Jack Woodrup on Genetics and Vertical Jump
Do you know what, I hate talking about genetics and vertical jump. Why? Because they are something that quite literally you cannot do anything to change. Your parents are your parents. But it isn’t just that you can’t change them either. It is also that many athletes use genetics as an excuse for their failures. They never achieved greatness because of genetics! As much as I hate to say this, they might actually be right. What, you were expecting some feel good article about how with vertical jump training and genetics can be overcome with hard work? Well alright then, here comes the pep talk. When I was a kid growing up I loved to play basketball. I used to play all through the summer, sometimes well into the night. Every day before and after school and on weekends too. I couldn’t get enough. In fact by the age of 17 I was the best player in my town. I had one BIG UNSOLVABLE problem though. My mum and dad were both 5’6. To make matters worse, my dad seemed to have well and truly proved that my genetics were very much of the slow twitch variety because he in 1988 was in the Guinness Book of World Records – not for sprinting or jumping, oh no, that might have actually been useful. No he was in there for ultra-endurance cycling. He rode his bike from Perth to Sydney, a distance of 4380 km (2,720 miles) in about 10 days and 17 hours. At the time I was 13 and while I didn’t know anything about jump training then, I did know two things, with my height, and with my genetics, I was never going to play in the NBA, let alone dunk. So you know what, I never even tried.
I let genetics, for a long time be my excuse for failing, even before I began. What could I have done instead? Could I done anything to change things anyway? Well for a start what I should have done was instead of letting my genetics limit my thinking I should have asked the question, what if I am wrong? What if my dad was wrong? Maybe he was a sprinter who turned himself into a long distance athlete through insane levels of will power and commitment (and trust me on this he WAS definitely committed, when my dad went training for his Perth to Sydney ride, he was up early for work, then he would leave in the mid afternoon for his training ride and he never returned until well after I was in bed. He did this each and every night for months leading up to the ride. The man loved to ride a bike that was for sure).
You see in my early 30’s, long after I had stopped playing competitive basketball I decided one day that ‘what the hell’, I am going to train up to dunk a basketball. When I started I weighed nearly 90kg (198 pounds), did a lot of bench press and bicep curls but very little leg work (I could barely squat my own bodyweight). About 14 months later I weighed 74kg, deadlifted 225kg, and squatted 160kg to parallel and, believe it or not, I could dunk a basketball.
So what is the moral of this story? Well if you will sift through all that self-indulgence for a minute you will see that yes, maybe genetics will ultimately prevent you from being the world 100m champion, or playing in the NFL, but how the hell do you even know unless you go out and try.
So are your genetics and your vertical jump program holding you back? The simple answer is you don’t really know. While there are tests that can help determine your fast twitch slow twitch fiber ratios, the fact is there aren’t any genetic tests that can say your upper limit for vertical jump is going to be 34 inches and your best 100m time is going to be capped out at 10.2 seconds so you should consider something a bit different.
Just as important to consider are that team sports have a whole bunch of other intangibles besides athleticism that determine success (easy example – Steve Nash, 2 time NBA MVP – not known for his dunking or speed. There are many, many more). And not everyone wants to be a world champ. Maybe, like me, you just want to find out what you can do.
Either way it all comes back to the very first point I made in this article, whether you want to play pro sports, be a world champions, or you just want to be the best athlete you can be, you genetics really shouldn’t mean a thing because if you are reading this it is already too late to change things. So stop making excuses. There really is only one way to find out and that is to go out and try before it becomes too late and you have missed your opportunity.