When it comes to testing athletes, one of the best predictors of performance potential is lower body power. However, there are a slew of options out there for testing lower body power. Broad Jump, vertical jump, as well as all olympic weightlifting variations. There are others, but these are the most common.
The biggest difference between the aforementioned is that the broad jump and vertical jump lean more towards the SPEED side of the strength-speed continuum, whereas the clean and snatch variants lean more towards the STRENGTH side of this continuum.
Although you want your athletes to be well rounded, for most sports, athletes that perform best on the SPEED-STRENGTH side of things tend to make better athletes than those that perform best on the STRENGTH-SPEED side of things. Of course, this is a generalized assumption, and you want to look at the whole picture, in general, yes, we favor the broad jump and vertical jumps for testing lower body power.
One of the biggest advantages of these tests is that they require minimal equipment, and do not require a great deal of skill to perform them. This barrier is crucial when you are testing athletes in a time crunch, which most private facilities are.
Because time is so important when developing a test battery for your athletes, it is quite redundant to test BOTH the vertical jump and the broad jump. You really only need one to give you the data you want on lower body power. Only with our athletes that get tested on both, do we actually test both. And in our experience, that has only been our football players. Otherwise, it is best to just choose ONE to test...but which should you choose? Sure, you could certainly pick one, and only apply that one to all of your athletes, but there is a better way. Pick the movement that translates MOST SPECIFICALLY to the movements most desirable for the sport and/or position. So what do you look for?
The biggest thing is the force vector. What is the resulting direction of the applied force? Both the broad jump and the vertical jump should reach triple extension. However, the vertical jump has a VERTICAL force vector, whereas the broad jump has more of a HORIZONTAL force vector. So I'll provide a couple super easy examples of this.
Here, we are looking at how the BROAD JUMP might be best for athletes who's most desirable traits are SPRINTING. Notice how the broad jump resembles sprinting? Therefore, I like the broad jump for my track athletes, running backs, linemen, baseball players, etc.
Here, we are looking at how the VERTICAL JUMP might be best for athlete's who's most desirable traits are JUMPING abilities. This is much more clear, but look at the similarities between the vertical jump, and jumping to block a volleyball. Therefore, I like the vertical jump for my volleyball players, basketball players, cornerbacks, etc.
Does this mean that you ONLY train those planes of movement? Absolutely not. It means that when you need a time efficient test battery, this is the test we choose for the athlete.
As mentioned, they both test the same thing, but just slightly different. Take a look at this data (this is most recent for the 2019 NFL Combine, since 2006, sportingnews.com). Do you notice how 3 of the top 5 are represented in BOTH the vertical jump and the broad jump?
Top 5 Vertical Jumps
- Chris Conley, WR, 45.0
- Donald Washington, CB, 45.0
- Byron Jones, CB, 44.5
- AJ Jefferson, CB, 44.0
- Obi Melifonwu, S, 44.0
**Take note that ALL of the vertical jumps are SKILL positions that require athletes to JUMP to receive or disrupt a pass.
Top 5 Broad Jumps
- Byron Jones, CB, 12'3"
- Obi Melifonwu, S, 11'9"
- Jamie Collins, OLB, 11'7"
- Chris Conley, WR, 11'7"
- Bud Dupree, OLB, 11' 6"
**Take note that now there are two linebackers represented here. Keep in mind that linebackers spend much more time tackling and driving THROUGH their opponents than just out jumping them.
This is exactly what I mean by the specificity of the test. Yes, they BOTH test lower body power, hence 3 of the top 5 being the same between tests, but how the 2 athletes that differ, the test much more specifically translates to that position!
When you assign tests to athletes, don't just do it because you've seen others do it. Don't just do it so you have random data. Do it because you understand the application and purpose for testing. At the end of the day, tests don't tell the entire story. It's just data. Many of your best testers never make it in the pros, and many of the worst testers become hall of famers. Sports require so much more than physical prowess, but these details need investigated, regardless, in order to maximize the potential of your athletes.
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