By Ed Luna
UC Riverside Coach
I will be the first to tell you that never in my dreams did I ever think that I would be sitting in front of a computer writing to my coaching peers about the art of training horizontal jumpers. In my competitive days, I was a thrower and was given the head track job because nobody else wanted it. I was young, energetic, and stupid. During my search for assistant coaches, I was able to cover all areas except the jumps. Being the head coach, I appointed myself; I had to educate myself on these events quickly. I purchased every book, magazine, and video available. I attended every clinic and seminar, and talked to every coach in the Western Hemisphere. Then, I searched our campus for anybody that would listen and who I could persuade to try coming out for the track team.
There are some general principles of training we need to address first before getting into the specific principles for the long and triple jump.
Individuality -- Adjusting the training program to the age, sex and strength differences of your athletes. This is the most important and most difficult job for the coach. You can't base your training program according to your best jumper. You'll need to develop a fundamental training program and adjust it to each athlete.
Progressive Overload -- The SPECIFIC ADAPTATION TO IMPOSED DEMANDS, also known as the SAID principle. In order to increase an athlete's physical capacity, their system must be subjected to stress or overload. The body's adaptation to this stress results in increased capacity. This cycle of stress and adaptation is the foundation of all training.
Specificity -- Training for the horizontal jumps must specifically address the requirements, strengths and skills needed to perform these events. The body adapts to specific demands placed upon it.
Repetition -- The neuromuscular patterns of technique needs to be enforced through repetition of movement, MUSCLE MEMORY. This usually curtails dissecting the jump into its components and performing them repeatedly with proper technique.
Recovery -- Jumpers cannot jump every day and expect to perform well in competition. Jumpers cannot take numerous full approach practice jumps during a work-out and expect to perform well in competition. This doesn't mean you can't train through a meet or competition. Since much of the training they do is quite demanding, jumpers require plenty of rest even though they may not FEEL tired or worn out. Jumpers need ample recovery for their legs to be FRESH. Generally, 48 hours is required to recover from a strenuous workout.
In addition to the general principles of training, there are certain principles that apply specifically to the long and triple jumps.
Speed, Accuracy and Consistency -- The single most important factor in long and triple jump performance is the execution of a fast, accurate, and controlled approach run. These events also require consistent execution of an identical run-up over repeated attempts. Accuracy and consistency are the foundation upon which jumping skills and technique are constructed.
Rhythm -- Expressions of power through rhythm. Rhythm provides a reference for the control of speed and power. Rhythm also allows the athlete to relax while exerting tremendous effort and provides a cadence for that effort.
Explosiveness and Acceleration -- The body needs to have the ability to explode off the ground. The body becomes a projectile accelerated by its own power. The training of jumpers needs to specifically develop this explosiveness through weight training, PLYOMETRIC TRAINING, and jumping.
Body Control (Kinesthetic Awareness) -- The athlete must develop the ability to control the position and posture of their body while in motion, both on the ground and in the air. The athlete needs to have a feel for their body and how it moves. Drills and repetition refines this awareness.
Mechanics of the Horizontal Jumps
In biomechanical terms, the long and triple jumps are rapid accelerations followed by a vertical impulse in order to achieve the greatest possible distance in flight. The triple jump is actually three separate jumps in the form of a hop, a step and a jump. Each phase is controlled by technique to maximize the sum of the three jumps.
Long Jump Mechanics -- Horizontal velocity is the overwhelming determinant of performance in the long jump. The speed of the approach and the need to preserve horizontal velocity make it impossible for the athlete to achieve the optimum angle of projection of approximately 45 degrees. In reality, the normal take-off angle is closer to 25 degrees.
The take-off angle is determined by the approach velocity and by the lowering of the center of mass on the penultimate (or next-to-last) step, which is followed by full extension of the leg at take-off. Vertical impulse is also attained by driving the free leg and opposite arm through the take-off stride. Trying to gain vertical impulse (height) by slowing to GATHER for the take-off will shorten the length of the jump. Maintaining forward velocity is the critical factor in long jumping, not gaining height.
Forward rotation is created at take-off by eccentric thrust and the checking of forward momentum by the take-off foot. This requires the athlete, while airborne, to counteract the rotation in order to achieve extended landing. The HANG and HITCH-KICK styles have developed over time as the predominant methods in long jumping. The hang slows rotation through extension of the limbs away from the body. The hitchkick counters forward rotation by creating counter rotation through cycling the arms and legs.
The trajectory of the jumper's center of mass is established at take-off. Technique is used to counter forward rotation and optimize the jumper's position relative to their center of mass at landing. A landing position with the arms swept to the back, and the head and chest dropped forward, allows the feet to be extended far beyond the center of mass without the jumper falling back into the pit.
Triple Jump Mechanics -- The triple jump is a series of three consecutive jumps following a fast approach run. Like the long jump, horizontal velocity is the most influential element of performance but must be preserved over three consecutive jumps. Technique, plays a far greater role in the triple jump.
The take off angle in the triple jump is less than in the long jump (approximately 20 degrees) in order to decrease the amount of deceleration upon landing in each phase. The arms and free leg drive vigorously, but BLOCK in the first two phases (hop and step). This action increases vertical reaction off the ground with minimal slowing of horizontal velocity.
A unique feature of the triple jump is the action of the landing foot at the end of each phase. A PAWING motion of the foot creates a backward velocity of the landing leg helping maintain forward horizontal velocity of the body.
In the final jump phase, the athlete uses a hang position to counter rotation. The landing position in the triple jump is similar to the long jump, with the head and chest dropped forward and the arms swept back.
The Approach Run -- The aim of the approach for the long jump and triple jump is to generate the maximum amount of speed which can be converted effectively into a jump. The acceleration of the approach should be gradual, rhythmic, and controlled. An all-out uncontrolled sprint into the take-off results in a poor jump.
The length of the approach should be approximately 6 to 12 strides for high school athletes (two steps equal one stride). Goal: To develop the maximum controllable velocity which can be converted into a jump for each individual jumper.
My philosophy: Too short is better than too long. Too long of an approach will destroy the velocity desired at the take-off.
Your athlete should use a stationary start to achieve consistent foot placement at take-off. Jogging or skipping into the approach is not recommended. Fouling at take-off is a waste of training and preparation time. Your athlete needs to start their approach with the same foot every time, preferably their jump foot. Consistency is the key. Most run-up problems originate in the first 3 strides of the acceleration, so establish a starting point and an athlete check point at either the second or third stride (Diagram 1.1). Continual practice of the approach will insure consistency and accuracy at the take-off board. A coach's check mark placed 3 to 4 strides from the board can be useful in evaluating the run-up during practice, but should not be used in actual competition (Diagram 1.1). After the starting point, athlete check point, and coaches check point are established you'll need to have your athletes record these measurements for future reference and competitions You will also use these marks for needed adjustments throughout the season.
Developing the approach and its rhythm is often done better on the track than the jump runway. Practicing the approach on the track removes the distraction of the take-off board and landing pit. When the ahlete has learned rhythmic acceleration and achieving good body position at the take-off transfer the approach onto the jump runway.
The approach itself is a gradual acceleration to the greatest speed the athlete can convert into the jump. Training should focus on increasing the athlete's sprint speed and ability to convert that speed into a well-executed jump. Over the last 4 to 6 strides, the jumper should be running at nearly full speed with an upright body position and high knee lift. The athlete should be running tall and relaxed and have their eyes focused on the rear of the pit. When a coach notices a decrease in speed in the final strides of the approach, the run-up is either too long or the athlete has accelerated too quickly and cannot maintain that speed throughout the approach. In the final strides, the athlete should attempt to increase their stride turnover and accelerate into the jump while maintaining this tall sprint position. We would concentrate 75% of our training time on the approach. My philosophy on the approach distance is I would rather be a little too short than too long; too long will defeat everything gained by a good approach run.
The Long Jump -- The most difficult aspect of the long jump is performing the transition of the take-off of the jump. In the penultimate stride, the body's center of mass must be lowered in order to attain the optimum position for the take-off. This must be done with a minimum loss of speed.
As the take-off foot contacts the board, the shoulder should be slightly behind the hips with the leg extended almost fully, about 170 degrees. The contact of the foot is FULL-FOOTED to transfer horizontal velocity into vertical lift more efficiently. It is often helpful to have your athletes envision RUNNING OFF THE BOARD and accelerating into the take-off. Have your athletes thinking UP AND OUT at take-off. Do not tell your athletes to PLANT their take-off foot on the board, this will cause them to settle on the board and lose horizontal velocity.
Upon contact of the take-off foot, the jump is initiated with the free leg and opposite arm driving forward and upward, fast and forcefully. The foot of the free leg should be pulled through above the knee of the support leg in order to preserve horizontal velocity throughout the jump. The jump or extension of the take-off leg should be as fast and explosive as possible. The drive leg and opposite arm block (stop abruptly) as the thigh comes parallel to the ground and the hand comes to eye level. The feel of the take-off should be both forward and up. The stride off the take-off board should be a continuation of the approach. Having your athletes focus their eyes on the rear of the pit will prevent chopping and reaching at the take-off board.
The purpose of in flight arm and leg action is to counteract forward rotation, maintain balance, and put the jumper into the optimum position at landing with the feet extended well beyond the athlete's center of mass. Long jumpers should adopt the in flight technique that best preserves the speed established during run up, w
The Hitchkick -- The HITCHKICK style is the most complex technique of long jumping. It counteracts forward rotation by creating secondary axes of rotation that work in opposition to the forward rotation. The cycling motion of the arms and legs keep the body upright and balanced throughout the jump. The 1 1/2 stride hitchkick is better suited to high school athletes. Upon take-off, the legs continue cycling forward as in sprinting. The arms cycle overhead in balance with the legs. The arms are extended while moving backward, and then are shortened as they move in front of the body. On landing, the take-off leg comes forward first, followed by the drive leg that has cycled 1 1/2 times after take-off. As with other styles, the head and chest are dropped forward and the arms swept back as the feet touch the sand. Again the athlete needs to reach for the sand and get their bottom dirty to have a successful landing. If the athlete is not jumping more than 21 feet, the hitchkick is not recommended.