SO HOW DO I TEST MYSELF?
Simply follow these steps!!
1. Test your vertical jump using a regular "down and up" vertical jump descending down with your feet flat on the floor. Jump how you normally would. Descend naturally into a ¼ squat position and jump as high as possible and make a mark against a wall or use a piece of tape so you can measure your jump. This jump is heavily dependent on pure explosive strength without much of a plyometric response in the contributing musculature.
2. Next, find some benches or boxes that you can increase in 6-inch increments. Start off with a low 12 inch box and, standing on it next to a wall, step off with both feet, hit the ground, and immediately execute a depth jump and try to jump as high as high as
possible and again measure the height you jump by making a mark on a wall. We will call this your reactive jump. Wait for the reflexive gathering of force that occurs at ground contact and explode out of it as high as possible. Don’t try to come off the ground too fast but don’t wait too long either. If you have to reset and gather yourself you’ve wasted too much time.
Next, note the difference between the height of your down and up vertical jump and your reactive jump. If your reactive jump is less than your vertical jump than you can stop now, but if not continue on to step # 3.
3. Repeat the process but increase the height of the box in 6-inch progressions until you find the point where your reactive jump is less than your vertical jump. The depth jumps (reactive jumps) done off boxes heavily involve plyometric action and the plyometric contribution will increase the higher the box is raised. The greater the height of the box the more force you're taking in at impact and as long as your reactive jumps increase the greater the force you're putting out and thus the better your reactive ability.
By comparing your performance in the jumps you can determine where you are weak, or where to direct your efforts for further improvement. Some athletes best drop jump score off the lowest box may be below their normal squat jump, indicating large untapped reactive resources. This indicates a deficit in reactive strength with a need to emphasize reactive or plyometric training.
If your vertical jump is about the same or less than your reactive jump your ability to absorb negative force and transfer it into positive energy is lacking. You’ll want to start using explosive and reactive training immediately along with depth drop landings to train your system to better absorb force. Once you become proficient at absorbing force you can then use regular depth jumps.
For others there will be a gradual increase in jumping height with each increase in box height. They may find their best jump comes off a 30-inch box or better. The higher your reactive jumps are from increased box heights in comparison to your squat jump, the better your reactive ability is and the more you'll benefit from increased muscle size and strength. If you fit into this group you are very plyometrically efficient so you'll want to emphasize muscular strength and even hypertrophy so that you can create more basic resources you can utilize in plyometric movements.
Here are a few examples of what different people might experience with this test:
Vertical Jump: 24 inches
Reactive Jump from 12-inch box: 22 inches
Needs: Reactive strength and speed work
Needs: Reactive strength and speed work
Vertical Jump: 32 inches
Reactive Jump from 12-inch box: 33 inches Reactive Jump for 18-inch box: 35 inches Reactive Jump from 24-inch box: 36 inches Reactive Jump from 30-inch box: 38 inches Reactive Jump from 36-inch box: 34 inches
Vertical Jump: 28 inches
Reactive Jump from 12-inch box: 29 inches Reactive Jump from 18-inch box: 30 inches Reactive Jump from 24-inch box: 27 inches
Needs: An overall mix of Reactive strength, explosive strength, and Limit Strength work
With the above tests we’re able to accurately determine where to best direct your efforts for further improvement. Performance in a movement involving lots of reactive (involuntary) strength always has much more potential then pure voluntary activities due to the additional reflexive force that occurs with the quick stretching, gathering, and releasing of energy through the tendons. When this action is eliminated, the result is determined by voluntary force.
Quite often, however, we need to “tap into” this potential (plyometric) strength and teach our bodies how to utilize it. If someone has a regular “down and up” standstill jump that is better then their jump when using the boxes, this can be interpreted as a lack of development in the stretch-shortening cycle/plyometric abilities, with the subsequent need to emphasize reactive movements such as plyometrics in training.
In contrast, another athlete’s best drop jump off the boxes may be 20-25% greater than his/her squat jump and their best jump will tend to be off a higher box. This indicates well-developed reactive (plyometric/reactive) strength. In this case, one should emphasize basic strength and muscle growth followed by methods designed to improve
the rate of force development. This will create new potential, or raw muscle and strength, from which to draw from.
To quickly recap, if your vertical jump off the boxes is 20% or more greater than the squat jump, you are very efficient plyometrically and will probably make further improvements by focusing on building up your strength through heavy weight training. If your regular down and up jump is fairly even with your drop jumps, your reactive strength is lacking so you should focus on plyometrics in training. Those who have very well developed reactive ability will find their best jump is off a higher box (>18 inches), and they are probably fairly strong as well as plyometrically efficient.
Making It Easy!
If that’s too confusing for you here’s another way to look at it. If you’re one of these guys who can really get up but you need to take a running start of 20 feet in order to do so, then you likely need to work more on your strength. However, if you’re the guy who can stand flatfooted and jump nearly as high as you can with a long run-up then you will definitely see the best results using plyometrics and other dynamic methods.
If you’re somewhere in the middle with no clear-cut weakness then you’ll do well on a well rounded overall program consisting of both strength training and plyometric drills.
While we’re on the subject of testing for the vertical jump, make sure you don’t cheat during your test. There are several ways of cheating to make your vertical appear higher then it actually is. The easiest way is to simply not reach all the way up whenever you determine your reach. The 2nd way is to pinch your shoulder blades together when you reach up. If you pinch your shoulder blades together you won’t be able to reach as high even if your arms are fully extended. This will make your reach lower and thus make your vertical appear higher then it really is. Save these tricky little maneuvers until you want to impress someone besides yourself!