Vertical jumping is an important skill in many sports and often the ability to jump higher than an opponent can mean the difference between you scoring or not, and your team subsequently winning or losing the game. In that context, a 'good' vertical jump is simply one which is higher than the other player. However, that is too simple an answer.
To answer the question 'what is a good vertical jump?' we need to take a more detailed look at vertical jumps, and also take account of different age groups and genders in order to fully address it. The other consideration is that for different sports the height at which a vertical jump might be considered good, will vary. A jump where a soccer player rising to head the ball into the net might be thought of as good in that sport, would most likely be seen as average on a basketball court.
How to Measure a Vertical Jump
Given that a vertical jump is going to be classified in feet and inches, we need a way of measuring it so that two different jumps are compared fairly. Some people assume that you simply make a note of the height someone reaches when they jump, but there is a little bit more to it than.
Measuring a vertical jump is done in two parts. The first involves the individual standing with both feet flat on the ground and then reaching up as far as they can. When they do so their feet, including their heels, must remain on the ground or floor. At the very highest point that their fingertips can reach, someone else who is assisting, marks this with a marker or chalk.
The second stage is that the individual being measured then makes several attempts to jump as high as they can from a standing start. They reach up as before and see how high they can touch on the wall or pole. The person assisting looks carefully to see this point and makes it accordingly. The final measurement of their vertical jump is calculated by measuring where they touched when jumping and subtracting where they touched when standing.
In order to do the whole process correctly, you would normally need someone to assist you in terms of marking the high points; you will obviously need something to reach up to, with a pole or wall the most common. In most cases, a ladder is also required in order to climb up and mark the high points.
Through a series of exercise routines and training sessions, you can seek to improve your vertical jump and remeasure it as you progress. One of the most popular of these programs is the 'The Jump Manual' which has numerous exercises tailored to improving vertical jumps plus advice on nutrition and techniques.
The Biggest Vertical Jumps in History
Before we look at some data on good vertical jumps, it might be interesting to discover what the greatest vertical jumps that have been achieved are. As we do, you might be amazed to know that the record for an NFL player is actually higher than that of an NBA player. A lot of people are even shocked by this given how basketball is a game where jumping high is an integral part of the game. However, it is also an important trait in football and other factors do apply.
First, football players are not all approaching 7 feet in height so their need to be able to jump high to catch a football is probably greater. Bear in mind it is not the height reached which is measured but the difference between a point reached when standing and that reached when jumping. The other factor is a football player's physique, which is designed for explosive movement so this also helps their jumping technique.
At the time of writing the highest standing vertical jump from a basketball player is held jointly by Dwayne Mitchell (2012) and Justin Anderson (2015) at 38 inches. Impressive, but not as impressive as the NFL's Gerald Sensabaugh who jumped 46 inches in 2005.
There are other records that apply to a running vertical jump which stands at 44.5 for NBA player Kenny Gregory. For the NFL there are numerous players who have jumped 50-54 inches. The final record is a ‘platform jump’ where from a standing position an individual has to jump on to a fixed, flat platform. That record is held by Canadian Evan Ungar, who achieved 63.5 inches in 2016.
What's a Good Vertical Jump For the Rest of Us?
Assuming you are not at the stage where you could contemplate challenging for any of the records we've just discussed, we'll now look at what is considered good vertical jumping heights based on the variables which can exist. These variables are your gender and your age.
Starting with male athletes the scale goes from 'very poor' up to 'excellent' and the range is as follows:
- Very poor < 8 inches
- Poor 8-12 inches
- Below average 12-16 inches
- Average 16-20 inches
- Above average 20-24 inches
- Very good 24-28 inches
- Excellent > 28 inches
Bear in mind this is an average rating across all age groups, and the same principle applies when looking at the same criteria for female athletes which are as follows:
- Very poor < 4 inches
- Poor 4-8 inches
- Below average 8-12 inches
- Average 12-16 inches
- Above average 16-20 inches
- Very good 20-24 inches
- Excellent > 24 inches
Obviously, as we age our ability to vertical jump is diminished by the passing of time, and while some of us may be able to maintain a certain height for longer, for most the average reduction will work out to be around 3 inches for every 10 years. This means if you could vertically jump 20 inches when at your peak of around 30 years of age, by age 50 your maximum jumping height will be about 14 inches.
If you'd like to improve your vertical jump from average to good or good to excellent then you should check out 'The Jump Manual'. It has lots of advice, exercise routines, and techniques to help improve your vertical jump, and more importantly to help retain your jump height as you age.