Part I – Developing Power for Improved Sport Performance

“Rip Hamilton dunks” by Keith Allison CC BY-SA 2.0

Before an athlete engages in a training program to improve sport performance, it is important to consider the key skills and abilities necessary for success in their respective sport. Explosive muscle actions occur during many common athletic movements including sprinting, jumping, throwing, striking, acceleration and rapid changes of direction; therefore, explosive power is one quality that is critical to high-level performance across most sports (Newton & Kraemer, 1994). Generally, individuals who can produce maximum force in the shortest amount of time (i.e., more powerful) will be the highest performers in their chosen sport or athletic activity.

Given the explosive nature of movements involved in most sports, power is an obvious area that should be developed in any sound training program. Although genetics play a role in an individual’s maximum power output capability, it is still an area that can be improved with proper training. Before explosive power can begin being developed, it is important to understand how to objectively measure an individual’s maximum power ability. A simple, valid, and reliable method for measuring maximum power (without expensive equipment) is the vertical jump test which is the most widely accepted assessment for measuring explosive power of the lower extremity. Power output and biomechanical characteristics of the vertical jump are similar to that which is seen in a variety of athletic movements which is why the vertical jump is commonly used as a basic assessment of lower extremity power (Clark & Lucett, 2010).  Routinely testing athletes on the vertical jump test can provide the strength and conditioning coach with valuable feedback regarding power output ability and the effectiveness of a specific training program. 

“2015 Volleyball World League, Iran vs United States” by Javid Nikpour CC BY 4.0

The significance of explosive power for successful sports performance is clear in research studies examining the relationship between the vertical jump and playing ability in various sports. An excellent example of this relationship is found in a study that sought to identify the performance measures that most significantly correlated with football playing ability among NCAA Division 1-A football players. The results of this research indicated that the vertical jump was the most significant predictor of football playing ability in all test groups including offense, defense, and specific position groups (Sawyer et al., 2002).  The results of this study were further validated in research conducted during the 2004 and 2005 NFL combine.  The results of this research revealed that drafted players at every position had higher vertical jump scores than nondrafted players at the same positions (Sierer et al., 2008). The positive relationship between vertical jump and playing ability has been validated in female athletes as well. A study on the relationship of jumping ability and agility performance in collegiate female volleyball athletes discovered that Division I players had significantly greater vertical jump heights than players from Divisions II and III. Additionally, it was found that individuals with greater vertical jump heights had quicker agility test times indicating that change of direction ability is affected by one’s ability to quickly generate vertical force (Barnes et al., 2007).  Another great example of the positive relationship between the vertical jump and performance ability can be found in the sport of weightlifting.  In a study by Carlock et al. on male and female national-level weightlifters, the results indicated that vertical jump performance is strongly associated with weightlifting ability. In fact, the correlation between vertical jump performance and weightlifting ability is high enough that the authors recommend utilizing the vertical jump test to identify young potential weightlifters (Carlock et al., 2004).  While it is beyond the scope of this post to discuss all of the evidence illustrating the relationship between the vertical jump and athletic playing ability, it is clear that vertical jumping ability is positively correlated with successful performance in sports that require explosive power.

In part 2 of this series, we will begin looking at the best methods for developing explosive power that transfer to improved sport performance.

CJ Del Balso – MS, CSCS, RSCC

USAW International Coach

Owner/Head Coach – Conqueror Weightlifting


Barnes, J.L., Schilling, B.K., Falvo, M.J., Weiss, L.W., Creasy, A.K. & Fry, A.C. (2007). Relationship of jumping and agility performance in female volleyball athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 21(4), 1192-1196. 

Carlock, J.M., Smith, S.L., Hartman, M.J., Morris, R.T, Ciroslan, D.A., Pierce, K.C., Newton, R.U., … Stone, M.H. (2004). The relationship between vertical jump power estimates and weightlifting ability: A field-test approach. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 18(3), 534-539. 

Clark, M.A. & Lucett, S.C. (2010). NASM essentials of sports performance training (1st ed.) Baltimore: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. 

Newton, R.U. & Kraemer, W.J. (1994). Developing explosive muscular power: implications for a mixed methods training strategy. Strength and Conditioning, 16(4), 20-31. 

Sawyer, D.T., Ostarello, J.Z., Suess, E.A. & Dempsey, M. (2002). Relationship between football playing ability and selected performance measures. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 16(4), 611-616. 

Sierer, S.P., Battaglini, C.L., Mihalik, J.P., Shields, E.W. & Tomasini, N.T. (2008). The National Football League combine: performance differences between drafted and nondrafted players entering the 2004 and 2005 drafts. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 22(1), 6-12.