Health

This Next-Gen Fitness Tool Can Measure Your Vertical Leap

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DO YOU UNDERSTAND what’s happening you jump? That might not matter much to you—but for elite athletes, having insights into their every move can be the difference between a gold medal and a spot in the middle of the pack.

There are next-gen instruments that can help you understand more about what’s happening when you leap, giving athletes more data than ever before. Force plates are a performance tool that measure shock absorption and ground forces—and they can serve as an aid for athletes focused on their craft.

Will Claye, an Olympic jumper and Red Bull track and field athlete, is one such athlete. Claye won bronze and silver medals in the long jump and triple jump, respectively, at the 2012 London Olympics, then another silver medal in the triple jump at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. In 2019, however, Claye ruptured his Achilles tendon, putting his career in jeopardy.

“In my event, no one has ever come back from this injury to be able to get back on the podium,” Claye tells the MH crew. We caught up with him at the Red Bull Athletic Performance Center to see how he and Red Bull’s performance coaches use the force plates to help Claye rebound from his injury. For his session, Claye teams up with Dr. Robin Thorpe, PhD, an athletic performance coach to look at how his body is working with the injury.

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Matthias Hangst//Getty Images

“We’ll warm up and then we’ll look at certain movement on the force platform, which gives us an indication of how much force you can produce into the floor,” explains Dr. Thorpe. “So this will be like one of our introductory tests we do with a lot of strength and power athletes to get a very quick gauge of where they are.”

Curious to learn more about the difference between his two legs, Claye asks if the team will be able to evaluate how his injured left leg compares to his right leg. As it turns out, Dr. Thorpe confirms that they can use two platforms and a dual platform to look at left and right asymmetries or symmetries, helping trainers and athletes glean valuable insight into how their bodies are working.

The Test

For this evaluation, it’s time for athletes to jump as high as they can.“We can look at the eccentric phase, the concentric phase, both from the left and right perspective. So when we get a true baseline assessment, we can understand whether or not you have a left and right asymmetry and whether or not that is related to a healthy performance measure or whether or not, there may be some sort of injury,” says Dr. Thorpe. (FYI: The eccentric phase occurs as Claye lowers into jump position and the concentric phase occurs as Claye explodes upwards.) Using this data, experts can help come up with a plan to help improve Claye’s performance.

“So the training plan was really focused on that explosive phase and concentric peak velocity,” says Dr. Thorpe. While the technical details may be over laypeople’s heads, the findings from evaluations like this can be game-changing for athletes. “The goal is always to get better and I always want to find ways to do that. And you guys helped me with that today with the jumps and hopefully, you know, with that next time I come for some bigger numbers on the board,” says Claye.

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