king” of kettlebell movements: the kettlebell swing. Kettlebell swings are renowned for the “what the hell” effect, meaning that they seemingly make you better at everything. And it’s an extremely powerful exercise to jump higher without leaping around.

The kettlebell includes the hip hinge and is an ballistic movement that doesn’t require impact on the knees (because there are no landings). Thus, we can train with the kettlebell liberally and not need to worry about hurting the knees.

Exercises to jump higher quickly

The kettlebell swing is going to be performed using the hard-style swing, though we aren’t going to be super strict about it. What this ultimately means, is that we’re aiming to swing the weight up explosively. Makes sense if we’re aiming to build explosiveness, right?

You should drive through the hips in an explosive contraction of force, then become as loose and supple as possible as you guide the weight up and back down. Then contract explosively again, breathing out as you do, to heave the weight back up into the air. This style of training mimics the way a fighter moves and trains – staying loose until the moment of impact. In fact, this form of kettlebell training has even been dubbed a “weighted martial art.” We are training the muscle control necessary to go from hard and powerful, to soft and loose, in a split second.

This is not just a great exercise if you want to jump higher, but also a great exercise for ANY lower-body athletic movement.

Squatting Swing

The “squatting kettlebell swing” is an optional variation on the regular squat. This involves slightly squatting at the lower portion of the movement: as the name would appear to suggest! This has been shown to actually create more upward force as you use the legs and hip hinge in a single, coordinated movement. Involving more muscles and joints means you generate more power, who’d have thunk? Not only that, but you’re more closely mimicking the pattern of activation seen during an actual jump.

Increase vertical jump height at home

Many people look at the “squatting swing” and incorrectly assume that it is “wrong” because it is different from the standard swing. This is the danger of “a little bit of knowledge!”

That said, this is also an even more complex variation and one that should be built up to. Make sure you have your kettlebell swing down before you move no to the squatting variation! Once you get there though, this is a great exercise to jump higher.

Staggered Stance Kettlebell Swing

While these movements can help you develop an impressive vertical leap, that might not translate athletic performance.

You are rarely called upon to deliver a standing vertical jump in any real-world activity. More often, you run and then deliver that jump from one leg. That’s why it’s important to develop other properties like ankle stiffness through skipping and sled pushing. That’s an article for another time…

See also: The Car Push (Sled Push) for Athletic Performance

But we can adapt the kettlebell swing to accommodate this. Simply stagger the stance so that one leg is in front and the other is behind, slightly bent. You are then going to drive off of one leg more than the other as you simultaneously hip hinge. This is one of the best exercises to jump higher with, and yet you rarely see it.

You are rarely called upon to deliver a standing vertical jump in any real-world activity.

You can make this movement more challenging still by using a single-hand grip. This increases the stability needed for the movement.

Of course, there are other good unilateral kettlebell exercises to jump higher: like split squats and squat lunges. Knees over toes guy would probably tell you to do that lunge with knees over toes, too.

See also: How to Strength Knees for Rehab, Prehab, and Explosive Jumps

Overspeed Kettlebell Swing

I love a movement with an awesome name! It surely doesn’t get much cooler than “overspeed kettlebell swing” and, as it happens, this is also a GREAT exercise to jump higher quickly.

This strategy can be applied to either the staggered stance swing or the regular/squatting swing. Here, you will swing the weight back down toward you using active force once you reach the apex of the movement. In other words, you help gravity bring the weight back down toward you faster.

This can also be accomplished using a band: by tying the band around the kettlebell and your legs so that the weight is pulled back down toward you.

This then forces you to absorb more force and impact, before driving that weight back upwards. That makes the exercise into a more plyometric movement (versus purely ballistic) as you are reducing the amortization phase and involving the stretch shortening cycle. In fact, because you’re absorbing the downward force and reversing that momentum, it’s actually akin to a form of shock training. This is like a Verkhoshanksy depth jump but without the heavy impact on the knees.

See also: Plyometric Training Explained In Depth

Closing Comments

So, those are a bunch of awesome kettlebell exercises to jump higher, quickly. Of course, there are many others out there and if you really want to see the best results, you should combine these with other movements that work the ankles and tendon hysteresis. Let me know what I missed in the comments below!

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

2 Comments

  1. Symbiote Strength says:

    I like the “potentiation” thing after removing the weight. I imagine it would be the same doing something like isometric pushing a wall (think that’s the term) and then doing a bench press?

    Great post. 🏋🏻

    • Exactly! In fact, that is a method some people use 🙂 Though in that particular example, you’d be better off using a bench press with the bar locked in place. And thank you!

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