The vertical leap is an extremely useful tool for both athletes and basketball coaching staff. Most commonly, the leap test is used as a tool to gauge an athletes performance and improvement. For example, it is a major assessment in both the NBA draft and NFL combine. Of course, it also becomes a powerful tool in your training, allowing you to track your development.
There are a variety of methods and techniques used to measure this rather important statistic. The most common and practical way to measure it is also an inexpensive one. All you will need is some chalk or ink, and a flat wall with a perfectly flat surface underfoot. (I like to use chalk as its inexpensive and cleans up easily, and I also find that the side of my house is a perfect location to perform the vertical leaps.)
First simply measure your standing reach. This is achieved by standing flat footed on both feet and reaching as high as you can with one arm, fingertips outstretched without lifting your feet. Place a mark with the chalk at the point where the fingertips reach.
When measuring my own standing reach, I prefer to used crushed chalk. I simply dip my fingertips in the container of crushed chalk (you can buy it online like I did, but I’m sure you can find it in any large retailer) and wipe or slap my hand and fingertips on the wall. I find this especially useful as I quite often train alone.
Once you have measured your standing reach you are now ready for some jumping. Place some chalk or ink on your fingertips on the chosen hand, then simply jump as high as you can. Recoil your muscles fully and make sure to jump off both feet and mark the wall with a slap of your fingertips. I prefer to repeat this five times to get a bit more of an accurate result.
The actual measurement of your vertical can be found by measuring the distance between your standing reach and your highest vertical leap. So for example you had a standing reach of 7 ft and a jump of 9 ft, the vertical jump measurement would be 2 ft.
There are a few other ways to measure the statistic, including infrared lasers and expensive prongs like the NFL use, but as a basketball player and a coach, the most practical, least expensive and portable method is the one outlined above.
Did you Know?
In 2012 Nike released Nike Basketball+. The innovation featured shoes with in built sensors. These sensors provided information on your jumping as well as other factors such as how hard and fast the athlete plays, when combined with an iPhone app. Consumers never really took to the gadget, issues with reliability and sheer cost saw the Nike Basketball+ discontinued.
How to use it
The main purpose of tracking your vertical jump is to help you guide your vertical jump training. When I used Vert Shock, I would generally measure my vertical once a week. There’s no reason you can’t measure it more often, but it’s a simple case of being inconvenient and it’s also unlikely you’ll have made any significant gains over a short period of time, say, a day or two.
Now what you should find is that your vertical does not continually increase in a straightforward way. It goes up and down – you can call improving your vertical a ‘bumpy ride’. Some days, you’ll feel unusually more tired than you’re used to feeling. Your legs feel heavy, and you don’t want to do any exercise. This isn’t anything to worry about, it’s just your central nervous system (CNS) signalling that your body is still recovering.
On other days, you are bursting with energy and actually want to go out and do some training. These are usually days following a rest day or a low-intensity training day, and I always try and make sure I measure my vertical on these days, after a short warm-up.
So really, the main takeaway from this is that don’t be overly concerned with your short term changes. Only if you have spent an entire month of intense training and your measurement has barely changed should you be looking into reevaluating your workout.