Utility of the handgrip and vertical jump assessments as fitness indicators in physical education
As research continues to provide evidence supporting musculoskeletal fitness as a strong indicator of an individual’s overall health, proposals for further evidence substantiating select indicator’s powerful link with youth health outcomes have been made. The vertical jump, a measure of lower body power, and handgrip strength, a measure of upper body musculoskeletal strength, have both been acknowledged as being strong measures of one’s health, and recommended for potential use in school fitness testing. FitnessGramÃ Â®, the default fitness testing battery in United States (US) schools, is currently working to include these two measures to provide a more robust assessment of students’ musculoskeletal fitness. Purpose: Due to the need for further research on the utility of these measures within school physical education settings, the aim of the present study was to examine the sensitivity to change of the handgrip strength and vertical jump measures when integrating musculoskeletal and plyometric programming within school physical education settings. Methods: Three schools volunteered nine physical education classes to participate in the study, with classes ranging from 5th to 8th grades. Students were assessed for vertical jump and left and right handgrip strength measures prior to and following the performance of an 8-week musculoskeletal or plyometric warm-up program twice per week to examine the sensitivity to change of each measure. Classes were assigned to either a musculoskeletal strength or plyometric power warm-up program. Program assignment of participants was put in place to identify whether the training-specific goals of each program were distinguishable in results for the measure corresponding most to that goal . Results: At baseline, significant grade by gender differences were found for all three measures of the vertical jump, right handgrip, and left handgrip strength. An evaluation of change found no significant change. Overall findings displayed a 4.38% improvement in the vertical jump, 1.38% in right handgrip strength, and 3.84% in left handgrip strength. Discussion: Findings followed suit with the principle of specificity in that the strength group displayed greatest improvement in the handgrip strength assessment, and the plyometric power group displayed greatest improvement in the vertical jump power assessment. Further studies and research will be needed to evaluate the reliability and practicality of the assessments and programs within a school PE setting.