When athletes are looking to add load to a plyometric move, they often choose the barbell jump squat. Walk over to a squat rack, add some 25s or 45s, get the bar on your back and jump – it's simple. For proficient jumpers and experienced lifters, this movement offers a new stimulus of greater force and impulse compared to normal vertical jumps.
The issue I have isn't with the exercise itself, but instead with nonsensical loading. For most athletes, landing with 185-225 extra pounds on the back leads to spine jarring and knee caving. And if acute injury doesn't occur, the athlete sets himself up for long-term wear and tear and faulty movement patterns.
So how can athletes get the force and impulse benefits of weighted jumps without the downside? Light trap bar jumps. Take a look:
One study recommended a load of 20% 1RM of your back squat (this produced greater peak power than normal vertical jumps) for the trap bar jump.
To prevent replicating horror movie scenes, let the trap bar unload after jumping. This takes the load off the spine and allows athletes to focus on triple extension and maximal jump height without concern for landing safely.