Physical performance assessment is crucial in both the sporting and rehabilitation fields. Rather than the performance itself, assessment usually involves the use of a variety of functional tests. The underlying logic is that these measurements provide a quantification of muscular capability relevant in the diagnosis of muscle function and/or athletic performance. Of particular interest is power, because muscular power output is the main determinant of success in many activities and sports. For example, powerful muscular actions are necessary in throwing, jumping, and striking activity. In addition, sudden bursts of power are needed when rapidly changing direction or accelerating during various sports or athletic events (football codes, basketball, gymnastics). In terms of measuring functional power of the lower limb, assessing the leg extensor musculature via some sort of jump is often the method of choice. The jumps used for this type of assessment include single hop for distance (2,8,30), triple hop for distance (2,8), 6-m timed hop (2,8,18), crossover hop (2,8,18), single-leg vertical jump (18), vertical squat jump (9), vertical countermovement jump (17), and drop jump (39). Other jump assessments employed to measure lower-body power include stair hop (18), adapted crossover (8), repeated vertical jumps (37), and lateral step-up test (33).
Given the wide variety of jumps available, the question arises as to which jump(s) may provide the best diagnostic information to strength and conditioning coaches, clinicians, and researchers. Bilateral vertical jumps are used widely to test athletes and seem to be valid to test activities or sports where 2-legged vertical jumps are important (e.g., rugby lineout, volleyball block). However, many jumps and most propulsive forces (e.g., running and agility) are generated in a unilateral fashion. Therefore, using unilateral assessment would seem to have the advantage of reproducing specific movement patterns and, consequently, may offer better rehabilitation and training information. For example, limb symmetry can be identified, and, for rehabilitation purposes, measurement of the noninjured limb can serve as the biological baseline to which the injured limb should return (18). Another consideration is that vertical jump assessments measure the variable of interest in the vertical direction with little consideration as to what is occurring in terms of horizontal and lateral force production. However, most human motion involves a combination of vertical, horizontal, and lateral force production, especially in sports where speed and agility are required. Therefore, such forces should play a considerable role in field performance, and their assessment could be of interest in discriminating between different leg extensor qualities. Unilateral horizontal (3,23,34,36) and vertical (17,23,29,39) jumping ability have been widely used, and their reliability has been assessed. However, to the authors' knowledge, no study has examined lateral jumping ability and subsequent reliability.
Typically, assessment is used to define an athlete's profile, identify talent, monitor performance, identify predictors of performance, determine asymmetries, and/or indicate readiness to return from injury. With this in mind, we must choose tests that assess independent qualities. Testing batteries need to provide the best prognostic/diagnostic value in the shortest amount of time; therefore, having many jumps that have a great deal of shared variance is counterproductive to the aforementioned aims of testing. Whether different jump tests assess independent qualities or are strongly interrelated is unknown and still needs to be determined. It may be that various unilateral jumps better predict performance in different sport-specific populations. For example, lateral jump capability may better predict performance in sports that have a lateral change-of-direction (COD) component such as racquet sports or ice hockey players. However, whether this is actually the case remains unexplored.
As mentioned previously, it is common practice to use vertical or horizontal bilateral jump displacement as indirect measures of leg extensor power and, subsequently, as predictors of speed and COD performance (17,31,32), but the use of unilateral jump measures as predictors of performance remains relatively unexplored. Only 1 study examined the correlation between unilateral vertical jump performance, horizontal jump performance, and 20-m sprint time (23). They found that horizontal jump assessment had a stronger relationship with 20-m sprint time (r = −0.73 to −0.86) than the vertical jump tests (r = −0.52 to −0.73). Three studies investigated the relationship between COD performance and unilateral jump in a vertical direction, with inconsistent results (r = −0.23 to −0.71) (17,29,39). In terms of horizontal jump performance, only 1 study investigated the relationship between unilateral jumping and COD performance, finding a high correlation (r = −0.65) between these 2 variables (29). Therefore, little is known about the relationships between unilateral and, particularly, horizontal or lateral jumping ability and sprinting or COD performance. With this in mind, the purposes of this article were to 1) determine the reliability of unilateral vertical, horizontal, and lateral jumps, 2) investigate the interrelationships between these tests, and 3) examine their usefulness as predictors of acceleration (10 m) and COD ability. This investigation should provide insight into what constitutes the most reliable and appropriate jump assessment to predict acceleration and COD ability in both genders and should indicate whether acceleration and the ability to change direction share similar physical qualities.
Experimental Approach to the Problem
A sample of convenience was used to determine the reliability of various unilateral jump assessments, their interrelationship, and their usefulness as predictors of acceleration (10 m) and COD performance. To achieve this, the unilateral vertical, horizontal, and lateral jump abilities as well as 10-m sprint times and COD performance of 80 men and women were assessed using contact mat and timing light technology. Reliability (% differences, coefficient of variation [CV], and intraclass correlation [ICC]) and correlation analyses were performed on the sample as a whole and on the sample separated by gender to answer the questions of interest.
A total of 80 participants (44 men; 36 women) participated in this study. Participants recruited for this study were physical education university students who were involved in recreational physical activities. Their age, body mass, and height were 20.9 ± 4.5 years, 78.1 ± 10.5 kg, and 180.1 ± 7.0 cm for the men and 19.7 ± 2.0 years, 62.1 ± 7.8 kg, and 166.9 ± 6.0 cm for the women (mean ± SD). The human research ethics committee of Edith Cowan University approved all procedures before commencing the study. All participants were required to sign an informed written consent form before participating in the study.
Testing was performed within 1 session. Before testing, each subject's age, height, and mass were recorded. Participants completed a standardized warm-up that consisted of 5 minutes of jogging at a self-selected pace followed by a series of dynamic warm-up drills (walking knees to chest, lunge walks, lateral lunge, high knee, butt kicks, and high skips) and 3 × 10-m sprints at approximately 75, 85, and 100% of each individual's maximal sprint speed. After the warm-up, participants performed 3 practice trials for each of the jump assessments. After the practice trials, 3 test trials were performed in a randomized order for each test, with the 2 best trials recorded, averaged, and used for analysis. The jump assessments consisted of a single-leg vertical countermovement jump (VCJ), single-leg horizontal countermovement jump (HCJ), and single-leg lateral countermovement jump (LCJ) performed with the dominant leg. During all jump assessments, participants were instructed to keep their hands placed on their hips. After the jump assessments, the sprint assessments were performed. These consisted of a 10-m sprint, a dominant-leg COD sprint, and an alternate-leg COD sprint. Participants were allowed 2 practice trials followed by 2 test trials for the sprint and COD assessments. Leg dominance was defined as the leg the participants preferred to use to kick a ball. At least 60 seconds of rest was taken between jumps, sprints, and agility assessments, with the longest tests performed last to minimize the effects of fatigue.
Vertical Countermovement Jump
Each subject's VCJ was calculated from flight time (4) with a contact mat system (Swift Performance, University of Southern Cross, Australia). Each subject started with the foot of the designated testing leg on the contact mat with hands on the hips; the subject was instructed to sink to a self-selected depth as quickly as possible and then jump as high as possible in the ensuing concentric phase and land on 2 feet.
Horizontal Countermovement Jump
For the HCJ, each participant began by standing on the designated testing leg with the toe at the starting line and hands on the hips. Each participant was instructed to sink to a self-selected depth as quickly as possible and then jump as far forward as possible and land on 2 feet. The distance jumped was measured to the nearest 0.01 m with a tape measure
Lateral Countermovement Jump
For the LCJ, each participant began by standing on the designated testing leg with the foot at the starting line and hands on the hips. Each participant was instructed to sink to a self-selected depth as quickly as possible and then jump laterally to the inside as far as possible and land on 2 feet. The distance jumped was measured to the nearest 0.01 m with a tape measure
Sprint time was measured with timing light system consisting of a dual-beam modulated visible red-light system with polarizing filters (Swift Performance) placed at the start and end of the 10 m. The starting position was standardized for all participants. Each participant started in a split stance position with the preferred foot 30 cm from the starting line and the other foot in line with the heel of the preferred foot.
Change of Direction-Dominant Leg
The timing lights system was placed at the start and at 10 m to measure COD-dominant leg (CODD) time. The starting position was standardized as for the 10-m sprint. Each participant was instructed to run to a marker situated 7.5 m from the starting line, perform a 180° using the dominant leg to push off, return to a marker 5 m away, perform another 180° turn using the dominant leg to push off, and continue running past the final timing light situated 7.5 m away. A total distance of 20 m was covered (Figure 1).
Change of Direction-Alternate Leg
The COD-alternate leg (CODA) time was similar to the CODD, but 1 COD was performed with the dominant leg and the other one was performed with the alternate leg (Figure 1).
After data collection, mean and SD were calculated for all results. The 2 best trials for all assessments were averaged for an individual subject mean, and subject means for each assessment were averaged to provide a group mean for men and women. The reliability of the jump assessment procedures was calculated using 3 different statistical methods. Percent differences and a CV (SD/mean × 100) between the 2 best trials were calculated for all test variables to determine the stability of measurement among trials. The ICCs were also calculated to determine the reliability of measures between trials using a single measure, 2-way mixed effect model ICC with absolute agreement. Confidence intervals (90%) of the difference between trials were calculated for all 3 reliability statistics by the statistical packages. Pearson product-moment correlations and multiple regressions were used to determine relationships between jump performance and sprint/agility times. The forward stepwise regression began with no variables in the equation and, thereafter, entered the most "significant' predictor at the first step and continued to add or delete variables until none “significantly” improved the fit. Minimum tolerance for entry into the model and alpha-to-enter/remove were set at 0.01 and 0.15, respectively. From this analysis, the best single- and double-predictor statistical models of sprint and agility performance were derived for men and women. Regression diagnostics were used to examine normality, variance, colinearity, outlier effects, leverage, and influence. The subjects were pooled for analysis and then separated by gender as scatter plots revealed correlations based on bipolar data, which gave rise to artificially high correlations. Coefficients of determination (R2) were used to represent the goodness of fit of the predictor models and also to represent the shared variance between the variables of interest.
The mean, SD, and within-trial reliability statistics for all the outcome measures of interest are presented in Table 1. The results of this analysis have been presented as men, women, and pooled (men + women) data. In terms of the men-women comparisons, for the anthropometric measurements there were differences of 21 and 5.6% between genders in mass and height, respectively. The difference between genders for the COD and sprint tests ranged from 11.4 to 12.4%, and the difference between jumps ranged from 17.6 to 27.2%. The largest between-gender differences was noted in VCJ height (27.2%).
With regard to the reliability statistics, percent change between trials ranged in absolute terms from 0.1 to 3.8%, with the largest variability found in the women's VCJ assessment (3.8%). The largest CV was observed for the VCJ of both genders (CV = 6.7-7.2%), whereas the sprint and COD assessments had the smallest variability (CV = 0.8-2.8%). All ICCs were more than 0.85 apart from the men's CODA test. All pooled ICCs were higher than the gender-separated ICCs.
No anthropometric measurements were significantly related to any of the performance variables. The intercorrelations between variables for both men and women can be observed in Table 2. The jumps were, for the most part, highly correlated to each other for both genders (r = 0.46-0.66; p < 0.01); however, the shared variance (R2) between jumps was less than 44%.
In terms of the relationship between the jumps and sprint performance, all jumps except for the women's LCJ were significantly related to the 10-m sprint time. Correlations were moderate to high in magnitude, and the best predictor of 10-m sprint time for men was the HCJ (r = −0.65) and, for women, the VCJ (r = −0.44). For COD performance, the LCJ was not significantly related to either of the COD tests. For the most part, the HCJ assessment was the best predictor (r = −0.46 to −0.59) of COD performance, with a shared variance of less than 35%.
The relationship between COD times of the dominant and alternate legs for both men and women was high; however, the shared variance (R2) between all these tests ranged from (30 to 46%). The 10-m sprint times were highly correlated (r = 0.57-0.64; p < 0.01) to the CODA test but not significantly related to the CODD test for men and women.
The best single predictor of COD and sprint performance for men was the HCJ, accounting for 21-42% of the shared variance between the measures. The introduction of VCJ performance to the 10-m statistical model improved the common variance for that variable by only 6.6-48.6%. For women, the best single predictors of sprint and COD performance were the VCJ and HCJ, but the shared variance between variables was less than 34%. The predictive model is shown in Table 3.
The difference between genders for the COD and sprint tests ranged from 11.4 to 12.4% and from 17.6 to 27.2% for the jump assessments. There are a number of physical and physiological distinctions between men and women that could possibly explain these results, including differences in upper- and lower-body anthropometry (38,40), strength (28), muscle architecture (6), and capability of storing elastic energy (19). However, it is unlikely that anthropometric (mass and height) variation explained the differences in functional performance, given the results of the correlational and multiple regression analysis. These findings are supported by the results of Markovic and Jaric (21), who found no relationship between body size (i.e., mass and height), jump height, jump for distance, and 20-m sprint in physical education students (r = 0.03-0.19). Differences in jumps, sprints, and COD performance between genders may be better explained by other factors discussed previously, further discussion of which is outside the scope of this article.
Many studies reporting reliability of various measures pool (men + women) their data for the statistical analyses. As can be observed from Table 1, this practice artificially inflates the magnitude of the statistics. That is, because a correlational analysis such as the ICC is sensitive to the heterogeneity (spread) of the sample, the difference in jump performance between men and women increases the heterogeneity and, subsequently, inflates the ICC results. To the authors' knowledge, the current study was the first to investigate the variability of acyclic jump assessment between genders. It can be observed from Table 1 that, for this particular sample, the men subjects exhibited less movement variability across all jumps compared with the women.
A primary purpose of this study was to determine the reliability of 3 unilateral jumps and the reliability of 10-m sprint and 2 types of COD test. All jump measurements were found to be reliable, with VCJ results being the less consistent in both genders (see Table 1), but still highly acceptable. These findings are similar to those of previous studies that have investigated the reliability of unilateral VCJ (18,23) and HCJ (2,16,23,30). In addition, the current study was the first to detail the reliability of a lateral jump test, which may be of practical benefit to athletic populations involved in sports with repeated expressions of lateral force (e.g., ice hockey).
With respect to the reliability of the 10-sprint test (−0.1 to 0.6% mean change; CV = 1.7-1.9; ICC = 0.87-0.91), the stability between trials can be considered highly acceptable and in accordance with reliability data previously reported for 10-m sprints (ICC = 0.86-0.93; CV = 1.2-2%) (10,12,27). It might be expected that because the COD tests required the subjects to accelerate, decelerate, and then turn 180° twice, there would be more movement variability. However, this was not the case; the reliability of the CODD assessment was similar to if not better than the 10-m sprint. However, when the CODs were performed with the alternate leg, greater movement variability was observed (see Table 1). This may be expected and, possibly, explained by the greater use and subsequent strength and coordination of the preferred or dominant leg. Reliability measures of numerous COD tests have been reported in the literature, and regardless of the duration of the test, the number of CODs, or the direction in which most of the forces were applied, all COD tests showed similar reliability (ICC = 0.8-0.96; CV = 1-5%) (1,7,9,13-15,22,25). These results are comparable with those of the current study.
Testing batteries need to provide the best prognostic/diagnostic value in the shortest amount of time; therefore, having many jumps that have a great deal of shared variance is counterproductive to implementing an efficient test battery of practical and/or clinical utility. Of interest in this study was whether the different jump tests assessed independent qualities or were strongly interrelated. For the most part, the 3 different jumps were moderately correlated to each other for both genders (r = 0.46-0.66); however, the shared variance (the correlation value squared = R2) between jumps was less than 44%, indicating that the vertical, horizontal, and lateral tests are, for the most part, measuring different leg power qualities and should not be used interchangeably. The strength and conditioning coach therefore needs to select tests that have the greatest specificity to the activity of interest or run a full battery of jump tests.
Of interest was whether the jump assessments could predict functional performance. With regard to sprint performance, it was thought that unilateral horizontal and vertical jump performance should best predict sprint performance, given that sprinting in a straight line is the resultant of vertical and horizontal forces. The best single predictors of 10-m sprint performance were the HCJ for men (R2 = 42%) and the VCJ for women (R2 = 18%). The introduction of the VCJ performance to the 10-m statistical model for men only accounted for a 6.6% improvement in predictive ability. For men, it seems that the HCJ is a better predictor of acceleration performance. These results are supported by the findings of Maulder and Cronin (23), who found that HCJ was the best predictor of 20-m sprint times (R2 = 0.55). However, it should be noted that there is very little difference between the magnitude of these correlations (HCJ and VCJ) and sprint performance for both genders. Perhaps of more interest is that there is a great deal of unexplained variance between the vertical and horizontal jump measures and acceleration performance for men (54%) and women (82%). This may be explained by the types of jumps used (countermovement or stretch-shorten cycle [SSC]), whereas the contribution of the SSC to the beginning of a sprint is considered minimal (26). Perhaps concentric only jumps may be of better predictive ability than the SSC jumps used in this study.
In terms of the predictors of COD performance, it was thought that the LCJ may better predict this quality, given the requirements of this test. However, the HCJ was found to be the best single predictor of both COD tests in men (R2 = 0.21-0.24) and the best single predictor of CODA in women (R2 = 0.34). The VCJ was the best single predictor for the CODD in women (R2 = 0.24), but HCJ had almost the same predictive ability (R2 = 0.22). The poor predictive ability of the LCJ may be attributed to the test design: there were only 2 CODs involved in the test, whereas most other movements in the test were in a straight line, and therefore the HCJ was, once more, the better predictor of this type of movement. Negrete and Brophy (29) have reported a shared variance of 42% between HCJ and a diamond-shape agility test. This relationship is higher than in the current study because it was probably artificially elevated by the pooling of the men and women participants into a single sample. Nonetheless, this relationship was higher than the one the authors found for the VCJ (shared variance of 14%). Peterson et al. (32) also found a stronger relationship between the COD T-test and double-leg horizontal jump performance (r = −0.61 to −0.79) compared with the relationship of the T-test and double-leg vertical jump (r = −0.27 to −0.71) in both genders. Given the results of the present and previous studies, it may be tentatively claimed that jumps that involved the combination of both horizontal and vertical ground-reaction forces may better predict COD ability.
Interestingly, the shared variance between the dominant and alternate legs in the COD tests was less than 50% for the men (45%) and women (29%). It would seem that the ability to change direction with 1 leg is relatively independent of a COD with the other leg, especially in the women of this study. This has interesting diagnostic and training implications for the strength and conditioning coach.
The final comparison of interest was between the 10-m sprint and COD performance. Once more, a test battery needs to incorporate assessments that give information on different aspects of performance. If a COD and sprint test share a lot of common variance, there seems little need for the 2 tests. As it can be observed from the results of this study, the straight-line 10-m sprint and COD test seem to be assessing relatively independent qualities, because the shared variance between CODD and 10-m sprint performance for men and women was approximately 4%. Interestingly, the common variance between the CODA test and 10-m sprint was much higher (32-41%). Results of previous studies have demonstrated the same inconsistency, showing low to high correlations between straight sprint (10 m to 40 yd) and COD with various numbers of CODs (1-9; r = 0.05-0.69) (5,11,20,24,31,32). According to Sheppard and Young (35), the more CODs, the less the transfer from straight running speed to COD. This does not seem the case in the data of the current study, because the averaged shared variance (legs + gender) between straight sprint and COD performance with 2 CODs was approximately 20%. In addition, the results of the aforementioned studies have found that the majority of the correlations were of moderate magnitude regardless of the number of CODs.
As can be observed from the tables, pooling gender data during any type of correlational analysis (Pearson and ICC) results in an inflated correlation because of the heterogeneity or bipolar scatter of the sample. This pooling of data should be avoided, and, if the sample size allows, the correlations should be represented separately, as in this study. It seems that single-leg lateral jump assessment was just as reliable as the other 2 measures of jump performance as represented by percent change, CV, and ICC. The practitioner can use the average of 2 trials for this type of jump with reasonable confidence about the stability of the measurement. Interestingly, the shared variance between jumps for men and women was less than 50%, indicating that the jumps are relatively independent of one another and represent different leg strength/power qualities. This needs to be taken into account when selecting tests for diagnostic or prognostic purposes. The ability of the jumps to predict sprint and COD performance was limited. However, if 1 jump assessment were selected to predict sprint and COD performance in a test battery, the HCJ would seem the logical choice, given the results of this study. It would seem that the ability to change direction with 1 leg is relatively independent of a COD with the other leg, especially in the women of this study. Many of the findings in this study have interesting diagnostic and training implications for the strength and conditioning coach. It should be noted that correlations can only give insights into associations and not into causes and effect; therefore, the practical applications described previously need to be interpreted with this in mind.
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