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

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THE JUMP

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.

THE ANAL­Y­SIS

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.

THE DIAGNOSIS

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.

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