Want to jump higher? Squat lower.

Quarter squats -- in which you bend your knees only halfway to parallel -- may naturally seem like a better way to build strength for jumping. After all, you only do a little dip before a jump, right?

But deep squats -- where your thighs are below parallel -- are better when it comes to improving your vertical, according to a new study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research.

The findings match what many fitness professionals are seeing in their athletes, says Gary Ditsch, M.S., C.S.C.S., lead exercise physiologist at Retrofit.

How do full squats improve your vert? "When you are coming out of the bottom of a full range-of-motion squat, you are already accelerating the body upward," says Maryland trainer Jonathan Ross. "Since the range-of-motion on a full squat is deeper than the shallow, quick squat used to start a jump, it does a better job of training the upward acceleration required to jump higher."

A lot of men have a hard time performing a full squat, though. One clue you're not ready for it: Your heels lift off the ground as you lower down. The main culprit: Ankle mobility. Resist the urge to prop your heels up on weight plates. That might help you complete the movement, but doesn’t address the underlying issue, Ditsch says.

Instead, start with box squats to build your strength and flexibility. Start by sitting with your butt at the edge of a box or bench. Now drive through your heels to stand up. When you lower down, focus on driving your hips back and down and letting your knees follow, Ross says. Touch the bench, then raise up. (For more fast fitness fixes, check out the 100 Best Fitness Tips of All Time!)

Mastered that? Then watch the video below to see trainer David Jack, star of The New Spartacus Workout, now on DVD, demonstrate how to perform the squat with perfect form.

Looking to finally get in shape this year? Follow these 30 Tips to Drop 20 Pounds and make 2013 your best year ever!

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