QSMC Accredited Exercise Physiologist, Toby Edmanson highlights the importance of developing and measuring the vertical jump to enhance athletes’ performance on the field.
A powerful Vertical Jump (VJ) is the centrepiece of some of the most beautiful and elegant athletic movements known to man – Michael Jordan dunking on a fast break, Sam Kerr soaring above the pack shooting with a header, and Anna Pavlova seemingly floating in mid-air during the Sauté in ballet. The higher an athlete can jump, the more ferocious and spectacular the movement can become. In the sporting realm, the vertical jump is the ability to jump upwards into the air, forming a key success indicator in athletic pursuits that require vertical elevation. The vertical jump is also strongly correlated with sprint and agility performance.
Is there a magic ingredient to improving my Vertical Jump?
Not necessarily. Athletes usually achieve their spectacular jumping abilities as a ‘by-product’ of the adoption of some very effective training methods. The training method is usually multifaceted, focusing on exercises to improve key components of the jump, like speed and strength, to build muscular power. When these components improve, the vertical jump naturally follows.
How can exercise improve my Vertical Jump?
If programmed appropriately, exercise has the ability to improve your vertical jump by increasing your overall power-to-bodyweight ratio and therefore increasing your jump. Exercise can improve how efficiently you can utilise strength to produce ‘explosive’ force. Key exercise fundamentals need to be considered to meet the load and capacity requirements of your sport to achieve adaptation and allow for full recovery.
Reactive Strength Index (RSI): A Unique Indicator of Vertical Jump Performance
The Reactive Strength Index (RSI) is unique from the other strength and power abilities. This means that there may be a low correlation between those athletes who have a high RSI, those who are strong, those who are fast and those who are powerful. RSI is correlated with the change of direction ability and in sports like basketball, where the ability to react with an explosive jump is a key performance indicator. Consequently, assessing RSI is a great indicator of vertical jump performance because jumping fast and changing direction is important for so many sports.
How do I measure my RSI?
RSI = Jump height/Time to Take Off
When obtained from a Drop Jump test, the RSI is the ratio between the height jumped and the ground contact time, calculated by dividing the jump height by the ground contact time.
So, if I know what my RSI is, what type of training is most effective at improving my VJ?
It depends on the athlete. If you have a relatively weaker RSI and higher maximal strength, you may need to work on plyometric-based activities. If you have a relatively weaker maximal strength but a high RSI, you should work on your strength-based exercises. Therefore, developing reactive strength requires the adoption of specific training methods, including plyometric training and strength training. Most often we see individuals requiring one more than the other, or a combination of both.
Plyometric training involves explosive, powerful exercises that require quick reactive movements.
My preferred method of measuring strength to assess jumping ability is the Isometric Mid-Thigh Pull Test (IMTP).
How can an Accredited Exercise Physiologist help to improve my vertical jump?
QSMC’s Accredited Exercise Physiologists are well equipped to measure your RSI through various tools. We use the ForceDecks to measure jump height and single and double leg eccentric and concentric analysis. We also will use the ForceDecks to measure your maximum strength, in the form of an isometric mid-thigh pull test. These tests will indicate which training will most effectively improve your vertical jump.
If you’re curious about your vertical jump performance, or perhaps looking to understand how you can improve your vertical jump, Toby and our QSMC Exercise Physiology team are ready to answer any questions you may have. Book in today!