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Pole Vaulting

Articles By: Brian Yokoyama,
Mt. San Antonio College (Mt. SAC)

Sub Titles:
The Takeoff
Narrow Grip Drill
The Pole Vaulting Pole
The Swing
The Flyaway & Bar Clearance


The Takeoff

The takeoff (plant) is the most important technical aspect of the pole vault. It is responsible for transferring running energy(speed) into the pole and setting up the swing/rockback. As the efficiency of the plant increases, a greater amount of energy is transferred to the pole, allowing for the use of stiffer poles and increased clearances.

Previous biomechanical studies have shown many US Vaulters to be inefficient in the transfer of running energy into the pole (1991 Tokyo World Championship Biomechanical Study). Often, coaches have utilized set up techniques which produce inefficient takeoffs. This causes vaulters to be consistently under their top hand at takeoff. Adjusting the running distance (step) will not alleviate this problem. In order to increase efficiency at takeoff, maximize pole size, swing ability (rockback) and heights, coaches and athletes should consider converting to the European/Japanese/Russian plant teaching systems.

These methods utilize a takeoff placing the pole vaulter at a 90 degree angle, perpendicular to the pole. An example can be demonstrated by placing a pole horizontally supported at each end. Bending of the pole is most efficient when force is applied at a 90 degree angle (perpendicular to the pole). Any angle greater or less than 90 degrees would result in lost energy. The pole vault takeoff should emulate this concept (figure 3). Set up should prepare the vaulter to takeoff at this angle.

The following diagrams demonstrate a three phase model of this takeoff (the model is a right handed vaulter: left foot, right foot, takeoff). The light colored figures set up techniques resulting in inefficient energy transfer.

Left Support Phase (fig. 1)

Right Support Phase (fig. 2)

Takeoff Phase (fig. 3)
A. Right hand is parallel to the body, not behind it.
B. Both arms are tucked up high (forces the vaulter to plant forward).
C. Body is in a slightly forward sprinting (power) position.
D. Pole is at a parallel position to the ground.
A. Both arms are in front of the head (the arms guide and the body follows behind).
B. Body is in a balanced position.
C. Left leg is cocked and ready for an explosive takeoff (penultimate step).
D. Arms are ready to help jump.
A. Arms and body are creating a 90 degree angle with the pole.
B. Both arms are extended and equally placing pressure into the pole.
C. Body and foot are fully extended prior to the pole impacting the back of box.


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