If you’ve been training to increase your vertical, it’s important to be able to find out if (or how much) you’ve improved since the beginning. There are a multitude of ways to test your vertical, but each of them has different advantages and disadvantages. However, whichever way you choose will allow you to objectively track your progress so you can determine whether or not you’re on the right track.
Understanding Touch, Reach and Vertical
Before we get into it, it’s important to note that “vertical” and “touch” are not the same thing, though they’re sometimes used interchangeably. If two athletes have the same touch, but their reach is different, then their vertical is not the same. Vertical refers to how high you can get off the ground, whereas touch refers to how high you can touch at the top of a jump. If you have an athlete with a reach of 7’0 who can touch 9’0, they have a vertical of 24 inches, whereas an athlete with a 7’6 reach who can touch the same has a vertical of 18 inches. Touch may arguably be the more important stat, but it’s necessary to pay attention to the actual vertical if you’re attempting to gauge your training progress.
To measure your vertical with most methods, you need to first determine your reach and subtract it from the tests performed (the electronic tests do not require this step). The most common way to measure is to stand sideways with your dominant arm next to a wall, and with flat feet, reaching up as high as you can, as shown in the image on the right.
When using a vertek / slap-sticks I prefer to have athletes stand facing a wall with the front of both shoes in contact with the wall, reaching up as high as they can with their dominant arm, extending/shrugging the shoulder to reach as high as possible. View the image below.
HERE ARE 3 METHODS TO TEST YOUR VERTICAL JUMP
1. Low Cost Method
One of the most cost effective ways that you test the vertical jump is with the use of tape or chalk. Put some chalk or a small piece of rolled up tape on the tip of your longest finger (typically the middle). Stand with your dominant side next to a wall, like when you measured your reach.
Raise your arms overhead and then throw yourself down, somewhat into a squat, before springing back up as quickly as you can. Reach as high as you can, and at the highest point, mark the wall with the chalk or stick your piece of tape to it.
Make sure you land correctly and on both feet so you don’t get hurt. From there, use a tape measure to measure from the ground to the tape/chalk, subtract your reach from this is and you will have your vertical.
This only measures a standing vertical, and while you can use a similar method for your approach, you have be careful not to hit or run into the wall. Trying to avoid this might affect your approach form and make it feel a bit awkward if you’re used to turning in before jumping. There are Velcro and magnetic boards, made for vertical testing, that you could buy and mount to a wall. These do essentially the same thing and typically range between $45-$70.
2. Electronic Method
There are wearable jump monitors that you can buy, and clip right onto your shorts/spandex, that will measure your vertical itself. These are incredibly convenient, as they would allow you to not only perform a test but to measure your jumps at practice or during a match. They measure your best jump, but also let you know your average jump.
For this method, you would work in reverse to find your “touch” by adding the vertical to your standing reach. They’re small and lightweight so they don’t distract you when you’re playing and you can test anytime anywhere as long as you have a device to connect to.
They also allow you to measure other things such as jump count, landing impact and power. All of these are statistics that you could use to track your progress and see if or how much you’re improving. Of all the methods, this one offers the most variety, collects the most data and is probably the most convenient to use.
As convenient as the electronic version is, there are some potential downsides. One is cost (currently going for $174) and another is compatibility (currently only compatible with Apple devices), so they might not be affordable for everyone, especially if you have to buy an apple device just to use it. There is also the potential to “cheat” or sell yourself short depending on your jumping form and other factors such as whether or not you’re swinging or blocking, how you’re swinging or block and how soon or late into the jump you swing. All of those factors affect your body position in the air and could potentially fool the device, especially if you’re using one of the older models.
3. Slapstick / Vertek Method
Possibly the most common, and arguably the most popular, method is to use the slap sticks, or what is commonly called a Vertek.
There are two test options, standing jump and approach jump. For the standing jump, stand almost directly under the sticks, roughly as close to the sticks as you would be to the wall when measuring. You want to ensure that all your power is directed up, as the more you travel forward, the more gravity will pull you down before you reach your target Even if you’re close enough to reach slightly forward, your reach is highest when it goes straight up, as opposed to when your arm is forward at an angle. Raise your arms overhead and then throw yourself down, somewhat into a squat, before springing back up as quickly as you can. Reach as high as you can, and at the highest point, tap the stick with your longest finger.
Make sure you land correctly and on both feet to reduce the risk of injury.
For your approach jump, the distance away is determined by whether or not you do 3-step or 4-step approach but finding the right distance is crucial, so you might need a few practice runs to figure it out. Just like the standing jump, you want to make sure you’re jumping up as opposed to jumping forward at the target, so you you’re not losing height. You want the approach here to be natural, so the foot spacing and tempo should be identical to your in game approach. Where it changes is in the “swing”. As mentioned earlier, when your arm comes forward, your reach is lower. Instead of swinging and trying to kill it, reach up and extend like during your reach measurement, and just tap the stick with your longest finger. Land well.
There are a few downsides to this method as well, a prominent one being cost, as this is the most expensive option (ranging anywhere from $350 to upwards of $1,000 depending on the model). Another is inconvenience as they can be a pain to take from place to place. Also, due to the occasional manufacturer error the markings may be off, which means you’ll need a tape measure to ensure you have it at an accurate height. Because of the cost and hassle of travel, most people don’t have one of these sitting around, but they are pretty common at workout gyms, volleyball facilities and schools.
Fortunately, there is more than one way to measure your vertical jump, and each one has it’s pros and cons depending on your situation. There is debate about the accuracy of each, but the most important thing is consistency. As long you are doing the same test in the same way, you will have a way to gauge your improvement.
About the Author
David has been a Sports Performance Specialist at Trademark Performance in Northwest Indiana since 2014. He specializes in training programs for volleyball athletes, most of which come to him seeking an increase in their vertical. Contact David at email@example.com. Learn more about David here.