A couple of years ago, I went to a fitness conference to earn continuing education units to maintain my personal training certification. The course was about plyometric training for everyday athletes rather than competitive soccer players, runners, etc.
This suited me well because while I do work with some elite runners and competitive athletes, the majority of my clients are, and always have been, middle-aged adults looking to lose weight or get stronger, fitter, or back “into shape.”
So, what does this have to do with tuck jumps?
Because the course was geared towards everyday athletes, I thought it was going to cover “easy“ plyometric exercises, so when we were asked to take to the floor to try out a routine, I was shocked once we started tackling jump squats and then tuck jumps.
Tuck jumps are extremely challenging from a cardiovascular, strength, and power standpoint, and even though I consider myself to be in pretty good shape, I was quickly humbled by the long sets of tuck jumps the instructor was having us push through.
I thought to myself, “Wow! How many tuck jumps should I do today since I never do this type of training?”
While I don’t think doing many tuck jump reps is an approach for a program for most of my older athletes or beginners, tuck jumps can be a highly effective plyometric exercise if done properly and scaled appropriately in terms of the number of tuck jumps you should do.
In this article, we will tackle the question: How many tuck jumps should I do based on my fitness level and goals?
Let’s jump in!
How Do You Do Tuck Jumps?
Before we look at how many tuck jumps you should do and how to program tuck jumps into plyometric workouts for strength, speed, and power, let’s discuss how to do tuck jumps with proper form and technique.Note that tuck jumps are an explosive, high-intensity, high-impact plyometric exercise, which means that they involve jumping and then landing on your feet.
If you have low bone density, knee pain, a bone or joint injury, or other contraindications to jumping, you should speak with your doctor, or physical therapist, or work with a personal trainer before attempting workouts with tuck jumps.
Furthermore, because of the dynamic, high-impact, explosive power required by tuck jumps, the risk of injury is high.
Thus, if you do not feel confident in how to perform tuck jumps correctly, you should work with a personal trainer or experienced athlete to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.
Here are the steps for how to perform tuck jumps:
- Stand upright with good posture, keeping your chest up, shoulders down, and abs and glutes engaged.
- Make sure that your feet are spaced about hip-width apart and that your weight is distributed evenly across both feet. Allow a slight bend in your knees.
- To initiate the tuck jump, bend your knees and sit your hips back, as if going down to a partial squat (about ¼ squat), bringing your arms behind your body.
- In one explosive movement, jump straight up into the air, driving your knees all the way up to your chest as you bend your hips and knees, as if forming a tuck (like you are going to do a cannonball into a swimming pool). Use your arms to help drive your legs up, thrusting them vigorously up into the air as you explode off the balls of your feet to bring your knees towards your chest. Be sure to keep your core tight and use your abdominal muscles and hip flexors to snap your legs up into a tuck.
- Land back down in the same place. Bend your knees to soften the landing and allow your arms to extend straight back behind your body to help slow the momentum.
- As you descend into a mini squat with your arms behind you, thrust your arms forward to immediately explode back up into another tuck jump rep.
Tuck jumps are a stationary plyometric exercise. In other words, you shouldn’t be traveling forward much as you do a tuck jump (unlike skipping).
According to research,1Kuhns, B. D., Weber, A. E., Batko, B., Nho, S. J., & Stegemann, C. (2017). A FOUR-PHASE PHYSICAL THERAPY REGIMEN FOR RETURNING ATHLETES TO SPORT FOLLOWING HIP ARTHROSCOPY FOR FEMOROACETABULAR IMPINGEMENT WITH ROUTINE CAPSULAR CLOSURE. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 12(4), 683–696. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5534158/the triple extension movement—simultaneous hip extension, knee extension (straightening the legs), and ankle plantarflexion (like pressing the gas pedal in a car) helps improve running performance by increasing the push-off or propulsive power that you have in your running stride.
Modifying Tuck Jumps
Tuck jumps are an advanced plyometric exercise, and there isn’t a very simple way to modify tuck jumps for beginners.
However, here are a few beginner tuck jump progressions or alternatives:
You can begin by performing double-footed jumps or hops like a bunny to practice the triple extension movement of your hips, knees, and ankles without needing the explosive drive of bringing your knees up towards your chest with a full tuck jump exercise.
Tuck Jumps On a Rebounder
Doing tuck jumps on a rebounder, which is a mini exercise trampoline, is a great way to make this exercise actually more difficult for the muscles worked by tuck jumps and for your core muscles because you have to stabilize your body and spring off of a dynamic, moving surface.
Another benefit of doing tuck jumps on a rebounder is that by nature, the rebounder helps absorb joint impact because it has “give“ when you land.
This reduces impact stress, making rebounder tuck jumps a great option for individuals with joint pain but high levels of strength and power.
How Many Tuck Jumps Should I Do?
While burpees and jump squats are the most common bodyweight cardio exercises, tuck jumps are just as effective at boosting your heart rate and building explosive leg strength.
Tuck jumps are also an excellent bodyweight cardio exercise to strengthen your core muscles and improve explosive power in your glutes and calves.
But, how many tuck jumps should you do?
Deciding how many tuck jumps you should do must be considered in the context of your fitness level, your fitness goals, and the other exercises you are doing in a workout.
By nature, tuck jumps are designed to be a power exercise, which means that you should be prioritizing high intensity rather than a high number of reps.
For some athletes, doing tuck jumps for time can work, but I often suggest counting reps of tuck jumps instead.
This is because focusing on the number of tuck jumps you want to do rather than the time helps you focus on maintaining proper form and maximizing the effectiveness and intensity of the exercise.
I have seen countless times where HIIT workouts with tuck jumps for time end up something like this:
The individual decides they are going to do 30 seconds of tuck jumps.
The first 12 to 17 seconds or so is great: the tuck jumps technique is correct and the athlete is safe and maximizing the intensity of tuck jumps in the workout.
Towards the end of the tuck jumps interval, as fatigue sets in, form gets sloppy and the tuck jumps turn into a hybrid of a regular jump with some amount of knee lift.
The landing is often not ideal, and the athlete might not use their arms and legs properly to cushion the impact forces.
For this reason, I think it is generally a good idea to stick with a very low number of tuck jumps in a set, even for more advanced athletes.
The focus can then be on nailing every tuck jump with precision and intensity, training the neuromuscular system to optimize the triple extension movement pattern2Lorenz, D. (2016). Facilitating Power Development in the Recovering Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 48–50. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000192and drive the knees upward while eccentrically loading the muscles to cushion the landing safely.
Here are some guidelines for how many tuck jumps you should do:
How many tuck jumps should I do as a beginner?
Two sets of 2 to 5 tuck jumps with at least 2 minutes in between sets.
How many tuck jumps should I do as an intermediate athlete?
3-4 sets of 3 to 6 tuck jumps with at least 90 seconds in between sets.
How many tuck jumps should I do as an advanced athlete?
3-6 sets of 4 to 12 tuck jumps with at least 30 seconds in between sets.
Above all, focus on ensuring that you are using proper form and maintaining the intensity of the exercise rather than increasing the number of reps that you do.
As you get stronger, do more sets of tuck jumps and reduce the rest in between each set.
For more ideas about bodyweight cardio workouts and exercises, check out our guide to workouts you can do in a hotel room while traveling.
- 1Kuhns, B. D., Weber, A. E., Batko, B., Nho, S. J., & Stegemann, C. (2017). A FOUR-PHASE PHYSICAL THERAPY REGIMEN FOR RETURNING ATHLETES TO SPORT FOLLOWING HIP ARTHROSCOPY FOR FEMOROACETABULAR IMPINGEMENT WITH ROUTINE CAPSULAR CLOSURE. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 12(4), 683–696. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5534158/
- 2Lorenz, D. (2016). Facilitating Power Development in the Recovering Athlete. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 38(1), 48–50. https://doi.org/10.1519/ssc.0000000000000192