The ability to jump vertically is an advantage in many sports. As a result there are many athletes who would like to jump higher. Jump training (also called vertical leap training) is promoted as an effective way to increase the height of your vertical jump. However, some people just seem to be able to jump high naturally. So what role do your genetics versus jump training play when it comes to your vertical leap? Well there are several important factors that affect the height of your vertical leap.
Body structure – Bones
While most athletes have 2 arms and 2 legs, there are important structural differences between individuals that are largely determined by your genetics. For example, genetic factors affect the speed and timing of your bone growth during your teenage years. This has an impact on your overall height, the length of your limbs, the length of your torso relative to you legs, the proportion of the length of your femur (thigh bone) to tibia (shin bone) and other factors that affect the height of your vertical leap. No amount of training will improve your bone structure to allow you to jump higher.
Body structure – Muscles and Nervous system
The height you are able to jump is dependent on your body’s ability to exert explosive force to propel you into the air. Your muscles and nervous systems are central to this ability. You may have heard of ‘fast twitch’ and ‘slow twitch’ muscle fibres. An Olympic sprinter will most likely have a high proportion of fast twitch to slow twitch ratio, perhaps 90% fast twitch, 10% slow twitch. An Olympic marathon runner is likely to have the opposite (many slow twitch, few fast twitch). Everyone has at least some fast twitch and some slow twitch muscle fibres. Genetics play an important role in the proportion of each. Having more fast twitch fibres is an advantage for exerting the explosive force required to leap vertically.
Training effects – Yes can jump higher!
However, with the correct type of training, it is certainly possible to improve the height of your vertical jump no matter how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ your genetics are. While training will not give you more fast twitch fibres, it will help you make the ones you have more powerful! The explosive power required for a high vertical leap is dependent on strength and speed which can be influenced by training.
Lifting weights as part of a standard strength training program at the gym may give you strength but not speed. Working on speed drills alone may give you a bit of extra speed, but without the power to propel you body into the air, speed alone is not enough.
Then what type of jump training should I use?