A complete pole vault jump is best explained by breaking it down into 9 basic steps. The steps are pre-run preparation, beginning the run, the acceleration and pole drop, the speed plant, the take off, the Tap Swing, the rockback, the clean to turn to push, and the Bar clearance.
First thing to do after warming up properly is to step to the back of the runway and place the left foot on the starting mark. The right foot will be slightly behind and to the right of the left foot for good balance. Hold the right hand along side of the body at or above the waist. The left hand holds the pole a few inches in front of the chest. The pole is balanced in an almost vertical position. The vaulter should be in a position ready to drive off the starting mark.
Next, to begin the run, the right hand remains constant at the waist. The top hand holds the pole a few inches away from the chest as the initial body lean and push-off of the left foot tilts the pole toward the pit. Drive hard off the left foot to get the pole moving. Transfer the weight of the pole into the right hand. The legs are driving the hips. The hips are driving the top hand and the top hand is driving the tip of the pole. Relax the drive and work into a smooth accelerating run.
Then, the pole vault acceleration and pole drop begins at the starting mark and ends when the tip of the pole hits the back of the box. The pole tip has a smooth and constant drop to a horizontal position during the acceleration and pole drop. The height of the pole tip dictates the speed and form of the run. The run gets faster and the turnover of the feet moves forward under the hips as the pole tip drops. If the right hand gets behind the hips during the acceleration and pole drop push it forward going into the left foot as the pole reaches its level position. The vaulter may have to raise his or her elbows slightly to get the pole to a perfectly level position. For the high school pole-vaulter this position is about hip level.
Next, the pole vault speed plant starts on the left foot two strides before the take-off. The pole at this point is level with the runway. The right hand moves directly vertical up the side of the body and finishes directly above the head. The left hand is also moving up as the pole tip continues to lower. If the pole tip starts level with the top hand both hands can be moving up through this phase. Continue to run tall and maintain running turnover, pulling the toes through quickly and not letting them point of drag behind. The stride length must remain constant. Only the stride frequency accelerates. The right hand should be at ear height and behind the ear when the vaulter is on his/her right foot. The pole tip continues to lower, and the hands continue to rise. The top hand reaches its highest point with the top hand extended as high as possible when the left foot touches the ground. The top arm should stay behind the ear. Do NOT throw the hands forward. The pole-vaulters pole tip must not touch the back of the box before this task is finished. The hips, shoulders, head and top hand should be directly above the take-off foot when the pole tip hits the back of the box. The lead leg should continue its natural running movement off the ground. The idea of this pole vault plant is to run the pole vault pole tip into the box. During the pole vault speed plant the top of the pole rises but maintains its horizontal acceleration in conjunction with the run. All energies are focused on getting the top of the pole to its fastest and tallest position while maintaining the direction of speed. Any change in this will result in energy and efficiency loss. Do not try to jump off the take-off. To jump the vaulter must change the running form, which will slow the vaulter down. Jumping off the ground also changes the direction of the forces generated in the run. Any attempt to jump over the pole is only taking potential energy from the pole.
The pole vault take-off and drive start with the take-off foot leaving the ground and the pole contacting the back of the box and continues until the tap swing begins. The lead leg stays in its natural running position in front of the body with the foot under the knee. The head drives forward. The left hand moves up quickly until it is level with the right hand. This puts the top of the pole parallel to the run. It enables the vaulter to transfer the horizontal energy generated by the run to a base of support that parallels it. This is the most efficient way to transfer the energy generated by the run. This also forces the pole to roll over the box (so the top of the pole can continue to move forward) rather than compress the top of the pole into the box (causing the pole to return in the opposite direction). Keep the shoulders square to the pit. Keep the back straight and both hands up and moving forward with the body. Try to keep the head, shoulders and hips in a vertical line and extended as it passes through the take-off. Do not let the hips get out in front of the vertical line of the shoulders. Drive forward until the shoulders and hips line up directly under the bottom hand. Be sure to keep the abdominal muscles tight, the chest straight ahead and vertical (not rolled or pointed up, sometimes caused by jumping up), the body rigid and the hands moving forward. Keep the body long and the hands as high while the pole lifts the body through the drive. The pole vaulter’s speed, ability to get the top of the pole parallel to the runway as quickly as possible, and the ability of the vaulter to hold the body as straight as possible from the hands to the trail foot through the drive will determine the initial energy placed on the pole. Extend the body. Do not hang. Extending is working. Hanging is not working. It will only cause the body to collapse and absorb any energy that should go into the pole. If the vaulter wishes to do this, just remember, any time there is a transfer of energy there is also a loss of energy. Do not try to “row” or move hands forward to a position above or in front of the shoulders after coming off the ground. This will do two things. It will redirect the energy of the run into the box. The box is a barrier. We are trying to roll the pole over the box, not compress it into it. “Rowing” the hands forward also limits the rise of the hips. If you row, you cannot clean the top of the pole.
The pole vault tap swing is a transition point between the horizontal forces generated from the run and the downward vertical forces generated in the rockback, clean and push. The tap swing is initiated with the driving down of the trail foot to bring it in line with the knee and hips and the bringing of the left leg and hips in line with the top arm. This driving of the trail foot down can be compared to the gymnasts tap of the feet on the horizontal bar. It helps lengthen the body and load the pole giving the pole its maximum kinetic energy. It ends when the trail foot is in line with the hips, shoulders, and top hand.
Next, the transition from the pole vault tap swing to the pole vault power rockback starts with the trail leg and hips coming in line with the shoulders and top hand. It is best when the body moves through this point when the vaulter is at a 45-degree angle to the box. The power rockback starts when the body, from the shoulders to the trail foot, begins to rotate around the shoulders. Try to keep the trail foot, hips, and shoulders extended and long. Keep the shoulders from dropping back through the rock back. The shoulders drive down and back at the same time the trail leg and hips lift. Do not let the top hand catch up to or pass the shoulders. Try to keep the head in line with the body as it helps drive the shoulders back. Keep the hips moving through the rockback in a circular motion around the shoulders. Emphasize lifting the hips with an extended body up the vertical line while driving the shoulders back. This helps to load the pole more and keep it moving forward. The lead leg comes in line with the trail leg towards the end of the power rockback. Sometimes vaulters pike at the hips or bend the trail leg because they do not have the strength or speed to do this most efficiently. If this happens, the vaulter must work his/her way out of it when his/her feet or shins reach the top of the pole. Therefore, “the Bubka drill” is an addition to save the vault. The power rockback ends when the extended body covers the top of the pole. If this is completed before the top hand catches up with shoulders the weight of the vaulter will have its base of support on top of the pole rather than resting on his/her shoulders. This will point the body, from the shoulders to the feet, away from the crossbar. This enables the vaulter to “clean” the top of the pole to below his or her shoulders. From there the vaulter can make a quick turn balancing on top of the pole. “Cleaning” the top of the pole also keeps the pole compressed and moving forward. The vaulter should not “row” the hands forward. If the line from the shoulders to the top hand ever points vertical, or even worse, toward the crossbar, the vaulter cannot position his or her weight on top of the pole. Do not pull, because if the vaulter pulls while in this position, the force of the shoulders rising behind the pole will cause the feet to drop in front of the pole. By completing this move properly the vaulter raiseshis /her base of support from the shoulders to above the top hand.
Next, the clean, turn and push. This all begins as soon as the extended body lands on top of the pole. The “clean” can only take place if the body is pointed away from the crossbar. Pull the top of the pole under the shoulders and rotate the body around the line of the pole while maintaining balance upside-down. Roll the body back onto the pole. Rotation of the pole in the box and the movement of the right elbow out helps to keep the top hand and pole under the shoulders and body. When first learning this move try to keep the right shoulder as close to the right hand as possible without pushing. This will make it easier to balance on top of the pole. Keep the feet on top of the shoulders and body while cleaning, turning and pushing. Pull and push down through the box. Keep the head down and in line with the back. Keep the top hand under the shoulders through the push. Pushing can only be done if the body still has vertical rise momentum. If the vaulter tries to push when the body is not balanced on top of the hand and box he/she will only force the rest of the body down. When the body reaches its apex (highest point) in its rise push the pole back towards the runway with a flick of the wrist. Throwing the pole back towards the runway with the whole arm can cause the vaulter to lose his/her rotation around the crossbar. It may also cause the chest to drop into the crossbar.
Finally, the pole vault bar clearance starts when the body has completed its turn and the shoulders have passed the top hand. Use the top hand to keep the pole under the shoulders and above the box at the beginning of the bar clearance. Keep the feet leading the body and the top hand trailing. Keep the chest concave when rotating over the crossbar. Pull the top hand toward the shoulder with the elbow out as it passes over the crossbar. The pole-vaulter continues to rotate safely landing on his/her back in the pit.
Following these basic 9 steps will ensure success at pole-vaulting. Along with a lot of practicing of these steps the vaulter should also do drills, strength training, and eat a balanced diet.
1.http://www.advantageathletics.com/powervaulting.html#Power Vaulting, a pole vault technique and drills guide.
book} Complete Book of Jumps.