The Vertical Jump

When it comes to measuring athleticism, an athlete’s vertical jump is always a staple in the assessment. In the sport of football alone it has been more indicative of a player’s success than any other test, including the 40 yard dash. The athlete’s ability to produce enough power to propel their entire mass upward is a trainable, indispensable skill. It is especially impressive to coaches looking to fill a starting position or recruit an athlete to play at the next level. From football to volleyball, basketball to baseball, and everything in between, every athlete will benefit from extra inches on their vertical jump.

What makes it so Important?

Coaches want athletes who are explosive, and let’s face it, the most explosive athletes tend to make the biggest impacts in competition.

A top tier vertical jump not only shows a coach that an athlete is strong, but it also demonstrates a crucial motor skill, that is the ability to transfer strength to functional power. When an athlete’s nervous system is tuned enough to effectively and instantly access the most amount of strength possible in a certain skill, like the vertical jump, coaches know the athlete will more than likely be able to effectively maximize their explosive power through a wide range of movements. Thus making them far more valuable to the team as a whole because of the advanced nature of their central nervous system, especially as it relates to athletic movement.

Take Heisman Trophy winning running back who went on to be a star for the Detroit Lions, Barry Sanders, for example. Standing at just 5 feet 8 inches, Sanders was no spectacle of size, but what he lacked in height he made up for in stunning athleticism. Among his bursting portfolio of highlights as one of the greatest running backs of all time, is his vertical jump. As the story goes, a “pro day” workout was scheduled at Oklahoma State, where Sanders attended and won the Heisman Trophy. All the NFL teams attended.

Sanders made an impact before running his first drill. As he walked onto the field, he passed under one goal post. Casually, Sanders jumped, grabbed the crossbar with one hand, chinned himself up, and dropped to the turf nonchalantly.

In the vertical jump, he leaped from a standing position and touched the 43-inch mark. Scouts were impressed.

One person thought it wasn’t good enough.

“I think I can get one more,” Sanders said.

On his second leap, he hit 44 inches.

While there is no question as to what his place in NFL history is, one question that has to be asked is how. How does one develop such seemingly superhuman ability? How can an athlete add 4”, 6”, or even just 2 inches to their vertical jump? Understanding an athlete will rarely possess the gifts of Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders, it is possible for almost every athlete to add 2-4” to their vertical jump with the right training and tools. • HSSI