Is a Good Vertical Jump Down to Genetics?

by Chris Johnson | Last Updated:  August 17, 2020
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A vertical jump is one of the best indicators of the overall health and power of an athlete, how much of it is down to training alone? Is a good vertical jump down to genetics?

A good vertical jump is partly down to genetics. Fast-twitch muscles are the key muscle in doing a vertical jump and are determined partially by your genetics.

The keyword in this answer is “partly”. Due to the role of fast-twitch muscle fibers, a good vertical jump can be attained far easier by someone who has been genetically gifted with the correct ratio of muscle fibers. Even with the right genetics, however, hard work and training will still be required to have a good vertical jump.

What is the Importance of Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers?

You may have heard about the difference between slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers. Both types of muscle fibers are useful, they just perform two very different tasks in the body.

Your slow-twitch muscle fibers will take care of tasks that involve extreme endurance. Although these muscles generate energy slowly, their biggest benefit is that they will take far longer to tire out.

Fast-twitch, on the other hand, are the muscles that can generate energy quickly. They will tire out far faster but will lend themselves very well to performing explosive moments, leading you to be far better at jumping higher.

This explosiveness translates directly into more strength, more speed, and more power. The fact that these are the three most crucial factors in how well you will perform a good vertical jump should tell you everything you need to know about the importance of these qualities.

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How Much of Your Fast-Twitch Muscle Fibers are Down to Genetics?

When we talk about fast-twitch muscle fibers, we can narrow down the focus even further. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are comprised of two separate types, the one that we want to focus on in the case of the vertical jump is Type 2B.

When we talked about the capability to generate the burst of energy required for a high intensity ask like the vertical jump, then Type 2B is the one that has the most responsibility. These muscles are only used when your body requires your muscles to exert an enormous amount of force.

Your muscle fiber dominance is almost entirely down to genetics, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t train to compensate and increase your strength or jump height through other means.

Although somebody with better genetics will naturally have more power than you, the people that possess that kind of muscle ratio exist on the far end of the spectrum, far away from the genetics of the average person.

How Important is Genetics?

Although they are important, genetics shouldn’t be an excuse. The fact that an extremely low percentage of the population may have a slightly easier time when increasing or using their strength, giving them the edge in jumping higher, doesn’t mean anything without the hard work.

Fast-twitch muscle fibers can be trained and in all but the most extreme cases it will be hard to see an enormous amount of difference between somebody with the “right” genetics and somebody with the “wrong” genetics.

“Genetics” is the subject of much discussion, with many who feel they were dealt a bad hand claiming that they will simply be unable to attain any level of fitness, strength, or endurance because of the ratio or reduced amount of muscle fibers that they were born with.

One of the only places that this will matter is in the most extreme case scenario. It’s very rare to be severely disadvantaged in either type of muscle fiber.

For example, if you were to examine two athletes, at the height of their physical peak, with the same training and nutritional plan, then you would likely start to observe significant differences in performance based on genetics.

As stated, however, this is an extreme scenario. For everyday people, a good vertical jump or good performance in a sport is perfectly attainable.

How to Determine Which Muscle Fiber is More Prevalent?

If you are still interested in whether or not you are slow or fast-twitch dominant and you don’t want to undergo invasive medical examinations, there are a couple of tests that you can do.

If you have access to weights and are familiar with their usage and your maximum limit, you can perform what is known as the 80% test. The 80% test, as the name may indicate, is a test in which you attempt to lift 80% of your maximum weight for as many reps as you can muster.

The final number will tell you how dominant which of your muscle fibers are. If you can barely squeeze out more than a few reps, you’ll know that you have extremely dominant fast-twitch fibers, which will play a huge part in your jumping height.

If you are slow-twitch dominant, you’ll be able to do far more. While doing more won’t help you with jumping higher, it does mean that you’ll be far less likely to tire out doing so.

Is Training More Important than Genetics?

Training is by far more important than genetics when it comes to jumping higher and just getting strong in general. Achieving a good vertical jump comes down to your training, not just your genetics.

You must do something that increases your body’s likelihood to put on muscle, strength, and build fast-twitch fibers if you wish to increase how high you can jump.

Simply by using more weight during your workout routines, increasing the number of sets that you do, or utilizing different training methods that will strain your body enough to cause it to build more fast-twitch muscle fiber.

This will immediately start paying dividends when it comes to your jumping height and mastering a good vertical jump.

Also of great importance to this process is your nutrition. Fast-twitch muscle fibers, Type-2B in particular, use an enormous amount of energy, which is why they are usually only reserved for doing the most extreme of tasks.

Staying well-fed with the correct nutrients will not only give you the energy that you need to tap into the power of these muscles, but it will also help you to recover from the damage afterward and allow your body to build back stronger.

Carbohydrates, for their role in replenishing the enormous glycogen stores of the fast-twitch muscles and protein for the valuable amino acids that will help your body get stronger and recover faster, in turn increasing your jumping height.

Can I Achieve a Good Jump Height?

Anyone, with enough training, can achieve a good jumping height or vertical jump. Even in the most extreme genetic cases of low ratios of fast-twitch muscle fibers, training can overcome any disadvantage.

If you are particularly disadvantaged, indeed, you may never have a vertical jump that will put you in the running to be a professional NFL or NBA player, but you can still shoot for a respectable goal that will be perfectly possible to attain. Your genetics is no excuse, simply train harder and you will see the returns.

Final Thoughts on Is a Good Vertical Jump Down to Genetics

While genetics can play a role in any results that you get it shouldn’t be viewed as a limitation to your goals. It just means you may need to work that much harder than some others to reach the same or close pinnacle.

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