Originally Published in: Techniques Magazine
Provided by: USTFCCCA
THE POLE VAULT IS ONE OF FOUR EVENTS COVERED IN THE TRACK & FIELD ACADEMY'S JUMPS SPECIALIST CERTIFICATION COURSE THAT IS OFFERED ANNUALLY. THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THIS ARTICLE IS TAKEN DIRECTLY FROM THE COURSE TEXT. ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT THIS PROGRAM MAY BE FOUND AT ustfccca.org
Moving the Pole to Vertical. The pole must be moved from its position at takeoff to a vertical position in order to best facilitate clearance. This means that takeoff forces should be directed in a way that moves the pole, not just in a way that bends the pole.
Creating Pole Speed. Adequate pole speed must be created and maintained. Pole speed refers to the speed of movement of the pole as it rotates about the axis formed by the box to
Conserving Horizontal Velocity. Horizontal velocity must be conserved during - and horizontal movement should continue immediately after - takeoff. This goal is consistent with the above goals. While the pole vault is a vertical jump, during takeoff and in the moments immediately following takeoff, the vaulter should be traveling in a primarily horizontal direction, with the conversion to a more vertical direction occurring later.
Creating an Appropriate Path of the Vaulter. A path of the vaulter's center of mass that creates a chance for success must be established. In spite of the presence of the pole, the paths vaulters display are curved and resemble parabolic curves greatly. Increasing the height of the curve gives a chance to jump higher, but mandates increasing the width of the base of the parabola, making horizontal components of takeoff critical.
TECHNICAL STRATEGIES IN THE VAULT
Appropriate Takeoff Angles. Elite vaulters takeoff at angles of 18-21 degrees. The accentuated vertical component in these takeoff angles assists in moving the pole to a vertical position.
High Plant. The vaulter's arms should be completely extended prior to takeoff. This maximizes the angle of the pole to the ground. Starting the pole at a greater angle increase the chances of moving it to vertical.
Forward Plant. A forward component of the plant assists in preserving the somersaulting energy of the pole established during the pole drop, assisting in bringing it to a vertical position.
Appropriate Takeoff Location. The vaulter should take off from a location that places the takeoff foot directly under the top hand as takeoff is initiated. This maximizes the vaulter's effective height at this point and maximizes the angle of the pole to the ground, increasing the chances of moving it to vertical.
Keeping the Body Extended. Once the vaulter leaves the ground and the pole is moving toward vertical, this rotating system is subject to the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum. Decreasing the radius of the system insures good rotational pole speed. This radius can be minimized if the vaulter remains in an extended position in the early stages of flight, effectively keeping the vaulter's mass close to the axis of the pole's rotation.
APPROACH PHASE DISTRIBUTION
Drive Phase. Approach phase distribution in the pole vault approach shows
Continuation Phase. The continuation phase comprises the remainder of the run, and varies in length depending upon the number of steps in the approach.
Transition Phase. The transition phase consists of the last six steps. It is in these steps that most steering occurs and problems associated with anticipation of takeoff arise.
The Starting Mark. Vaulters employ a checkmark at the start of the run. Some athletes use another at some other point in the approach, usually near the end of the drive phase, to ensure consistency. If this mark is
THE COACHING CHECKMARK
Mark Location. Most coaches use check marks in the middle of the approach, usually six steps away from the takeoff location, at the start of the transition phase. This permits them to gauge approach accuracy while eliminating the distraction of the steering occurring in the last six steps. This mark is typically located anywhere from 40-56 feet away from the rear edge of the box. Better athletes exhibit greater displacement and commensurately longer distances here.
Displacement. The coaching mark enables monitoring of displacement in the steps of the transition phase. Greater displacement here, within the context of proper running mechanics, relates to a greater period of the undulatory path of the center of mass. These factors are proportional to displacement in the jump itself. (see figure)
VISUAL TRACKING PATTERNS
Facilitating Steering. In order to facilitate steering, vaulters should be taught proper visual focus patterns during the approach. Early location and tracking of the box are necessary to best enable accurate takeoff locations.
Visual Focus Patterns. In order to facilitate steering, athletes should be taught to look at the box as early in the drive phase as head alignment permits. During the continuation phase, the athlete should see the box peripherally, so that the head is not dropped out of alignment. This peripheral visual contact with the box should continue through the plant.
Modifications in the Start. The necessity of carrying the pole prevents the vaulter from placing the hips higher than the shoulders and flexing the hips completely in the set position. The vaulter should lower slightly by flexing the knees and hips, while maintaining a more upright position of the torso.
Compromises in the Start. These modifications in the start compromise the vaulter's ability to forcefully displace at the start, as compared to other jumping events. Regardless of this disadvantage, the vaulter should displace as forcefully as possible in the start.
POSTURE AND STEP TRAJECTORIES
Posture. Neutral alignment of the pelvis throughout the vault approach is critical to performance. Anterior pelvic tilt alters takeoff angles greatly and results in altered foot placement and deceleration at takeoff. These factors not only disrupt the takeoff itself, but disrupt the movement and flexion characteristics of the pole. Vaulters often sense inherent danger when pelvic alignment is poor and fail to take off.
Step Trajectories. Establishing and maintaining the vertical component of the trajectories of the steps is critical to performance. The accentuated flight times permit proper execution of the plant, and late or incomplete plants often result when these push off angles become excessively horizontal. These vertical trajectories also positively affect the movement and flexion characteristics of the pole. Vertical shin angles in the continuation and transition phases are indicative of proper step trajectories, and assumption of acute shin angles in the transition phase is a common error.
THE POLE CARRY
The Pole Grip. The hands should grip the pole slightly wider than shoulder's width apart. The top hand should be positioned within the assigned grip range of the pole. The hands should be positioned so that when the pole is held overhead, both palms face inward.
The Pre-Carry Position. In the pole carry, the top hand should be positioned slightly behind the hip. The bottom hand should be positioned near the center of the chest, with the wrist flexed and the forearm oriented vertically to support the pole from underneath. The pole rests on the webbing between the thumb and first finger. Both hands should be closed loosely. The pole tip should be positioned somewhat left of center at the start of the run.
The Pole Carry. During the carry, the rear elbow should be kept slightly flexed, and the bottom arm and hand should
Mating Push off Trajectories and Pole Positions. The relationships between
Beginning Positions. The approach should start with the pole tip high. The pole should be aligned approximately at 45-60 degrees as the vaulter starts. As this push off occurs, the pole should be parallel to and close to the chest. The pole is also positioned slightly across the body for ease in carrying.
Pushing the Pole in the Drive Phase. During drive phase, the displacement produced by the vaulter's steps should be directed along the axis of the pole so that the pole is effectively being pushed down the runway. The movements of the pole upon push off from each step should be upward and outward, with no rotation of the pole present.
Continuation Phase Positions. If the approach is long enough, at the completion of the drive phase, the vaulter should run comfortably, displaying proper maximal velocity mechanics with the pole at an angle of approximately 45 degrees.
The Pole Drop. The pole drop should begin eight steps from takeoff. The pole tip should drop slightly with each step, using the top (rear) hand to control the drop and the bottom (front) hand as a fulcrum. This may require the rear hand to move to a position approximately
Modifications in Abbreviated Approaches. In short approaches, phase distribution and pole drop mechanics must be adjusted to allow proper jumping postures and create correct angular velocities of the pole.
Lateral Movements. As the tip drops, the bottom hand should gradually bring the pole laterally to a position parallel to the runway.
THE MOVEMENTS OF THE PLANT
The Curl. The plant should be initiated as a curling movement, primarily a flexion of the elbow, bringing the top hand from a position just behind the hip, up the body's side, to a position near the ear. The plant should begin at touch-down of the third to last step, so that the curling action occurs in concert with the setup of the penultimate step.
The Press. The plant should be finished as a pressing movement, extending both arms completely so the top hand is as high as possible and slightly in front of the head. This pressing action occurs in concert with the movement onto the takeoff step, and should be complete prior to grounding of the takeoff step and the pole's impact with the back of the box.
Plant Path. During the plant, the pole should be kept as close to the body as possible to prevent deceleration and postural stability problems. The hands should act as a couple, moving in unison in an upward and forward direction, so that pole speed is conserved. The arms and the takeoff foot are subject to action-reaction relationships, so the forward component of the plant prevents reaching at takeoff and the resultant deceleration.
Lateral Alignment. At the completion of the plant, the shoulders should be parallel to the crossbar. The top hand should be located above and just in front of the acromion process. The lower arm should be extended so that the hand is above and in front of the opposite acromion process. This ensures travel toward the center of the pit, proper pole loading, and prevents turning about the pole.
Plant Location. The pole tip should be placed near the midpoint of the box. This allows the jumper to move without bearing the weight of the pole, as the tip slides to the stopboard. The tip should be placed to the left side of the box for right handed vaulters (and vice versa), to insure proper timing of pole compression.
Preparation Needs. Elite vaulters normally display takeoff angles of 18-21 degrees. These takeoff angles require lowering and the presence of typical penultimate mechanics.
Path of the Center of Mass. Subtle lowering should be initiated in a forward and downward direction, with the body's center of mass assuming a level but lowered path as the flight phase between penultimate and takeoff is entered.
Encountering Impact. Takeoff location should be adjusted so that the impact associated with the pole tip striking the stopboard does not occur until the hips and shoulders have displaced to a point directly over the takeoff foot. Impact must occur before the vaulter leaves the ground.
THE UPPER BODY
Position at Touchdown. At the instant the takeoff foot grounds, the arms should be completely extended upward with the top hand just in front of acromion process. The lower arm should be extended so that the hand is above and in front
Displacement. The shoulders should continue to move forward throughout takeoff, so that they are significantly past the top hand at liftoff. This produces an elastic response that is critical to setting up a strong succeeding swing phase.
Arm Actions. Throughout takeoff, the arms continue to extend upward, and the bottom arm provides some resistance against the pole's movement toward the body.
Position at Touchdown. At the instant the takeoff foot grounds, a slight inclination of the shin and thigh are present. The shin angle should be very slightly obtuse. The torso should be oriented vertically.
Takeoff Movements. During takeoff, the shin should rotate to an acute angle, preparing it to receive and transmit the takeoff forces generated in the hip. This rotation should be approximately symmetrical with respect to vertical.
Displacement. The hips should continue to move forward throughout takeoff, so that they are significantly past the takeoff foot at liftoff. This produces an elastic response that is critical to setting up a strong succeeding swing phase.
The Free Leg. The free leg movement should be coordinated with the elastic response produced in the hip flexor muscle group and the extension of the hip at takeoff. The free leg is sometimes extended slightly in the latter stages of takeoff or during flight to slow rotation of the vaulter about the pole.
Swing Quality. The degree of horizontal displacement achieved by the shoulders and hips at takeoff and the elastic response produced as a result deter-mines the quality of the swing phase.
Initiating the Swing. The swing is set up by the torso moving forward ahead of the limbs at takeoff. This sets up a powerful, succeeding trailing swing of
Extension. The takeoff leg and top arm should remain extended during the swing. Extending the free leg slightly after takeoff is permissible to delay the swing, but is generally indicative of poor takeoff mechanics.
The Bottom Arm. The bottom arm should continue to apply upward pressure while yielding somewhat in the sagittal plane, to allow continued movement of the chest.
Finishing the Swing. As the swing slows, the vaulter should bend at the waist so that the shins come near the pole. This bending at the waist should occur when the vaulter's body aligns with the chord line between the butt of the pole and the top hand.
The First Pull. As the swing slows, to assist in the rockback, the vaulter should force the top arm downward toward the legs, keeping it extended throughout. At the same time, the bottom arm should flex so that the elbow moves outward and the vaulter's body can move close to the pole.
The Extension. As the swing ends and first pull ends, the hips should be extended forcefully so that the body is extended and nearly in line with the pole.
Second Pull. The second pull occurs as the hip extension ends. The vaulter
Initiating a Rotation. The positioning of the pole diagonally across the body prior to the second pull, combined with the pull itself, should initiate a rotation that turns the vaulter's stomach to the bar.
The Clearance. In clearance, the vaulter should assume a piked position by flexing at the waist. This sets up a rotation over the bar and a more favorable location of the body's center of mass with respect to the bar. In the final stages of clearance, after the pole is released, the vaulter should lift and rotate the elbows outward to avoid contact with the bar.
BOO SCHEXNAYDER, TRACK & FIELD STRENGTH & CONDITIONING COACH AT LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY, IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE CURRICULUM AND TEXT FOR THE JUMPS SPECIALIST CERTIFICATION COURSE OF THE TRACK & FIELD ACADEMY. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE TRACK & FIELD ACADEMY GO TO USTFCCCA.ORG.