SORTING THROUGH IMPORTANT
POLE VAULT CONCEPTS
By: Ed Jacoby
Coach, Boise State University
1. Usable speed at plant
2. Height of the center of mass, of handhold and pole angle relative
3. Transition of horizontal velocity to vertical velocity
4. Pole speed to vertical
The run must be a controlled
acceleration progression. The vaulter must maintain an upright body
position. The stride is characterized by momentum in the beginning
of the run and then turnover at the end of the approach. Allow the
pole to become part of the body.
The runway must be predetermined.
It is expressed by a starting check mark from six to ten count steps
away from the takeoff mark. There must a coach's mark four to six
steps out from takeoff. This mark is the exact distance needed to
sprint normally from that point to takeoff. If the athlete is either
in front of or behind the established mark, adjustments will have
to be made. Neither of these adjustments will be good.
It should be noted that the better vaulters take a longer penultimate
step than the last step. That means that frequency must increase
to keep speed from slowing.
The grip area of a pole
is between 6 and 18 inches from the top for the pole to bend and
respond properly. Actually, the only time a vaulter should hold
lower is during drill work or other learning activities. The pole
carry is determined simply for efficiency of running, planting and
hanging. The plant should be as high as possible and the body as
rigid as possible. This allows the energy to be transferred into
the pole and keeps the body high for a high plant. The top hand
is directly above the takeoff foot at takeoff. The pole plant begins
two steps out from the takeoff. It begins when the third foot out
from the last is on the ground.
The angle of the pole
must be as high as possible:
a. It causes greater
b. It is easier to bend the pole.
c. It makes it easier to penetrate.
d. It creates less distance for the pole to travel to vertical.
Penetration refers to
the general movement of the pole and vaulter toward the pit after
the pole has been planted and the vaulter has left the ground. Proper
penetration will allow the vaulter to land in the middle of the
pit. If there is over penetration, the vaulter will land
in the back of the pit. If the vaulter under penetrates, he will
land on the bar, or worse yet, stall out. Penetration is determined
either by technique or pole weight.
1. If the vaulter has
excessive penetration with a big bend, he should move to a stiffer
2. If the vaulter has excessive penetration with a small bend, he
should hold higher.
3. If the vaulter has poor penetration with a big bend, he should
lower the grip.
4. If the vaulter has poor penetration with a small bend, he should
move to a softer pole (but never less than the vaulter's weight).
The pole must be planted
while the vaulter is high on the toes. The timing of the pole plant
(the instant the pole strikes the back of the box) is crucial. The
sequence is: the takeoff foot touches down, the pole hits
the back of the box, and the takeoff foot leaves the ground.
The better the vaulter, the closer the pole strike and foot release.
If the pole plant occurs during the first half of the support phase
(closer to the instant of touchdown), the vaulter cannot push the
pole upward and forward and therefore will be jerked off the ground
by the pole.
The vaulter must jump
forward and upward at takeoff. Velocity must be converted from horizontal
to vertical. The only way this can occur is to jump. The takeoff
must be active rather than passive. Good vaulters have a
takeoff angle of between 14 and 20 degrees. Takeoff angles, which
are too low, often times, lead to pole breakage.
A misunderstood concept
is: Start the pole bending by pushing with the lower hand. The weight
is on the top hand, but if the vaulter is solid with the lower arm,
there is a great reduction of the compressive force necessary to
bend the pole. An effective plant must be followed by a follow
through. This is a short phase during the vault where the
hips and chest move in a linear direction rather than creating early
rotation around the shoulders. As the hips and chest are moving
linearly, the arms and takeoff leg drag back behind the body. This
prevents an early swing up.
The true line concept
(top hand to butt end of the pole). The center of mass must be kept
as far back from the pole as possible during takeoff, penetration
and inversion phase. Hanging and swinging from the top hand, maintain
pole speed and bend. The lower the weight on the pole pendulum,
the faster the pole travels. The vaulter must keep his center of
mass behind the pole during the swing. The rotation of the vaulter
about the pole must occur about the shoulders and not the hips.
Invert through release
is the phrase used where the vaulter's body extends in a vertical
direction as he turns, pulls and pushes off the pole. The
swing must take place through the hands and not the hips.
Because the top hand cannot move, the left arm controls the pole
speed. Thus, by closing off the angle between the left arm and the
pole, the body is allowed to move in close to the pole so an active
pull and push can occur.
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