When it comes to the vertical jump, at what point does the possible become impossible? Just what are the upper limits of the human body when it comes to vertical jump performance?
The current highest standing vertical jump is 47.1 inches by Josh Imatorbhebhe and the current highest approach jump is 52 inches by Jamal Harris.
But just how much further will these numbers continue going up over time?
In this article I’ll discuss some of the current vertical jump records as well as concepts to think about when discussing the limitations of human jump potential.
How High Have People Jumped In The Past?
Let’s first take a look at some of the existing vertical jump records.
|Standing Vertical Jump*||1.2m (47.1″)||Josh Imatorbhebhe|
|Running Vertical Jump*||1.32m (52″)||Jamal Harris|
|Standing Box Jump||1.7m(67″)||Christopher Spell|
|High Jump||2.45m(8’0.25″)||Javier Sotomayor|
I’ve placed asterisks next to the questionable records in the above table, because the data is, well, questionable.
Standing Vertical Jump World Record
Let’s start with the standing vertical jump, the godfather of all vertical jump measurements. This jump record describes an athletes sheer power and explosive capacity from a standstill.
The record was set at 47.1″ at the 2015 Nike Football Rating Championships on what appears to be a Just Jump System.
I’ve put an asterisk next to this vertical jump measurement in the above table because there’s debate as to whether this should be accepted or not.
Most standing vertical jump measurements are done using a vertec which requires the athlete to reach as high up as possible.
When using a jump mat like this, reaching isn’t necessary and this allows the jumper to focus more on jumping and not coordinating the reach.
This measurement device is considered fairly accurate however and I personally accept this as the current world record standing jump. If you disqualify this jump, then the record goes to Gerald Sensabaugh who jumped 46″ in the NFL combine in 2005.
Running Vertical Jump Record
The unofficial running vertical jump record was set by Jamal Harris and the data was recorded by NBA strength and conditioning coach, Paul Fabritz.
Again we have to make huge caveats about the legitimacy of this record. The issue with the running vertical is that very few professional sports institutions test it. The NBA does but require a 15 foot maximum run up length which inhibits jumping performance.
So essentially we don’t really know who has the highest running vertical jump but I dug pretty hard and it looks like Jamal’s 52″ is the highest (with Chris Spell not far behind).
I also trust that Paul did a good job being consistent in recording the standing reach data.
How High Can The Average Person Jump?
Believe it or not this is an insanely difficult question to answer. There’s extremely minimal data which simply doesn’t answer the question accurately.
We have some data on 13-14 year old boys, but what happens when you take overweight middle aged women and add that to the mix? What about elite athletes? And good luck collecting this data from the elderly!
I’ll include some data for young athletes that I think is probably most relevant to those asking this question.
If you want more information about these vertical jump norms, including the norms for elite athletes, click here.
How High Could A Human Possibly Jump?
This is a really interesting question to me. At exactly what point does the possible become impossible?
I’m sure we could come to some sort of mathematical conclusion based on maximal force output calculations for athletes of certain biomechanical configurations, but it would largely be an estimation.
So what would the person with the highest possible vertical jump look like? And what factors would have the biggest influence on how high a human being could possibly jump?
Consider Landing Forces
When we jump, we generate a lot of force with our legs. But when we land from said jump, we’re hitting the ground with a lot more force.
In reality, our vertical jump is simply a representation of the ground reaction forces our body is capable of withstanding upon landing.
The brain and body aren’t stupid. No animal is going to be wired in such a way that they can launch themselves to a certain height and actually take damage when landing (at least not consistently).
Part of the reason I harp on about training your tibialis anterior so much is because it’s the first point of contact with those ground reaction forces when landing.
Want to jump higher? Start by convincing your body that you’re capable of landing from greater heights.
High Training Age
If someone were to one day jump north of 55 inches, I don’t think they’d be particularly young.
Occasionally we see 19 year old genetic freaks breaking records like this but to do the impossible would require being a genetic mutant and many years of hard training.
I could plausibly see a 20 year old phenomenon breaking the running vertical jump record with something like a 53.5″ running vertical. But to go from that to 55 or 56″ might take another 5-10 years of developing that natural athleticism.
I don’t think our hypothetical 55+ inch record breaking jumper would look much like Jamal Harris. I think our super athlete would start looking like Jamal – pure bounce. But then we’d look to pack on a lot of muscle over a number of years to hopefully be left with a literal superman.
Mostly Injury Free Career
The reason we see 20 year olds smashing these kinds of records is because they haven’t sustained a massive amount of injuries in their relatively short careers.
They have healthy joints, they have minimal scar tissue, they have really high testosterone levels.
As we get older, we get injured. Every injury makes it tougher to do really hard things like jump over 50 inches.
Our freak 55+ inch future record breaker would have to place an inordinate amount of focus on longevity, recovery, and safety protocols to ensure they never got injured.
If we took our 20 year old prodigy and put them in a training facility so they could jump 3 inches higher after 5-10 years of hard training, we’d have to take really good care of them.
What’s The Verdict?
The truth is it’s hard to predict where the human race will be in a hundred or a thousand years time.
If at some point in the future we’re all 7’5″ Gigachad super athletes who live forever and never get injured, I can’t see why we won’t break a 60″ vertical jump at some stage.
Obviously genetics play a really large role in this whole debate. Jamal Harris is a great example of that, exuding no freaky looking physical attributes, just raw God given jumping ability.
My guess is we’ll see a 48″ standing vertical jump and 55″ running vertical jump within the next 10 years easily. These numbers just keep going up. At what point they’ll stop increasing, no one knows!