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High Jump Developing an awareness of the Arch

Article By: Peter Brewer

Body awareness in the air is not always an intuitive talent. Many new jumpers have only a raw sense of where the bar is, and do not have any early facility in arching over it, or maintaining a layout position long enough for a clearance. This feel for where the cross bar is, is often delayed by the beginning jumper discomfort at being in the layout position to begin with. This initial paranoia about being backwards and not seeing the mat (which some new jumpers swear is as disconcerting as being upside down) often leads the rookie jumpers to do the single greatest in-air mistake: bringing the chin down to the chest to get a “head's up” orientation in the air.

Of course, what this does is bring the hips down so that the rear end smacks the bar, or if done slightly later in the jump, brings the calves and heels into the bar. In any case, the arch is broken, the center of gravity is lowered, there is no clearance, and we have low jumpers, not high jumpers. What can we do to get beginning, rookie, new, or even fairly season jumpers to keep the shoulders back and down to keep the hips up while over the bar?

For most of these jumpers, it does little good to tell them to just “keep the head back.” They have precious little orientation awareness anyway, and tilting the head straight back is not going to help that right off. What I ask the jumpers to do is to tuck the chin into the lead shoulder and look down at the mat. To give them focus, I put a dollar bill on the mat about in the middle of the end mat, and ask them to grab it with their lead arm as they land.

This accomplishes several things, really. The head stays back, albeit to one side, and the lead arm is used to guide the upper body back down to the mat The jumper is able to maintain an arch longer, and also keep a “safe” visual spatial awareness of the mat. An additional benefit is that the athlete then gets comfortable with landing on the upper back in the pit, with the legs almost directly above. and finally, the jumper is intent on reaching into the pit and so does not “hang” above the bar only to land on it but drives into the pit after that dollar.

Flexibility is a key factor here, as increased flexibility leads to better in-air motions and the possibility for more complete arches and therefore higher centers of gravity. Box jumps (standing jumps onto the pad over a lower bar from a box) also increase in-air confidence and arch/landing awareness.

Article By: Peter Brewer

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