The vertical jump is the most popular way to measure lower-body power, but the standing broad jump is easier to measure because it requires no specialized equipment. The broad jump is the best test of your ability to use strength and power in a single movement, says Martin Rooney, P.T., C.S.C.S., of the Parisi Speed School.
Stand with the tips of your toes behind a line on the ground. Your feet should be slightly less than shoulder-width apart. From this position, swing your arms backward as you crouch, and then thrust your arms forward as you jump forward as far as you can. Land on both feet; otherwise the jump doesn't count. Practice a few times to get the hang of it, and then give it your best shot. Mark the spot where your heels landed (if one foot lands in front of the other, mark the shorter distance), and then try a few more times. Measure the distance from the starting line to the spot where your heels hit on your best jump.
Below average You jump less than 6 feet
Average 6 to 7 feet
Above average 7 to 8 feet
MH Fit more than 8 feet
Reach the Next Level
The strength you build on a ground-based exercise like the dead-lift will help with your launch. But for multiple jumps, dives, and dashes, you need two additional types of exercises—one type that helps you improve your speed, and another that develops balanced strength in both your legs, says Bret Contreras, C.S.C.S., a strength coach in Phoenix.
The Speed Machine
Jonathan Toews, 22
Imagine a sprint: a heart-pounding, lung-punishing blast for 45 to 60 seconds. Factor in that you're on ice, racing on aluminum blades as you try to control a slippery puck with a stick while defenders seek to splatter your face against the boards. Then repeat 20 times. That's a typical game for Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, who last season became the youngest player ever to win both the Stanley Cup and an Olympic gold medal. "The cardio and strength demands of an NHL game are unlike any other fitness challenge," Toews says. "You have to be strong, explosive, and perfectly balanced because you're essentially on one leg most of the time. And if your core isn't strong, every hit will knock you down." Toews prepares for this demolition derby with full-body exercises that challenge his balance and focus on strength (deadlifts and pushups), explosiveness (box jumps and skater hops), and endurance (lunges and squats). "My training won't necessarily make me look more muscular," he says, "but it means I can control my body better than anyone else on the ice. In the end that's what matters."
Master Your Body Weight
Part One: Whole Body
The bench press is the best sizeand strength-building exercise for your chest. And yet the lowly ground-based pushup actually works more muscles, even if it doesn't allow you to hit certain ones with maximum intensity. Like the bench press, the pushup works your chest, shoulders, and triceps to exhaustion. It's also a core exercise, forcing muscles in your abdomen, hips, and lower back to work hard to keep your spine in a safe position. But the biggest benefit of the pushup may be the way it forces the web of muscles surrounding your shoulder blades to man up and support your shoulder joints, which can become dysfunctional on a steady diet of bench presses.
This test, courtesy of Martin Rooney, may be humbling for you, particularly if you're at your best with your back on a bench and a barbell in your hands.