How Body Structure Influences Expression of Strength
Your performance in the vertical jump and the type of training you respond to will also be influenced quite significantly by the way you are built. We can classify people as either long limbed, termed brachiomorphs, or short limbed, termed dolicomorphs. In weight-lifting, long-limbed individuals are prone to thinking that they’re genetically disadvantaged. But are they really? Depends on the sport or movement. Long-levered athletes can express their strength much more successfully on the playing field than in the weight room. For example, Michael Jordan at one time had a startling vertical jump and was very strong, yet when compared to a person his same weight and a foot shorter he has a large disadvantage in a parallel squat and I doubt if you would ever see him setting any lifting records. When you're 6'6", bending the legs to parallel is a long way down!
At the same time, those in sport often say that those with short limbs are cursed on the field and, while their long limbed counterparts would appear to have an advantage, the short limbs curse is definitely not a rule. If anything, those with short limbs tend have an advantage during the beginning phase of a movement. Nobody ever accused former world record sprinters Maurice Greene or Kelli White of being long limbed, yet it didn’t seem to hold them back any. It also didn’t hold back guys like Dante Hall, Barry Sanders, Mugsy Bogues, Spud Webb, as well as any and every Olympic gymnast.
In some sports, such as weightlifting, athletes with short limbs will have an advantage over those who possess long limbs, because the weight is moved through a shorter distance. On the other hand, if an athlete requires a long powerful stroke, such as in swimming, canoeing, sprinting, jumping, or rowing, - then a longer lever, provided it is accompanied by the muscular power to propel it, has an advantage in these types of sports because of the speed those longer limbs can generate at the end of their range of motion. The same point can be made in other sports where hitting or throwing are important. For example, speed in a tennis serve, volleyball spike, or a baseball pitch will all be higher for long-levered athletes as long as they have enough muscle power to rotate the longer limbs
TENDONS LIKE A KANGAROO
By the same token, many athletes who can jump high and/or run fast have physical
characteristics such as long lower legs, high calves and long Achilles tendons. The length of the achilles tendon gives them a leverage advantage and enhances plyometric ability because it acts like a long rubber band. If you take 2 rubber bands of equal strength the longer one will fly further. Recall that in a plyometric movement the muscles and tendons are stretched and energy is stored and released in greater quantities. Having long tendons in the lower leg can enhance this entire process. The achilles tendon is amazing at storing elastic energy and giving it back to you; it's an adaptation to make activities like walking and running more efficient. In the animal kingdom kangaroos have the longest achilles tendons and are also the best leapers. They can literally bounce around all day over 10 foot fences with hardly any effort. This doesn’t at all mean that if you don’t have long legs and tendons that you won’t be able to jump. It just means that your leaping ability will likely be naturally more dependent on pure strength and your reactive strength will come less easy. You’ll probably be excellent at demonstrating your explosive power from a virtual standstill as well. Likewise, if you
have long legs and tendons, - strength and the ability to demonstrate that strength in the weight room or jump from a pure standstill probably won’t come as easy for you, yet being able to bounce around like a kangaroo, running at top speed, high jumping, long jumping and overall just demonstrating good reactive ability will.
Since there is obviously nothing you can do to change your body structure once you’re done growing besides adding muscle (despite what some people may want to sell you), the only thing you can do is work with what you have and train to maximize your natural attributes so that you can perform to the best of YOUR ability!