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Training Your Horizontal Jumpers


The Triple Jump

By Ed Luna
UC Riverside Coach
AAF/CIF Instructor


The Triple Jump requires speed, power, rhythm, balance, flexibility, concentration, and body awareness. The triple jump has been referred to as "POWER BALLET."

It is best to start out with the basic movements by having your athletes Hop, then Step, then Jump from a standing start. The take-off foot should be the athlete's strongest leg due to the fact it will be used for the Hop and the Step, or determined by the athlete's preference. The jumper should concentrate on an even rhythm for each landing. The foot strike of the Hop an Step should be flat or full-footed, with the landing leg knee bent slightly in preparation for take-off.

Break the jump into its component phases. Teach the hop phase by having the athlete do a walking one-legged hop several times, then incorporate the circling action of the hop leg. Follow this with multiple one-legged hops with a circling leg, flat landing, and upright posture.

After learning the Hop, move onto the Step and Jump phases. Consecutive bounds duplicate the step and jump actions. The jumper should do these with a double-arm action and land full-footed. The desired distance of each bound should be the Hop 35%, the Step 30%, and the Jump 35% of the total jump.

Next combine the three phases of the jump. Start with Hop and Step combinations on grass. Stress carrying momentum from the Hop into the Step. Finally, add the Jump phase. Again, emphasize carrying momentum from one phase to the next with an even rhythm for each phase. While learning the event, stress the desired percentages in each phase of the jump. Once the jump phases have been put together, slowly add steps to the run-up in accordance with the athlete;s ability to control his speed properly.

The approach run for the Triple Jump is similar to that of the Long Jump. The purpose of both run-ups is to create the greatest amount of speed that can be controlled for that jump. Lack of strength and technique skills will reduce the distance and the amount of speed that can be carried successfully into the jump.

The major difference in the triple jump approach is the transition into the jump. The lowering of the center of mass in preparation to jump is very slight in the triple jump. The full-footed contact of the penultimate step is eased back and substantial flexing of the leg is eliminated. The athlete runs off the board in an effort to maintain horizontal velocity and minimize the vertical component in the hop. Excessive height on the hop will hinder the jump because the increased absorption time upon landing reduces horizontal speed. Informing your athletes to think of running off the board and not jumping off the board will also help prevent the excessive height. The athlete's eyes should be focused on the rear of the pit for the entire jump, start to finish.

The Hop Phase

The initial phase of the triple jump begins with the athlete running off the board. The athlete should be thinking out and up as they leave the board. The take-off leg is fully extended for a complete push off the ground and the drive leg thigh should be nearly parallel to the ground at take-off, with the knee joint at approximately a 45 degree angle, and the foot relaxed. The foot of the take-off leg will be pulled to the buttocks. The drive leg will them begin to rotate from in front of the center of gravity to behind it, while the take-off leg begins to pull forward. As the thigh of the take-off leg reaches parallel, the lower portion of the leg extends past the knee, with the foot dorsi flexed. Once the leg is extended, the athlete then forcefully drives the entire leg downwards, setting himself up for an active landing. Flexibility is critical here; the greater the angle of extension during flight, the more "AIR" time and greater the Hop.

The Step Phase

The second phase of the triple jump begins as a take-off foot returns to the ground. The take-off leg is fully extended with the drive leg thigh just below parallel to the ground. As the athlete leaves the ground, the take-off leg stays extended behind the center of gravity with the calf held approximately parallel to the ground through mid-flight. At the same time, the opposite leg drives to waist level where it remains through mid-flight of the Step phase. The angle of the knee joint should be no greater than 90 degrees. As the athlete begins to descend, the drive leg extends with a flexed ankle (creating a long lever) and snaps downward for a quick transition into the third phase. During the Step phase, the athlete is concentrating on riding the step as long as possible. This is usually the weakest of the Triple Jump phases and requires the most coaching.

The Jump Phase

The third and final phase of the Triple Jump is a long jump preceded by a jump rather than a run. The take-off leg (the drive leg in the previous phases) is extended forcefully upon contact with the ground. With the free-leg thigh driving to the waist level again. The arms drive forward and up, and block momentarily when the hands reach face level. The torso should be held erect with the chin up and eyes looking beyond the pit. Once in the air, the legs move into a hang position with both thighs directly below the torso, legs bent at the knees to an angle of 90 degrees or less. The arms are extended overhead to slow rotation with the hands reaching for the sky. This position is held through mid-flight. The arms then drive forward, down, and back as the legs, simultaneously, swing forward and the thighs rise parallel to the ground. The knees remain bent to take advantage of a shorter lever. When the thighs reach parallel the legs extend rapidly with the ankles flexed and toes pointing up. The athlete holds this position until his heels hit the sand. As the knees collapse, the hips rise and the athlete slides through the sand. The butt has to get dirty for the best results.

Arm Action Through the Three Phases

The use of a single (speed-oriented) or a double (power-oriented) arm action at take-off depends on the athlete's preference. For athletes just being introduced to the triple jump, a single-arm take-off is easier to execute because of its similarity to a running motion. The double-arm method leads to more power at take-off, but novice triple jumpers often reduce their approach speed in preparation, thereby negating the effects of any added power.

In the single-arm method, the arm opposite the free leg drives forward and up, blocking when the hand reaches face level. The angle at the elbow should be between 80 and 110 degrees. The hand should never drive higher than the nose. This position is held briefly until both arms move back in preparation for the next phase.

With the double-arm method, the lead arm crosses slightly in front of the body on the penultimate step. As the take-off step is initiated, the arm pauses next to the body rather than swinging behind as with a normal stride. The arm, as it descends, will bounce off the hip meeting with the trailing arm and both arms work in unison throughout the rest of the jump. As the take-off foot contacts the ground, both arms drive forward and up from the body. The angle of the arms at the elbows will be greater than 90 degrees in order to create a more powerful impulse forward.

There is less need for upward drive with the arms because of the double-arm action. As with the single-arm method, the hands are blocked momentarily at face level and the drive leg is blocked when the thigh nears waist level. However, the emphasis here should be on preserving horizontal speed, not gaining height off the ground. Driving the arms and leg provides the needed vertical impulse off the ground without attempting to jump upward. After the arms have blocked, they are then pulled behind the body in preparation for the Step phase.

When using double-arm method, the coach must make sure the athlete is not loading up before the first phase by cocking both arms back at take-off. Loading only decreases the crucial horizontal velocity.

Foot Strike Through the Three Phases

The transition from Hop to Step, and Step to Jump is of utmost importance in maintaining the greatest velocity during each phase of the Triple Jump. This active landing, referred to as pawing, is similar to the footstrike of a tiger, reaching out, grabbing the ground and pulling it towards him. In an active landing the athlete's leg is extended, the ankle flexed and the entire lever pulled down forcefully striking the ground mid-foot. Upon contact the body rolls forward over the foot onto the toes while pushing off the ground. if the athlete lands stiffly on the heel, a braking action occurs, decreasing velocity and distance, and increasing the chance of injury.

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