MY NOT SO BIG LEAP
You wouldn’t mistake me for an elite athlete, unless a 40-year-old dad who hangs out on the internet all day could be called athletic. But I’m active enough, and vain enough, to see what the Sparta scan would say about my physical abilities and injury ris
The process began with an eight-minute warmup sequence, a series of lunges, bends, and jumps aimed at generating a dynamic stretch and activating key muscle groups for the main event. Duly warmed, I stepped onto the force plate, raised my arms over my head, and waited for the digital crash sound that was my signal to crouch down and explode as high as I could manage. I did six jumps in all. It felt like I was barely getting my feet off the ground, but maybe that was the weight of the professional athletes watching me, wondering when this amateur was going to be done hogging their equipment.
Sparta’s general manager, Chris Valaika, analyzed the results. A bar chart showed the force I’d produced during each phase of my jump: load, explosion, and drive. The average pro athlete’s force production score is a 50. I scored a 36 for my load and a 37 for my explosion. My drive score was a more impressive sounding 52—but that meant, Valaika explained, that I was relying on momentum to compensate for my lack of power. A force profile like this puts me at risk for a back injury (such as a herniated disk, of which I’ve had two) or, if I were a pitcher, a torn UCL. If Sparta were training me, Valaika said, he would focus on building power in my legs and core with front squats, back squats, and deadlifts.
I’m a wobbly weekend warrior. I probably didn’t need machine-learning algorithms to figure that out. “Do you spend a lot of time sitting?” Valaika asked. Hey, pal, I’m the reporter. I ask the questions.
HANG TIME An athlete (as opposed to our reporter) leaps as high as he can off specialized plates that record his movements.