Pole Vault 101 by Spencer Chang

What does it take to be a good pole vaulter?

    First of all, you need to be a little crazy. Sure, pole vaulting can be a dangerous sport, possibly more dangerous for some than others. However, if you discipline yourself to learn the fundamentals and use safe equipment, pole vaulting should be no more dangerous than playing football, soccer, or wrestling with your friends during track meets. You need to be mentally tough and learn to be confident in your vault. I believe the vault to be at least 90% mental toughness. Technique will improve your vault. However, it is no substitute for talent or physical ability. Speed, height, jumping ability, upper body strength, body awareness, and coordination will take you to the next level. In Hawaii, the competition is at the level where a vaulter who has good technique can make up for lack of talent and still win the state meet. Finally, a good pole vaulter studies the vault and knows what it takes to vault high. It must be understood that equipment is a key factor in a vaulter's ability to vault high. It is not uncommon for world class vaulters to bring five or six poles with them to a meet. This booklet attempts to educate ignorant pole vaulters who have failed to fully understand the pole vault, thereby condemning themselves to 13 feet and below.


    The pole vault really should be visualized as one continuous event starting from the end of the runway to landing into the pit. Although we commonly break down the vault into the approach, pole plant, take-off, swing, rock-back, pull-push-&-turn, and fly-away, every aspect is dependent on the quality of the previous motion. Consequently, the most important aspect of the vault is the approach followed by the plant and take-off. If you can master these three aspects, you should have no problem in penetrating into the pit. When penetration is no longer a problem, you can concentrate on the other components of your vault. Only then can you become a complete and safe vaulter.

    There are so many factors that contribute to the success of a vault. Because each successive component of the vault is dependent on the sum of the components prior, a problem in extension off the top of the pole could actually be the result of a poor approach, plant, and take-off. At the high school level, it is probably wiser to concentrate on these three key steps in the vault. They can be practiced without vaulting by planting into practice boxes and/or towels. This eliminates an excessive amount of injury to the athlete who vaults when he is not ready. Unfortunately, the limited time frame of the track and field season sometimes forces coaches to reluctantly allow their athletes to get up into the air prematurely. More can be accomplished if emphasis is placed on approach, plant, and take-off drills. Vaulting once or twice during the week is ample preparation for the meets on Saturdays. It must be kept in mind that an athlete who comes out to practice only to vault will more than likely suffer from bad habits, become frustrated with his vault, and become stagnant in his progress. Cross-training and drills make the vaulter. Vaulting itself only hones in on the vaulter's skills adding the finishing touches to a complete package.

Basic Pole Vault Physics

    There are several key factors to consider to understand the basic physics of the pole vault. The main goal of the vaulter is to cause the top end of his pole to reach vertical. The higher the top of the pole is at the plant, the less distance it has to travel, and therefore less energy it takes for the top of the pole to go to vertical. There are two primary vectors that provide the energy needed to push the pole to vertical. The first is a horizontal vector or the speed on the runway. A longer approach allows more time to accelerate and reach a faster top speed at take-off. The new approach to pole vaulting utilizes a smooth continuous pole drop from the end of the runway that aids in acceleration and helps to maintain speed at the plant. The second, is a vertical vector or the jumping ability at take-off. The vertical vector is often under emphasized. The old style of vaulting encouraged the vaulter to "run off the ground." This is incorrect in that in neglects the vertical factor and causes a low bend in the pole, less penetration, and "stalling-out" over the bar.

    The concept of center of mass is important in understanding several of the new techniques in the vault. A vaulter who remains in a long extended vertical position immediately after take-off will more efficiently cause the pole to go to vertical than the vaulter who attempts to "swing off the ground." The reason for this is that the vaulter who remains long maintains a lower center of mass relative to the pole. Imagine two situations: a weight hanging on the end of a short string attached to the top of a pole and the same weight hanging on the end of a long string attached to the end of the same pole. A man tries to pull each pole to vertical. In which situation would he have an easier time pulling the pole to vertical? As Figure 1 shows, it would be easier to pull the pole to vertical in situation B. This is why a vaulter should remain in a long extended vertical position immediately after take-off.

Figure 1.

     Two more aspects of the vault will aid in bending the pole and causing the pole to go to vertical. The first is a long swing following take-off. A long swing causes a centripetal force that will cause the pole to bend and move forward (Figure 2). The second is often referred to as "down-pressure" or rowing of the arms. The vaulter forces a pressure down the axis of the pole by rowing the arms. This causes the pole to bend more which will subsequently aid in penetration (Figure 3). More physics will be covered in their respective sections concerning the vault.

Holding the Pole

    The remainder of this booklet will be written assuming that you are right-handed. If you are left-handed, substitute left for right and vice-versa, or look in the mirror and pretend that you are like the rest of us.

    Basically, your right hand holds higher than your left hand and your thumbs should be on the top side of the pole versus the butt-plug end of the pole. The distance between hands should be approximately shoulder width apart and perhaps 1 - 2 inches longer if any at all. The old school taught that a wide grip would help the vaulter bend the pole. Paradoxically, this is not true. A narrower grip allows the vaulter to actively plant with both arms and puts the vaulter in a better position to swing and rock-back. The transition is actually better from take-off to swing with a narrower grip and helps the vaulter to bend the pole more than with a wide grip. If a vaulter needs a wide grip to bend the pole, chances are that he is vaulting incorrectly and does not have a dynamic vault.

    At start of the run-up, the right hand should be located by the right hip slightly touching it, while the left hand should be at the height of the left side of the chest at a distance of 10 cm (5 inches) from the trunk. The pole should be held nearly vertically at the
 approach. Moreover, the pole should be held such that the butt-plug end of the pole does not deviate too much to the left. That is, you should be able to lower the pole on a runway with twenty foot walls to the right and left of you. (See Figures 4 & 5).

Several key factors to remember:

1.     Your shoulders should always remain square to the runway. You want to simulate
        running with the pole as if you were not running with the pole. A sprinter does
        not run sideways with his left shoulder leading and right shoulder trailing.

2.     Keep both hands relatively high. The higher you keep your hands, the less
        movement it will take to lower the pole and plant it. The right hand should go no
        lower than your hip. I prefer to hold the pole slightly above the waist line. The left
        hand should drop no lower than about the middle of your torso.

3.     The lowering of the pole is more right arm dependent. That is, you lower the
        pole be raising your right elbow, and only slightly lowering the left hand. For
        beginners with poor shoulder flexibility, this may be a problem. Flexibility of
        the shoulders is extremely critical to be an efficient vaulter.

4.     For balancing purposes and efficiency, the goal is to move the hands as little as
        possible until the actual plant. You do not want to swing your pole back and
        forth as you run. However, it is natural to allow your elbows and arms to bounce a
        little. Holding the pole should feel natural and comfort really is the bottom line. If
        you still look kind of stupid holding the pole, your coach may need to redefine your
        concept of comfort.

The Run-up or Approach and the Pole Plant

    The run-up and the pole plant should be considered as one integral movement. The plant begins at the end of the runway. Start at the end of the runway with the pole nearly vertical. The entire vault consists of a gradual dropping of the pole that aids in the acceleration of the approach and maintenance of speed immediately prior to takeoff. The length of the approach is determined by the number of left steps taken. I like to start with my weight shifted onto my left leg, stepping back with the right and a slight lift of the pole to get my momentum going. Some vaulters take a slight skip step to get going. I prefer to get right into to the run. The important thing to remember is that you start exactly the same way every time you vault. Taking this one step further, your entire approach must also be the same each time. Some coaches advocate 2 or 3 check marks to make sure that the approach is consistent each time. For the most part, 1 check mark at the start of the run-up should be sufficient unless the vaulter is having an enormous problem with consistency during approach.

    Counting left steps is important for beginning vaulters to learn to be consistent on approach. The first left step is counted immediately after the first right step is taken. The last left step is when you take-off the ground. High school vaulters usually take about 7 - 9 left steps and college vaulters 10 -12 left steps. If the vaulter is able to utilize a longer approach, he will have more time to accelerate and have a faster speed immediately prior to take-off. The rhythm of the count should be gradually quickened so that the last left-right-left steps are quick and explosive.

    The run-up is very similar to a long jump approach. The vaulter should run tall, pushing off his toes, driving the knees, and have a very subtle forward lean. The left-right-left steps immediately prior to take-off are the most important part of the vault. It should be fast and explosive. The smoothness of the these final three steps are dependent on the timing and effectiveness of the plant. If you watch good long jumpers like Mike Powell or Carl Lewis, you would notice that on the right step before the take-off left step (the penultimate step), they lower their center of mass slightly by settling. Although the vaulter may not settle quite as much as a long jumper, he should nevertheless settle on his penultimate step. This will allow the vaulter to be able to jump off the ground at take-off. A vaulter does not want to merely run off the ground but actually long jump off the ground. Moreover, you might notice that at take-off, long jumpers do not lean back but try to hit the board in an upright extended position. Likewise, vaulters should be as tall as possible at the plant. If a vaulter consciously thinks about long jumping off the ground chances are that he will settle on the penultimate step. Another good way to visualize this process is to imagine that you are Michael Jordan and that your are dunking from the free-throw line. Try to do a right hand lay-up near the rim or dunk without settling on the penultimate step. It is nearly impossible.

    Getting back to the plant, remember that the entire approach is a plant. By the time you get to the left step prior to the take-off left step your pole should be nearly horizontal. At this point, your right elbow is about as high as it will be able to physically go. The left hand should drop slightly. You next want to flip your right hand over and begin to start pushing the pole slightly forward and up with both arms. This will coincide with the penultimate step. By the time your take-off foot touches the ground, both arms should be pushed directly overhead and the pole tip should be in the box, but not initially at the back of the box. When the vaulter follows through with his takeoff step and jumps off the ground, the pole tip will naturally slide into the back of the box. This transition should be smooth and a coach should be able to tell if the vaulter is late in his plant by merely listening to the sound of the plant. A loud thud is more than likely a late plant.

    The plant should not be forced into the box. It should fall naturally as if gravity is allowing the pole to drop into the box. Stabbing the box with the pole or reaching for the box with the pole will cause the vaulter to lean forward excessively. This causes the vaulter to overstride his last step, be short on his plant, and be under at take-off. A successful plant occurs when at the vaulter's most extended position, his left foot is directly underneath his right hand. If his left foot is forward of his right hand he is "under", and if it is behind his step is "out." The vaulter loses significant amount of energy transfer to the pole if he is too far under or too far out. If the vaulter is under, he will have the sensation of being "ripped off the ground." Vaulters may injure their shoulders, back, or abdomen should they get ripped. Getting ripped causes the vaulter to initiate his swing too early and the vaulter often stalls out with less penetration. He also loses a lot of vertical speed and has a more difficult time jumping the pole to vertical. The new pre-jump idea utilizes a step that is slightly "out." The vaulter is able to attain some vertical height before the pole actually begins to bend. This is a somewhat advanced concept that may not necessarily be utilized at the high school level. However, the vaulter should think about jumping before the pole starts to bend. By doing so, the vaulter will be able to jump the pole to vertical more efficiently. He will only be able to do this if his plant is high and his step is not under.

    A common mistake at the plant is to do a "round-house" plant. The vaulter lets his right arm get away from his body to the right making a circular motion. Planting this way is inefficient and almost always causes the vaulter to be late in his plant. The entire pole drop from the end of the runway up to the box should be kept close to the person's body. Think about a vertical plane that bisects the middle of the vaulter's body running along the length of the runway. When the vaulter plants, he should try to maintain his pole within this plane. Moreover, the continuation of the plant into take-off should continue through this plane. Therefore, at take-off, the pole should be completely overhead and the vaulter should jump directly behind this pole and up and into it. To be successful, the vaulter's shoulders must be squared off at the plant. Too often a vaulter tries to jump along the side of the pole. It must be emphasized that a significant amount of energy is lost unless the vaulter is directing all of his energy through this imaginary plane. In addition, if the vaulter is not correctly aligned at the plant, for instance his right hand is planted slightly to the right of this plane, he will not vault through the middle but drift off to the side. (See Figure 6 & 7).


    The take-off is actually an extension of the plant. The transition is made smoother by getting both hands up and over your head and initiating the take-off before the pole hits the back of the box. By merely following through on the take-off, the pole will slide into the back of the box. This will prevent the vaulter from getting ripped off the ground. Moreover, the vaulter should not initially feel a support from the pole after leaving the ground. If he does, this means that he was ripped off the ground and did not successfully jump off the ground. Not until the vaulter feels a firm support should he initiate the swing portion of the vault. While taking off the ground, the vaulter should attempt to extend off his trail leg, lead with his chest, keep his torso perpendicular to the runway, drive the lead (right) knee, and relax at both shoulders. This causes a "C" formation and is the most important position immediately following take-off to achieve penetration. (See figures 6 & 7). Both arms should be fully extended. Never pull down or bend the right arm. A slight bend in the left arm is acceptable. However, I still believe a more dynamic vault results from a straight left arm. The mistake is made when the vaulter locks his left arm out in front of him. He should attempt to resist with the left arm, and allow the pole to go over his head. It is important to keep the shoulders square throughout this process. The idea is to create a 180~~ angle between the left arm and the torso prior to the swing. Having achieved this position, the vaulter will have a much more powerful swing. (See Figure 9).

The Swing

    The swing begins as soon as the vaulter feels a support on his right hand from the pole. At this point, the vaulter relaxes his lead (right) knee and starts to swing his trail (left) leg through. The head should not drop backwards, but should remain in line with the torso. (See Figure 10).

The Rock-Back

    The swing flows smoothly into the rock-back. At this point, the vaulter puts down-pressure down the axis of the pole, while attempting to bring his right knee into his chest and the trail leg over his head. The head should always be kept in line with the torso. Do not throw the head back. (See Figure 11 & 12). A common mistake during the rock-back is to stare at the bar. By doing so, the vaulter prevents himself from getting as far back as he should. Consequently, he shoots off of the pole horizontally (flags out) and usually attempts to go for the bar too early.

The Pull-Push-&-Turn

    This phase should really occur naturally if the vaulter has sufficiently loaded energy
into the pole and achieved the correct position, i.e., "covered the bend of the pole." The vaulter should not initiate the pull-push-&-turn until the pole has completely uncoiled. The pole should reach vertical before this phase is begun. He starts by pulling with his right and left arm along the axis of the pole, then pushing and turning at the same time. The object is to become an extension off the top of the pole. The vaulter wants to achieve a handstand before completely pushing off the top of his pole. A quick flick of the right hand with the palm facing toward the right should sufficiently prevent the pole from knocking the bar down. This is of course assuming that the vaulter is vaulting over his handgrip. It may be necessary for the beginning vaulter to actively push the pole towards the runway before fly-away. The fly-away consists of the vaulter's attempt to successfully clear the bar. The vaulter should not pull his head up or drop his feet too early. He must get his arms and hands back and over his head. Bending at the knees, with a slight arch of the back in conjunction with throwing the arms backward and upward will help the vaulter's torso to clear away from the bar. The vaulter should fly-away naturally and it is fun to experiment with different types of fly-aways given different presenting situations. (See Figures 13 - 15).

Elements of the Pole Vault
From the Trainers of Sergei Bubka

ELEMENTS of the movement form the basis of vaulting. They begin from the first steps of the run-up and continue smoothly with the lowering of the pole, the swing, pull-up, take-off and landing.

    All the major aspects of pole vaulting technique have been largely examined or tested in perfecting the technique with poles of limited flexibility (bamboo or metal) and high flexibility (fiberglass of various forms and modifications). We would like here to specify certain details that we have tested. Various opinions have been voiced on diverse nuances of technique, people have shifted their ground views on one movement or another (where the hands grip the pole, where exactly take-off takes place, the principle of left-hand work during entry, whether to drop the free (swing) leg or not to drop it in entry, when it is best to begin the turn), but two aspects - constant increase in grip on the pole and increase to difference between the vaulter's weight and the pole strength (the weight at which the pole is calculated) have shown a tendency constantly to improve. Modern vaulters take a grip at 5 m (16' 4 1/2") and higher, and the difference in the weight of the vaulter and the strength of the pole is now more than 10 kg (22 Ibs), and in some instances even 20 kg (44 Ibs).

    I shall talk of certain general principles which have been derived from work with a group in which the world champion and record holder Sergei Bubka trains.

1.     Holding the pole

    The position of the athlete holding the pole depends on several factors, but the overriding ones are: pole weight, means of placing the pole in the take-off position, speed of run-up (this is something new which has forced us to review our opinion on carrying the pole) and grip on the pole. The principle criterion, however, is convenience in holding the pole. Slow lowering of the pole as the vaulter approaches the box is a common rule for all vaulters. With the raising of the grip, and it will continue to rise in the future, and so will the pole weight correspondingly, some experts have suggested widening the distance between the hands for ease. We determine the width of the grip on the pole in the following way. We proposed to the athlete that he performs the following exercise on the horizontal bar: to swing up and over, with push off. The vaulter, not suspecting anything, decides himself the width of grip on the pole equivalent to his handgrip on the horizontal bar. That is, he has felt it comfortable to hang and do the exercise on the bar: naturally that has depended on his shoulder width and the mobility of his shoulder joints. Having proposed the same grip on the pole and having raised the end of the pole almost vertically, the vaulter has not felt any discomfort with any weight of pole (we run easily with poles whose weight is 2-3 times greater than the pole normally used in competition). With such a pole position and handgrip during the initial position at the start of the run-up, the right hand is located by the right hip and slightly touches it, while the left hand is at the height of the left side of the chest at a distance of 10 cm from the trunk. This position is natural and is regarded as such throughout their run by sprinters and long jumpers. Freedom of holding the pole enabled us at the start to control the vaulter's posture from the very beginning of the run-up.

2.     Run-up and pole plant

    The run-up and pole plant in the box should be seen as a single integral movement: one must not think that pole vaulter's plant begins directly before the box. The run-up distance depends on the vaulter's ability to gather maximum speed bearing in mind that run-up smoothness depends on the even lengthening of each subsequent step. When attaining top speed the step length must be constant. Therefore, the rhythm of the run-up has not been a bone of contention with us (how to start the run-up, quickly or from few steps, where to pick up speed - in the middle or at the end): the rhythm of the run-up has been based on uniformly increasing speed throughout the length of the run-up. The relationship that determines the smooth run-up continues throughout the run-up length and the lowering of the pole - i.e., the speed of lowering the pole must be synchronized with the vaulter's speed in run-up. One may easily control that rhythm when the vaulter's speed in running with the pole is within 10 m/sec or is about the speed of a body falling freely. At the start of the run-up the pole and vaulter merge into a single whole. A slight swinging of the pole forward at the start of the run-up gives us a standard thrust and, correspondingly, produces standard steps: further, when increasing speed with the gradual lowering of the pole there appears an additional thrust that forces us to run more quickly with an increased sride rate.  This is very important at take-off.

    In the run-up we use only one check mark which is placed at the beginning of the run-up. The whole rhythm of the run-up is subordinated to the smoothness of picking up speed and lowering the pole. While at the start of the run-up the pole, being in a vertical position, presses its weight mainly on the right hand only, during the run-up and lowering of the pole, the pole's weight steadily switches from the right to the left hand. The left hand moves away from the trunk and now holds the pole, guiding it into the box. From the first steps the right arm is constantly bending at the elbow and guiding the lowering of the pole. By the end of the run-up the pole is taking a horizontal position in relation to the track, and in raising the upper end of the pole both arms at once play an active part, which ensures a smooth sliding of the lower end of the pole into the box. It is now very important not to lose the smoothness of raising the top of the pole and to finish with a powerful and swift take-off. One gains the impression that the vaulter is not planting the pole in the final two steps of the run-up, but somehow 'runs into' a position where the pole drops naturally. By that device we have removed certain losses in speed associated with the pole plant, but the main thing is that we have maintained the smoothness of gathering speed up to the take-off - by combining the speed of lowering the pole and the speed of the vaulter's run into a single movement. That requires a great deal of work, but the work is worth it when you sense that you can take at once a 15-20 cm higher grip and use a pole of 5.6 kg heavier weight. The time has come when a precise and correct execution of lowering of the pole and take-off is determining a vaulter's class and potential. No matter what talent your athlete, if he does not master the element of lowering and planting the pole he will never become a top-class vaulter. A pole vaulter is, in fact, born in the last steps of the run-up; ability to perform the concluding part of the run-up determines the ability of a vaulter to perform vaults.

    The final steps are of crucial importance for a pole vaulter generally. If a vaulter performs the final steps correctly - i.e., with steady acceleration, the pole and the take-off occur very quickly and thereby create the necessary conditions for a good vault.

3.    Pole plant into the box

    The plant is a key element in transferring from run-up to vault, and the plant ends in a swift body extension which must take place before the pole touches the back wall of the box. In order to perform a proper take-off (including forcing the pole upwards), the position of take-off must be strictly beneath the grip of the upper arm.

    The question of where one should take-off - before, after or on the vertical - should not be a matter of discussion, in so far as the vaulter can raise the pole to the maximum above the track only standing on the vertical beneath the grip. We have one more test for checking the grip on the competition pole. the vaulter stands on the vertical, holds the pole in the competitive grip where the pole is touching the back wall of the box. Marking on the track the point of take-off, he puts the pole on the track and places his right hand on the pole at the point of take-off; if he runs from six steps (the run-up should start from a standing position) and makes the vertical position in the direction of the landing area, his grip may be considered optimum for him, but if he does not reach the vertical or may take a higher grip and pass through, then he has selected his grip wrongly. With Sergei Bubka that grip is 4.25 m, which corresponds to the distance from the back wall of the box to the take-off position using competitive grip. What is more, that test should tell us whether you possess "a set of criteria" for the plant.

4.     Take-off

    No matter what happens in the course of the take-off, everything must be directed towards a smooth transfer of the body weight onto the pole and to the speed of movement at the start of the swing; that will depend on how well one combines the plant and take-off, and on whether you are able to hit the back of the box correctly. In no circumstances should the pole be put into the back of the box before the end of the takeoff. And only on concluding the take-off should the pole smoothly transfer into support, which also depends on a good movement of the pole to the vertical. The coach need not watch the vaulter's actions in the takeoff, but can hear the correct take-off and can tell what mistake the vaulter has made in the plant and take-off.

    We do not share the view of those who say that the take-off in vaulting is distinct in that there is no free take-off, straightening the drive leg, pressing the pole perpendicularly, and that this helps its initial bending. We approach this differently. The vaulter's task is to drive the pole at take-off as much as possible and to give himself a free take-off with transfer at the end into a smooth plant of the pole, but the vaulter should not feel for a smooth support, only a smooth plant. The vaulter should feel the pole during the swing/rock-back as a firm support, while in the latter part of the vault he should be able to control that force. That is why, when you look at Bubka's vault, you will see the swing/rock-back and flight upwards, and all phases of the swing and turn seem to occur unnoticed. By using the speed of run-up and take-off so swiftly and adroitly he transfers from a hang, while the pole bends beneath him of itself, and not by pressure of the left hand in the take-off. The pole behaves roughly like the drive leg at take-off. The vaulter tries to place his leg straight and rigid, but under the pressure of speed and body mass the leg bends, and then throws the vaulter up. During the plant the pole becomes straight, but it bends under the effect of the vaulter's speed and body mass (the vaulter senses its resilience and may make exercises on it). The it transfers kinetic energy to the vaulter, throwing him upwards, and it is here that he must succeed, before discarding it, in taking up a suitable position before the throw - i.e., to cover the bent pole with his hips and legs to the maximum.

    Making or encouraging the vaulter to force bending the pole as much as possible in penetration means allowing him to commit a crude error. He bends the pole and even may pass through the vertical, but his vault will not be dynamic, fading away in rhythm; the hanging above the bar or the throwing up of the legs will be ensured. A good lead-in exercise for planting the pole after forcing the pole upwards will be to perform the run-up along the track with full body extension, after which the vaulter may smoothly place the pole on the track. If the pole falls to or touches the track before full body extension it is a very serious mistake and stems from incorrect work with hands in lowering and planting the pole.

    As we have mentioned, the left hand does not lower the pole in the run-up, moving it slightly forward (to the length of the forearm) and taking the pole as support through which the pole is smoothly lowered to the horizontal (approximately on the level of the right shoulder), and then comes the straightening of both arms with the right hand, which ends with the take-off, giving the body an extended position in all joints except the lead leg which is bent at right angles to the trunk. This where a narrow grip on the pole (within 48-52 cm) plays a decisive role. A wide grip would not provide the simultaneous and high pole plant with both hands, and would not produce a swift and powerful turn on the pole. Only with full extension of the body after the forward and upward take-off can one very swiftly make the swing and turn on the pole. Moreover, a narrow grip on the pole forces one, however paradoxical it may sound, more quickly to bend the pole after take-off and safeguards the shoulders from injuries which are more frequently suffered by vaulters using a wide grip. A good extended position at the end of the take-off is key feature both in a fast rock-back/upswing on the pole and for maximum bending of the pole. The rock-back and upswing must be completed before the pole begins to straighten or the conclusion of the swing up must mark the start of the pole straightening: the rock-back and upswing on the pole is considered complete when the vaulter has managed to cover the arc of the pole with his hips and legs, while the legs somehow serve as a continuation of the upper end of the pole.

5.     Swing/Rock-back

    The swing/rock-back should be performed as quickly and powerfully as possible: and the vaulter should not try to bend his legs at the knees and the hip joints, which make the grouping faster, but he would bend the pole less, and it will be a problem to turn the shoulders downwards. Movement of the shoulders, and their precise acceleration in the swing and rock-back, is something new in pole vaulting with large grips and heavy poles. It is particularly important to maintain the shoulders movement when you have covered the bent pole with your hips and legs. If at that moment you begin the movement with bending the right arm, which is very frequently seen even with experienced vaulters, your pole will begin straightaway to straighten and will throw you from a high trajectory which you could attain by moving the shoulders down the pole. This shoulder movement will enable you to hold the pole in a bent position longer and to gain the power of the straightening pole from the shoulders to the body, and not from the arms to the legs and, what is very important, not to hamper the pole turning at the point of support (important for the athlete turning on the pole). Evidently this innovation in vaulting technique will enable the vaulter to interact with the pole with great effect. On the one hand, he can continue to interact with it, moving the pole vaulter system forward, and on the other hand he can successfully move upwards while maintaining a big vertical speed up to 6 m a second. A powerful bending of the pole throws the vaulter upwards and if the efforts of the bending pole come from the shoulders through the vaulter's entire longitudinal axial line, the vault may be considered a success. The overall center of gravity has a high position and is close to the top arm. The vaulter is in good balance and he does not have to expend much effort in clearing the bar.

    At the moment of maximum bending of the pole, the bending forces and the elastic forces attain equilibrium, but since acceleration of the center of the mass becomes negative, pressure on the pole diminishes and it begins to straighten. A further rise in the body occurs with pole straightening. The main task of the vaulter at this moment is to bring the center of the mass closer to the axis of the straightening pole, the athlete also straightens upwards along the pole, and commences at the end of the movement a body turn around the pole.

        The moving forces of the vaulter's body rise are as follows:

        1.     Kinetic energy of the straightening pole
        2.     The power boost of the athlete's muscle effort

    Further, the main force is energy of the straightening pole. The power boost of muscle contraction may only maintain the speed of movement and keep the body at the axis bending.

    However, even with a reduction in vertical speed in Sergei Bubka's best vaults in letting go of the pole there remains sufficient speed for the rise in the center of mass to continue without support. The speed reaches 2 m per second.

    Having analyzed all that has been said we conclude that the principal criterion in attaining world record heights will be development of speed of run-up and power of take-off.

    In combining that into an integral vault, modern vaulters will be able to increase their grip on the pole to 5.2 m and the flight away from the pole to 1.2 m (relative to the grip and height of the bar).

    We are confident that by 1990 the record in pole vaulting will be between 6.1S - 6.20 m.


        THE TRUNK.



        LONG JUMPER.









Dunn, Maureen. Long Jumper and Consultant. Former University of Nebraska Track Star.

Falk, Bill. "The Continuous Chain" Using the New Russian Drop-Tip Techinique: Taking the     Mystery Out of Fiberglass Pole Vaulting, Book III, M-F Athletic Company, Inc., 1989.

Falk, Bill. "The Continuous Chain" Using the New Russian Drop-Tip Techinique: Taking the     Mystery Out of Fiberglass Pole Vaulting, Video Tape, M-F Athletic Company, Inc., 1989.

Johnson, Jan. Sky Systems One, Video Tape. Sky Jumpers, 1990.

Johnson, Jan. Sky Systems Two, Video Tape. Sky Jumpers, 1991.

Rothmeier, Bill. Pole Vaulter and Consultant. Former University of Wisconsin Decathlete.

Shannon, Ken. Head Coach of the University of Washington Men's Track & Field Team.