The vertical jump test, also known as the vertical leap or Sargent test, is a way to assess lower body strength and power. This test was invented by Dr. Dudley Sargent, a professor of physical education at Harvard University from 1879 to 1919 (Top End Sports).
The vertical jump test is commonly administered in one of two ways. The first employs a piece of equipment called a Vertec device. This device consists of an adjustable pole with plastic vanes attached perpendicular to the pole, spaced a half-inch apart from each other. The test subject stands beneath the vanes and reaches up with one hand as high as he can. This is to determine the test subject’s maximum reach height; the height of the Vertec device must be adjusted such that height 0 is in line with the test subject’s maximum reach. To record the test score, the subject will stand beneath the vanes of the Vertec, and jump from a static position. At the apex of the jump, the test subject will try to knock away the highest vanes he can reach. Since the vanes are on a hinge, very little horizontal force is needed for them to be moved. The same subject will typically jump two more times, or until he can no longer touch any more vanes.
A lower-tech way to administer the vertical jump test is with use of a wall, some sort of marking utensil, and a partner. The partner can mark the subject’s maximum reach when standing against the wall. When the subject jumps, he will touch the wall at the peak of their jump so that the partner can mark it. With both methods, the vertical jump is equivalent to the difference in distance between the jump and the maximum reach.
A vertical jump of 21 inches or more is considered excellent for females, while a jump of 27 inches or more is considered excellent for males. Elite male athletes, namely ones involved in sports such as basketball, can have vertical jumps over 35 inches!
The vertical jump test involves activation of all muscles of the posterior chain, such as the calves, hamstrings, gluteals, and erector spinae. The combination of plantar flexion of the feet and posterior chain activation make this test a good example of an explosive activity.
In sports such as volleyball and basketball where jumping is common, this test is used to measure progress in lower body strength and power gains as they are applied in their respective games, as opposed to simply measuring a one-repetition maximum back squat. In other sports where jumping may not be common, but explosive ability is important, this test can still be used as a tool to monitor lower body strength and power. Similarly, some law enforcement agencies use a vertical jump test to ensure that personnel possess enough upper body strength to perform activities that may be required on the job.