By Lenny Bernstein
By the time you’ve reached my age, your jumping days are pretty much over. Kids jump, and always appear to have a good time doing it. We adults use step stools and ladders on those rare occasions when we must leave the ground.
Brandon Todd emailed me recently, trying to interest me in writing about his prowess in this area. At 5-foot-5, 205 pounds and 27 years old, Todd can still dunk easily, something he says he has been doing since he was an adolescent.
“That’s so yesterday,” I wrote back, or words to that effect. Five-foot-seven-inch Spud Webb won the NBA slam dunk contest way back in 1986, and 5-foot-9-inch Nate Robinson has won it three times. If Todd really wanted to prove his merit, I told him, he should show he can get a 55-year-old overweight man into the air.
At first he thought I was kidding. “I’m positive I can get you two, three inches,” he wrote. “At least four [or] five sheets of computer paper.” Once I persuaded him I was serious, he leapt at the chance. “I could def get you inches!!” he wrote back, and we were on.
Spoiler alert: My three-hour-long sessions with Todd were not enough to provide a fair test of his expertise, so we didn’t measure my vertical leap before and after. But they were enough to trash the lower half of my body and my lower back – in that good way you feel after a completely exhausting workout.
There is no magic trick that will turn you into Dr. Dunkenstein. It’s all about hard work and natural gifts. But jumping is a terrific, full-body exercise. “You use your arm swing. You use your core. You use your glutes. You use your hamstrings. You use your quads. You use the tendons around your ankles,” Todd said. “It’s almost like swimming.”
Todd is big on squats. His go-to training move is the reverse squat. I must have done a couple hundred of those over three workouts that reduced me to a panting, sweaty mess. If you’d like to try this, squat and put your fingertips on the floor between your feet. Keep them on the floor as you straighten your legs and lift your rear end as high as possible. Do that 20 times and you’ll feel a burn in your hamstrings that will remind you how little you use those muscles in everyday life.
Todd said he has been “obsessed” with jumping since he was a child. “Short man syndrome,” he said during a workout in the Dynamic Fitness gym in Frederick, Md., where he is a physical trainer.