A couple of weeks ago I posted an updated version of a blog I wrote in 2008 about Vertical Jump Con Artists. For those that didn’t read it, you can check it out here:
Once again, I got a whirlwind of responses and comments, nearly every one of which was overwhelmingly positive and supportive. However, I did receive a small handful of comments from folks that disagreed with my position. I view that as a good thing! I never have had a problem with folks who take a different stance and have different opinions from my own. I welcome it and respect it. That is what makes life fun. I have always enjoyed a good debate, especially when it comes to proper training and performance enhancement, because I am so passionate about the topic. I have numerous colleagues and friends in the industry, some in the private sector, some in the NCAA, and some in the NBA… and we all have slightly different philosophies and methodologies. I respect any strength & conditioning coach who is passionate, energetic, truly cares about the well being of their players, and can rationalize their training philosophy; regardless if it differs from mine. I know, and wholeheartedly believe, there are numerous programs that “work.”
With that being said, if you are going to initiate a debate with my philosophy or blog posts, please do so under the following two conditions:
1) Be respectful and professional. I had someone leave a comment that was not only factually incorrect (it was as if he didn’t even read my blog); it was full of grammatical errors, expletive words, and was more of a personal attack on me. If you want respect, you have to earn it. You only earn it by carrying yourself in a professional manner and sticking to the issue at hand. You if you want to debate philosophies; awesome! If you want to talk smack; look elsewhere.
2) Have something legitimate to back up your point of view; either personal experience with the players you work with or unbiased research. Don’t come at me with hear-say and propaganda from folks who have an obvious financial interest. And please get your own facts straight before you try to argue against mine!
Now, there most certainly was real validity to the responses and comments who disagreed with my blog. They were comments and responses I have heard many times before, so I felt compelled to address them in this post. I am going to paraphrase some of the most common comments and give my two cents on each. Please note, these questions are an amalgam of the comments I routinely get – these are not from any particular individual per se but rather more of a summary.
Comment: Do you really believe genetics play a role in your vertical jump?
[Alan Stein] Absolutely; 100%. Genetics are the #1 determining factor in a person’s potential to jump. I challenge you to find ONE legitimate strength & conditioning coach, physical therapist, or athletic trainer who believes genetics do NOT play a significant role in one’s vertical jump potential. Now, this by no means implies that someone with a high vertical jump doesn’t work hard or train properly; it just means they were born with the genetic predisposition to achieve such results. It also doesn’t mean someone with less than ideal genetics can’t make progress; they most certainly can! Everyone can improve their vertical jump and maximize their potential; but not everyone can have a 40” vertical or dunk a basketball.
Comment: How do genetics have anything to do with it?
[Alan Stein] For one, your genetics determine your muscle fiber type. This is a key factor. Someone born with predominantly fast twitch muscle fibers in their lower body has the potential to jump higher than someone who was born with mostly slow twitch fibers. While your central nervous system’s efficiency can be improved through proper training; your overall neurological efficiency is also somewhat pre-determined at birth. Some folks were just born with more control over their muscular system. Limb length and tendon insertion points are two other genetic factors you can’t control. The folks with the highest vertical jumps were born with favorable genetics and have trained hard and trained properly.
Comment: If you don’t think a 50” vertical is possible, how do you explain all of the guys on YouTube like Area 51 (he is only 5’ 7”) and the guys on Team Flight Brothers?
[Alan Stein] First and foremost, I never once said that it was impossible to have a 50” vertical. I am saying it is extremely rare; like “winning the lottery” rare. And for the record, you don’t know for a fact that these guys truly have 50” vertical jumps. They might, they might not. You have never seen them measured (neither have I). You are only going on what you they are claiming. But that is not the point any way. I am not arguing these men have impressive leaping ability. I am also not arguing they work hard and train properly; they probably do. But if you believe for one second these particular individuals weren’t born with the favorable genetic predispositions (muscle fiber type, CNS efficiency, etc.) that gave them the potential to jump that high; then you need to re-read my previous answer regarding genetics. That is exactly why everyone who does a vertical jump training program can’t jump as high as these guys. Do you think if you followed their EXACT training program for an entire year you would have the same result? Do you think you would have a 50” vertical?
Comment: Why do you NFL players and Olympic lifters have higher verticals then NBA players?
[Alan Stein] I am well aware that the highest combine verticals for certain NFL positions (cornerbacks, running backs, and wide receivers) are statistically higher than the average combine verticals for potential NBA players. No argument. I assume the same is true for elite Olympic lifters; although I haven’t seen the stats. The elite level football players at those three positions in particular, almost all of the time, were born with the same genetic advantages I keep mentioning. A prototypical cornerback in the NFL is EXTREMELY explosive. He has to be, or he wouldn’t be playing at that level! Again, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t worked hard and trained properly, it means he was born with certain tools that allowed him to develop such explosiveness through training. Not everyone was born with the tools to be an NFL cornerback; just as not everyone was born with the tools to dunk a basketball or play in the NBA. Bottom line is this; in order to be a successful cornerback in the NFL or to be an Olympic caliber weight lifter, it is favorable to be extremely explosive and powerful. Both require very short bursts of high intensity power. There are always exceptions; but this is the general rule.
Comment: I think with hard work an average person can beat someone with genetic talent.
[Alan Stein] Beat them in what? A vertical jump contest or playing elite level basketball? If you are talking about basketball, there are too many factors above and beyond vertical jump that determine a person’s chances of playing college or professional basketball. Fundamental skills, basketball IQ, experience, height, and competitiveness are just some of the factors that are equally, if not more, important than jumping ability. In this scenario I am well aware that “hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.” That is one of my favorite quotes. Yes, someone without superior genetics can still attain a high level of success in a given sport. Yes, someone born with the right tools is not guaranteed to be successful. I have never implied otherwise. But if you think EVERYONE has the potential to have a 40” vertical jump or can dunk a basketball than you are truly mistaken. This is why I wrote my original blog. Most (not all) vertical jump programs claim that “anyone” can gain “8-12 inches” on their vertical, which by my definition, would be “amazing results.” And again, I know for a fact, that is 100% not true.
Comment: Take a marathon runner who wants to be more explosive; he only has a 15 inch vertical jump. Assume he has a slow to fast twitch ratio of 80% to 20% in his legs and hips. If you put him in a weight room and give him a superior vertical jump program by making him lift heavy, do squats, deadlifts, etc. for 1 year. He will gain more fast twitch fibers, probably make him 80% to 20% the other way – fast twitch dominant. Then add plyometrics for 6 months and you will probably have an athlete with a 35” vertical. Am I wrong? You can’t argue science!
[Alan Stein] What you are claiming as “science” is absolutely incorrect. A person’s muscle fiber types are determined at birth and they can’t be changed through training. Given your example of someone with an 80-20 split of fast twitch to slow twitch will always have that ratio… hence the reason they have achieved success in running marathons (they were born with a genetic predisposition to being successful at endurance activities) in the first place. Now, you can certainly put them on a “fast twitch” program and improve and maximize their 20%; but you can’t change the genetic make-up anymore than you can train someone to be taller. By training their 20%; you will probably see some improvement in their explosive capabilities but they will not be “amazing” results by any stretch of the imagination. And using your examples, you are certainly aren’t going to get him to add 20” to his vert. Not a chance. Do you really think if you trained Lance Armstrong this way you could get those results? Do you think you could do the reverse and put Usain Bolt on a “slow twitch endurance program” he would win a marathon or Tour De France? Absolutely, positively, NO WAY.
To reiterate, I am not saying athletes can’t make improvements, they most certainly can. “Slow twitch” athletes can make improvements in explosiveness and “fast twitch” athletes can make improvements in endurance if they are training appropriately; but neither group can drastically alter their genetic make-up. Neither group can attain “amazing” results; which is what most of the Vertical Jump Con Artists claim… hence my blog. “You can’t turn a jackass into a racehorse.”
As always, please share this blog with any player or coach you know as my goal is to reach and impact as many players as possible. I welcome all comments and thoughts as long as you abide by the aforementioned guidelines.
For those who live in the MD, VA, and DC area, I will be holding a Cutting Edge Reaction, Quickness, and Agility Camp for basketball players August 24-26th in Germantown, MD. It is a half day camp for boys and girls ages 13 and older. It is going to be awesome! Please email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com for more info.
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