Jumping ability varies by two-fold within an instar during the moult cycle in the grasshopper, Schistocerca americana (Acrididae: Cyrtacanthacridinae). Changes in jump distance could result from deviations in jump angle away from the optimum during development, a change in jump energy and/or a change in body mass. Body mass has already been shown to vary by over two- fold within an instar (Queathem, 1991). In the present study, jump angle remained near the optimum of 43° during the time course of maximal jumps throughout the instar. Jump energy was correlated with ground reaction force production because energy lost to backward rotation and drag was small. Ground reaction force production varied by nearly four-fold over the period of the instar. Within instar six, force production and body mass accounted for 85% of the variation in jump distance. Their patterns of change relative to one another explain the four functional stages we define for within instar performance. Jump distance increased early within instar six (Stage I, days 0–2) because force production increased. In Stage II (days 3–8), jump distance remained at its peak because an increase in body mass was offset by an equal increase in force production. Jump distance decreased in Stage III (days 8–11) because body mass continued to increase while force production levelled off. Force production decreased to a greater extent than body mass during Stage IV (days 11–13), resulting in a further decline in jump distance during the three days preceding the moult to adulthood. Our results suggest that further examination of the musculo-skeletal system could provide a causal explanation for this change in jumping ability within an instar. The present study illustrates the remarkable physiological and mechanical changes that affect locomotion within a single instar, and highlights developmental differences between arthropods and vertebrates. Arthropod development is by its very nature a discontinuous process separated by periods of continuous, parabolic changes, and this pattern of growth is reflected in locomotor performance through ontogeny.