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Pole Vault

The pole vault is the most technical of athletic events, therefore a considerable amount of time should be spent on understanding and perfecting the technique. The vault can be broken up into different sections, which can be worked on individually. All instructions refer to a right handed athlete.

Pole selection

The appropriate pole to use is determined by your weight. Never use a pole rated below your body weight.

The Grip

A grip area from 6" to 18" (inches) from the top of the pole is the range the pole is made to bend and respond efficiently. Pole manufacturers place a red band around the top of the pole to indicate the top of the recommended grip range.

All fiberglass poles have a natural bend which indicates the direction in which the pole bends most efficiently. When vaulting, the vaulter grips the pole in such a way that the pole will bend naturally when planted into the box. On a UCS spirit pole the label should face the vaulter as they take off.

Holding the pole parallel to the ground, grasp the pole with the left hand palm down and the right hand palm upwards. Right hand should be approximately 12" from the top of the pole and the hands should be approximately shoulder width apart.

The Approach and take off point

A 10 or 12 stride approach can be used.

The take off point can be determined by placing the tip of the pole in the box. Hold the pole with the appropriate grip and hand position. Position yourself so that the right arm is fully extended vertically and the left foot is placed directly below the right hand. The left foot marks the take off point.

Run up and Pole carry

The run up should begin from a standing start with no preliminary 'run on steps' as this leads to possible inconsistency. The pole should initially be held vertically, right hand at the hip and left hand 10 centimetres in front of the left side of the chest. (Fig 1)

The first step should not be too long to sink but should have a high bounding type motion. You must maintain upright and forward posture. As your speed increases, the tall posture is exaggerated as much as possible by the legs being as straight as possible as the ball of the foot contacts the ground.

Pole Vault
Fig 1

The pole should be lowered gradually throughout the run up using the left hand as a pivot and by controlling the rate of fall with the right hand that moves from the hip to a point halfway between waist and arm pit. The left hand remains static and must not drop. (Fig 2)

While running, the hips should be very high.

Pole VaultFig 2

Transfer

The pole is lowered gradually throughout the run up. Three strides from take off

  • the pole should be parallel to the ground and at chest height (Fig 4)
  • the right hand should be close to the right arm pit the left hand just in front of the chest
  • the left hand should always stay above the left elbow to enable the pushing action

The transfer takes place over the last two strides and the key is that the arms lead the legs (Fig 3, 4 & 5). On the penultimate left foot contact both arms move to forehead height, the left arm must not lag. (Fig 3 & 4). Before the right foot hits the ground, the right arm should be at a 90 degree angle with the hand, just above and in front of the head (Fig 5). The left arm should be at a slightly greater angle with the hand at eye height. This position allows the best support for the pole. As the take off leg (left) comes through and drops for the final contact both arms straighten at the same time and the right knee is driven forcibly upwards. (Fig 6).

Pole Vault
Fig 3
Pole Vault
Fig 4
Pole Vault
Fig 5

Take Off

You must take off with as much forward speed as possible but your body must be as extended as possible so that the pole is as near to vertical as can be. Both arms should be straight, the right directly above the head. As the take off foot extends, just before leaving the ground, the pole should hit the back and bottom of the box.

According to Houvion (1985) the position of the take-off point in relation to the top hand is the one element which can determine the success or otherwise of the vault. The consensus between coaches is that the take-off foot should be located directly beneath the top hand (Fig 6).

Pole Vault
Fig 6

Flight Phase

This is an important phase of the vault particularly for those using a high grip. The drive should be though the chest, as in the long jump. Consequently, the chest should lead with the left leg held back. To allow this position, the top arm will trail deliberately and the shoulder joint must be mobile enough to accommodate this action. Both arms must be very strong but not rigid with the left elbow turned out slightly to allow the chest through.

Note: It is important not to lock or push deliberately with the left arm during the flight phase as this pushes the chest backwards. If not, the resulting drive will be through the hips and the legs will swing through prematurely.

Hang & Push-Press

Your objective is to maintain the speed produced by the run up and to push the pole to the vertical.

  • Allow the chest to move forwards but keeping the hips back, thereby keeping the centre of gravity behind the push action of the arms
  • The left arm must not be rigid but turned outwards slightly
  • The right arm must be straight and should be left behind
  • The left leg should also be straight and hang back producing an arc from the right hand to the left foot with the chest forward
  • The right leg (femur) should be at a 90 degree angle to the left femur and the right foot should be high and close to the centre of gravity
  • Both arms initially push upwards and then in a continuation of that move press forwards influencing the pole bend. At the same time the left leg starts to swing forwards
  • The hips remain back
  • The push-press action of the arms should be maintained as long as possible

Swing & Extension

Ideally your centre of gravity remains as low as possible until the bend of the pole is at its greatest so as to gain maximum horizontal distance. Aim for a high centre of gravity as the pole recoils to gain maximum vertical distance.

Leg swing

  • Swing the back leg through straight until parallel with the ground
  • The right femur remains at a 90 degree angle to the back leg throughout the swing
  • The angle between the left (back) leg and the body is also 90 degrees
  • The centre of gravity is still low but the legs are in a good position (45 degrees from vertical)
  • The arms must still push-press the pole even after maximum bend

Hip swing

  • It starts around the time of maximum bend of the pole
  • Move the hips move forward as the bent leg straightens and joins the already straight leg
  • You should be in a pike position with feet together and both arms should still be straight
  • The feet should be directly above the head

Although separate, both swings should blend and join to provide a smooth movement.

  • As the arms are still straight the pole recoil is slowed allowing you to get into the ideal position
  • Open the pike position and relax the left arm as the speed of the recoil increases
  • Drop the head and shoulders backwards to a natural alignment with the body
  • You should be as inverted as possible
  • Maintain a 'tight' posture

Turn & Clearance

  • The turn should be delayed to gain maximum vertical height
  • Once turned 90 degrees and facing the side, the pole may still be bent but you should still be directly in line with the pole
  • Stay as close to the pole as possible
  • Let go of the pole with the left hand and complete the turn
  • Extend the right arm and become an extension of the pole
  • Once the vertical speed has dropped pike in order to rotate around the bar

Basic technique to look for:

Run up

  • Maximum controllable speed
  • Eyes on the box
  • Knees high
  • Running tall
  • Posture erect
  • Correct hand hold

Plant

  • Standing tall and straight
  • Arms in position early
  • Straight left arm - not locked
  • Knees come through fast
  • Right arm straight above the head
  • Left foot take off
  • Right knee drive to the athlete's right side of the pole

Swing

  • Stay down in pole
  • Right arm stretched
  • Left arm tight
  • Right knee up fast
  • Driving straight ahead
  • Stay away from the pole
  • Eyes focused on right hand or pole tip

Rock back

  • Knees back and up
  • Eyes on feet or pole tip
  • Right arm still stretched
  • Left arm collapsing

Clearance

  • Hips thrust
  • Arm pulling on the pole
  • Body turning
Followed by:
  • Arms pushing on pole
  • Body arching over pole
  • Push pole away

Training Programs

A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.

Training Pathway

Pyramid

Athletes in the Event Group stage

The following is a basic annual training program suitable for athletes in the Event Group development stage:

Athletes in the Event stage

The following is an example of a specific annual training programs suitable for athletes in the Event development stage:

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2004) Pole Vault [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/polevault/index.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page:

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

  • How to Teach the Jumps, D. Johnson