By Alan Stein
This is a follow up to the article I wrote about Vertical Jump Con Artists. I felt the need to add a Part II because the original article initiated 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, 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 article. 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 who possesses 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 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. I know these guys have impressive leaping ability… I have seen it firsthand. I also know they work hard on their craft and train consistently. 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.
As always, please share this article 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.
If I can ever be a resource to you for your strength & conditioning, please let me know, I would be honored to help. You can email me at Alan@StrongerTeam.com.