How To Measure A Vertical Jump With Or Without Equipment

How To Measure A Vertical Jump With Or Without Equipment

Being able to accurately determine your vertical jump is the first step to being able to track your progress as a vertical jump aspiring athlete. The Sargent vertical jump test has been around for over 100 years but today we’re going to look at several of the best modern methods for determining vertical jump height.

A vertical jump is measured by first attaining the height of the athlete’s standing reach by having them reach up as high as possible while their feet are flat on the floor. That distance is then subtracted from the highest point they were able to touch after a maximal effort jump. The resulting measurement is the athlete’s vertical jump.

The rest of this article goes into greater detail how to set up your own vertical jump test so that the parameters are correct and your results are accurate. We’ll also discuss the advantages and drawbacks of several popular methods of measuring the vertical jump with various equipment so you can choose the method that makes the most sense for you.

How To Measure A Vertical Jump Without Equipment

While there are plenty of advanced ways of measuring a vertical jump, you might simply be wondering how to measure your vertical jump at home. This is the simplest method and is generally a fine way to go about getting a reasonably accurate baseline measurement.

Tape Or Chalk Method

To measure a vertical jump at home, you’ll need a few basic items.

      • Tape (masking tape is best), double sided tape if you have it, or chalk
      • Tape measure
      • A relatively high wall, you don’t want to be limited by the ceiling. You could also use a basketball backboard for this.
      • A partner will make things a lot easier.

Here’s an image explaining how it works and below that are the detailed instructions to make sure you do it properly.

How To Measure Vertical Jump

Step 1 – Record Standing Reach

      1. Stand parallel to the wall with your side right up against it. Reach up and extend with your arm closest to the wall so that your middle finger is touching the highest point you can reach on the wall while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
      2. Have your partner mark the highest point you were able to touch (AKA your standing reach) on the wall. They can use a pencil or marker or simply can hold an object firmly level with that height.
      3. Grab the tape measure and measure the distance from the floor to the standing reach height and record this down. If you’re doing this alone, simply apply some chalk to the tips of your fingers to mark the wall and then you can measure the distance yourself. Alternatively stick some tape to the wall in line with the tip of your middle finger.

Step 2 – Apply The Chalk/Tape

      1. If you’re going for the chalk method, cover the tips of your fingers in chalk.
      2. If you’re using tape, wrap some tape around itself til you have a ball or donut shaped piece of tape attached to the tip of your middle finger. Make sure the sticky side is facing outwards.

Tape To Measure Vertical Jump

Step 3 – Perform Your Maximum Effort Countermovement Jumps

      1. Starting with both feet firmly on the ground, crouch down and explode upwards as high as you can, remembering to generate power with your arm swing.
      2. At the peak of your jump, reach up and out and mark the wall with either the chalk or tape.
      3. Reapply chalk or tape and repeat the process a few more times until you feel as though you’ve already jumped your highest.

Step 4 – How To Calculate Vertical Jump

      1. Use the tape measure once again to measure from the floor to the highest point marked by the chalk or tape. This measurement is the maximum jump reach.
      2. Subtract the standing reach from the maximum jump reach and you’re left with your standing vertical jump. Typically we use inches to denominate vertical jump height.

Step 5 – Repeat For Running Vertical Jump

      1. If you’d like to measure your running vertical jump (AKA approach jump), repeat the process once more except this time allow yourself a running start to generate more power. *Note: I would strongly advise doing at least the RVJ using a basketball backboard as it can be quite dangerous attempting a running vertical jump with a wall as your target.

After completing this last step, you should know your standing reach, standing vertical jump, and running vertical jump.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Tape/Chalk Method

This is definitely not my favorite method of measuring a vertical jump but it may be a decent enough option for those of you who don’t have access to equipment.

Advantages

      • Low cost
      • Almost no equipment needed
      • Accurate enough that it’ll give you an idea of where you’re at

Disadvantages

      • Requires a high enough wall that it cannot be performed inside a lot of rooms
      • Awkward and dangerous having to jump so close to the wall
      • Doubly dangerous and awkward when trying to ascertain running vertical jump
      • Not so accurate because of how you need to contort your arm/fingers in the air to mark the wall
      • Significantly inaccurate when using a wall for RVJ, not so bad if using a backboard

How To Measure A Vertical Jump With Equipment

If you’re a serious athlete and want some reliable data to track your vertical jump progress with, then you’re likely going to have to use some equipment to get accurate results.

Vertical Jump Measurement Equipment

Below is a list of vertical jump measurement tools each of which will do a better job than the above ghetto method.

Not all of this equipment is needed for the vertical jump test but any one of these will do the job nicely. Below we’ll dive deeper into how each of these work.

How To Measure Vertical Jump With A Vertec

The vertec is the cream of the crop when it comes to professional vertical jump testing because it’s very accurate and simple to use.

Vertec Vertical Jump Measurement ToolImage Source

If you’re interested in buying a vertec, check out my 2022 vertec buyers guide to compare options and prices.

Step 1 – Record Standing Reach

      1. You can do this by lowering the device and then simple reaching up and touching as many of the vanes as possible.
      2. Each vane is half an inch higher than the next, so you’ll be able to get your standing reach to within half an inch of accuracy. One the pole is shown the height of the lowest vane and it’s very easy to adjust up and down.
      3. Alternatively, if you don’t want to adjust the vertec, you could press your arm and hand up against a wall, mark the highest point you were able to touch, and then use a tape measure to record the standing reach.

Step 2 – Athlete Performs Countermovement Jumps

      1. Starting with both feet firmly on the ground, crouch down and explode upwards as high as you can, remembering to generate power with your arm swing.
      2. Swipe up at as many vanes as you can at the peak of your jump. Do this gently. If you slap at it aggressively, you’ll make a mess of the vanes and it’ll be hard to identify which ones you touched.
      3. Have a partner use a rod or stick to push out of the way the vanes you were able to successfully make contact with.
      4. Reattempt the jump 3-4 more times until you feel as though you’ve given it your best effort.

Step 3 – How To Calculate Vertical Jump

      1. Simply subtract the standing reach from the maximum vertical jump reach and you’ll be left with your standing vertical jump height.

Step 4 – Repeat For Running Vertical Jump

      1. If you’d like to measure your running vertical jump (AKA approach jump), repeat the process once more except this time allow yourself a running start to generate more power.

After completing this last step, you should know your standing reach, standing vertical jump, and running vertical jump. Here’s a video demonstration that gives a pretty good explanation if you found that at all confusing.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Vertec

If you have access to one of these devices, use it!

Advantages

      • Very accurate to within half an inch
      • Allows plenty of room for comfortable approach jumps
      • Quick and easy to use once setup

Disadvantages

      • These things aren’t so cheap. You’ll pay around $400 for a decent one and $800 for a quality one

How To Measure With A Vertical Jump Test Mat

One of the simpler methods for testing your vertical is to use an electronic vertical jump mat.

Image Source

Step 1 – Turn Device On

      1. Start with the athlete off the mat while you turn the controller on.

Step 2 – Athlete Performs Countermovement Jumps

      1. Starting with both feet firmly on the ground, crouch down and explode upwards as high as you can, remembering to generate power with your arm swing.
      2. Make sure you land with both feet on the mat.

Step 3 – Record Vertical Jump Data

      1. The controller will then display what it thinks the vertical jump height was. It’s that simple!

How Does A Vertical Jump Mat Work?

This device works by measuring your height, weight, time in the air, and amount of ground contact forces produced.

How Accurate Is A Vertical Jump Mat?

Most of these devices are surprisingly very accurate. A 2015 study compared the accuracy of vertical jump mats with the vertec and found no significant differences in VJ height measurements.1https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2015/04000/accuracy_of_a_vertical_jump_contact_mat_for.2.aspx

They did however find that vertical jump mats may underestimate heights in elite performers with jumps around the 28″ mark. So if you’re able to jump around 28 inches or higher, this may not be the most accurate method of testing vertical jump.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Vertical Jump Mat

If you have access to one of these devices, use it!

Advantages

      • Very accurate
      • Quick and easy to use
      • Highly portable

Disadvantages

      • Fairly expensive! Most of these devices will cost slightly less than a vertec, but might be worth it for the added convenience and portability
      • Can’t easily test running vertical jump on most of these devices

Measure With An Electronic Vertical Jump Tester

Continuing with the theme of really expensive options, there is a digital vertical jump tester which is basically just an electronic vertec.

Digital Vertical Jump TesterImage Source

Step 1 – Record Standing Reach

      1. These devices come with a measurement strip on the side which can be used to ascertain your standing reach.

Step 2 – Athlete Performs Countermovement Jumps

      1. Starting with both feet firmly on the ground, crouch down and explode upwards as high as you can, remembering to generate power with your arm swing.

Step 3 – Record Data

      1. The device will automatically determine your vertical jump height and output the result on a digital panel.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Electronic Vertical Jump Tester

If money were no object, this would be one of the best ways to measure vertical jump!

Advantages

      • Very accurate
      • Quick and easy to use
      • Ideal for larger cohorts of athletes
      • Can easily export data to a computer
      • Still quite portable and can be wheeled around

Disadvantages

      • This is by far the most expensive tool for testing vertical jump with. You can expect to fork out close to $3,000 for one of these!
      • They only measure to a height of 12 feet. For 99.99% of athletes this won’t be an issue but there is a few elite level volleyballers who have spike reaches in excess of this height. The device would need to be raised on a platform for such athletes. This is going to be an issue with any vertec device however.

How To Measure A Vertical Jump With A Force Plate

A force plate is a popular option for strength coaches as they can gather a variety of trackable data about their athletes such as total force output and rate of force development.

How To Measure Vertical Jump With Force PlateImage Source

Step 1 – Athlete Stands On Force Plate

      1. The coach or operator will reset the scale once the athlete is on the force plate and instruct the athlete to jump when ready.

Step 2 – Athlete Performs Countermovement Jumps

      1. Starting with both feet firmly on the ground, crouch down and explode upwards as high as you can, remembering to generate power with your arm swing.
      2. The operator will collect the data and instruct the athlete when they can perform second and third attempts.

Step 3 – Record & Analyze Vertical Jump Data

      1. The device will produce a variety metrics describing ground reaction forces, hang time, rate of force development, as well as vertical jump height. Some devices won’t directly display jump height however this can be derived from the force-time curve.

How Does A Force Plate Work?

A force plate gathers information about the athlete’s ground reaction forces. It’s essentially a computerized scale which is able to track how much force your legs produce while jumping and how quickly you generate that force.

Usually a force plate is connected to a laptop running software which displays a graphical output of the force-time curve as well as several other metrics.

How Accurate Is A Force Plate?

Force plates are generally pretty accurate ways to generate vertical jump heights. Compared with a vertical jump mat and with the vertec, the force plate will often slightly underestimate jump heights, but it still gets quite close to the accurate number.2https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2015/04000/accuracy_of_a_vertical_jump_contact_mat_for.2.aspx

They’re also consistent, meaning even if the actual number isn’t completely accurate, if you use the same force plate calibrated in the same manner, over time you’ll be able to see a very clear picture of progress.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Force Plate

I used to use one of these regularly and it was my strength coach’s favorite toy.

Advantages

      • Great for coaches who want to track long term progress of several athletes
      • Generates several other useful power output metrics which may be useful for coaches focusing on strength and power development

Disadvantages

      • Not the most accurate way to measure vertical jump and may underestimate heights
      • Expensive. You can expect to pay $3,000-$5000 for one of these
      • Usually requires a connection to a laptop with a software package

Measure Vertical Jump With An App

Vertical jump measurement apps involve a process known as ‘frame counting’ which is where you are able to calculate vertical jump based on time spent in the air. To do this method, you need to use a smartphone to video yourself jumping. Once you have that footage, you can use several apps to determine time spent in the air.

How To Measure Vertical Jump With PhoneImage Source

Once you’ve determined the frame rate of your video and how many frames you spent in the air, you can calculate the height of the jump by using the gravitational constant.

I’ve included two videos below which go into much greater detail explaining this full process. The first video explains how to manually perform the calculation using different frame rates.

The second video below explains how to use the iPhone app called “What’s My Vertical” which does the exact same thing except automatically.

If you don’t have an iPhone, watch the first video as it explains how you can do the calculation manually using any generic android frame counter app.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Frame Counting Method

Overall this is a pretty cool way to track progress, however the actual numbers you get may be a little bit off.

Advantages

      • Cheap! You can do this completely for free or if you have an iPhone and want to use the What’s My Vertical app, it’s only $2.
      • Reasonably accurate way to determine progress over time.
      • Requires no equipment, only a smartphone.

Disadvantages

      • This method will usually underestimate your vertical by a few inches. The reason is because there’s no clear point where you should start counting frames. Technically you should start counting frames when your feet are flat on the ground, as we measure standing reach with feet flat on the ground, but up until the point of toe-off, it doesn’t make sense to be using gravitational forces to calculate jump height, as we’re still on the ground. You can offset this somewhat by landing with straight legs but it still won’t be perfect.

Homemade Vertical Jump Testers

One of the most popular options is to go for a DIY vertical jump tester. It’s possible to create a makeshift vertec out of some pretty basic equipment you can find at any hardware store.

How To Make Your Own Vertical Leap Measurement Device

I’m no DIY expert but I did sift through a number of videos on YouTube explaining how to create your own homemade vertec. The below video is super short and does an excellent job of explaining how you can create your own. There’s many others like it, but I think this video is the easiest to follow.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of A DIY Vertical Jump Tester

This is honestly one of the best options for anyone who enjoys building things or working with their hands.

Advantages

      • Extremely cheap! The above DIY vertec costs only about $22 to make! I saw some other videos where people were spending only $10 on their builds as well. That’s a whole lot cheaper than the $700 you’d pay for an actual vertec!
      • Might be an enjoyable project if this sort of thing interests you.
      • Could be really accurate if you do a good job of it!

Disadvantages

      • Will take a while to put everything together.
      • For people like me who suck at this kind of thing, it looks like a nightmare!
      • Requires some power tools and equipment you might not have.

What Vertical Jump Test Equipment Is Best?

The answer to this question is going to vary greatly depending on who’s asking. If you’re a 15 year old kid, maybe the chalk/tape or frame counting methods are going to be your best options.

However if you’re a head coach of a division one NCAA volleyball, basketball, or football team, you likely have access to a lot more capital and want more reliable data so you can closely track your athletes’ progress over time.

In the latter case, I’d recommend going for a vertec because it’s extremely accurate and won’t break the bank. A vertical jump test mat would probably work just as well or if you have a dedicated strength coach, maybe even consider opting for a force plate.

The electronic vertical jump tester I can’t really speak to. It seems like a waste of money to me but I know some institutions have massive budgets and perhaps these things work extremely well, so that may be an option for some organizations.

The most popular method is to simply use a vertec and this is widely regarded as the gold standard when it comes to vertical jump testing.

Vertical Jump Test Norms

Now that you’ve measured your vertical jump, maybe you’re wondering where you stand. I’ve compiled a list of normative data for the vertical jump test and tabulated it below.

Unfortunately there doesn’t exist data for every age demographic but here’s what we’ve got.

Average Vertical Jump By Age

We do have some data for the standing vertical jump test norms by age which I’ve displayed below. While the data below did come from athletes, it’s unclear what their athletic background was or how much jumping experience they had.3https://www.brianmac.co.uk/sgtjump.htm

Age Gender Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
15 – 16 Male  >26.6″  22 – 26″  19.7 – 22.7″  15.7 – 19.3″  <15.7″
15 – 16 Female  >23.6″ 20 – 23.6″  16.1 – 19.7″  13.8 – 15.8″ <13.8″ 
16 – 19 Male  >25.6″ 19.7 – 25.6″  15.7 – 19.3″   11.8 – 15.4″ <11.8″ 
16 – 19 Female  >22.8″ 18.5 – 22.8″   14.2 – 18.1″ 10.2 – 13.8″  <10.2″ 
20+ Male  >27.5″ 22 – 27.5″  16.1 – 21.6″  12.2 – 15.7″  <11.8″ 
20+ Female >23.6″ 18.1 – 23.6″ 12.2 – 17.7″ 8.3 – 11.8″ <7.8″

This data is to be taken with a grain of salt. It was collected over several decades from several different sources which likely used slightly different testing parameters. According to the above data, 15-16 year old boys jump higher than 16-19 year olds, which simply isn’t the case.

Below is data collected from world-class athletes back in 1996.

Gender Excellent Above Average Average Below Average Poor
Male >32″ 28 – 32″ 24 – 28″ 20 – 24″ <20″
Female >28″ 24 – 28″ 20 – 24″ 16 – 20″ <16″

Again we don’t really know what sport these athletes played or just how elite they were.

Interesting numbers to take a look at, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the actual averages were quite different.

Vertical Jump Measurement FAQ

I see quite a few of the same questions cropping up on the internet all the time so I decided to answer a few of the most common ones.

What Does The Vertical Jump Test Measure?

The vertical jump test is a measure of lower body power. It’s commonly mistaken as a test of lower body strength and while strength is a factor, it’s not the fitness component we’re testing for with the vertical jump.

A test of lower body strength would be something like the back squat or leg press. The vertical jump differs by adding the speed component. Power is strength X speed. How high you jump is determined by how much force you can generate in a short amount of time (or how powerful you are).

How To Jump Higher?

To increase your vertical jump you need to increase your strength as well as how quickly you’re able to apply that strength in the sport specific movement of the vertical jump. In other words, strength X rate of force development = vertical jump.

To increase your vertical jump, you can work on either aspect: strength or RFD or both at the same time.

How Do They Measure Vertical Jump At The NFL Combine?

The NFL combine uses a Gill Athletics vertec to measure athletes’ standing vertical jump. They do this to gauge lower body strength, power, and explosiveness of prospects.

They only test the standing vertical jump in the NFL and don’t care for the running or approach jump.

The NBA Vertical Jump Test?

The NBA draft combine measures standing vertical jump as well as running vertical jump, however I believe they’re only allowed to use a 15 foot approach for the running vertical, which is a significant constraint and limits how much speed one can approach with.

The Lakers have a pre-draft workout where they allow prospects to use a full length running vertical jump approach, so often results will differ from the Lakers workout to the official combine.

Police Vertical Jump Test?

The vertical jump test is a very common screening measure used by in Police academies the world over. Naturally, being able to pursue a suspect on foot may require a degree of lower body power and explosiveness at times, so it makes sense.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of The Vertical Jump Test?

The primary advantage of the Sargent vertical jump test is that it’s relatively simple and easy to perform and is a great way to measure lower body power and explosiveness.

The disadvantage is that jump technique will play a large role in how high someone is able to score on the test.

Anyone who has experience jumping or plays a sport like basketball or volleyball will naturally be able to perform better than someone who doesn’t, simply because they know how to coordinate themselves and execute a jump efficiently. One could make the argument that basketballers or volleyballers are simply more powerful than those who score lower, but there is undeniably some truth to the claim that those with superior technique will score higher.

I’ve Tested My Vertical Over 100 Times – My Verdict

Back when I was playing volleyball internationally, I tested my vertical jump every week. I primarily used a vertec however did use a force plate numerous times also.

My recommendation is to use a vertec if you can. It’s the gold standard for a reason.

Also note that if you’re tracking your vertical closely over time, don’t be too disheartened if you’re not gaining inches every week. That’s not how vertical jump gains are made. They come in spurts and usually require you to be at a peak in your training cycle and well rested at the same time.

Check out my other expert vertical jump recommendations to learn how to jump higher!

Harvey Meale

About Harvey

I've dedicated my life to increasing my vertical jump and helping others do the same. I created Jump Stronger to share what I'm learning and to help others on their own vertical jump journey.