Pole Vaulting Body Mass: Men vs. Women


On average, male pole vaulters clear higher marks than female pole vaulters. Athletic ability isn’t the only reason; there are both superior male and female athletes who compete in the sport. The basic physics integral to executing pole vaulting sheds more light onto what enables men to pole vault higher on average than women.

Pole Stiffness

Based on pole vaulting statistics from the International Association of Athletics Federations, the top professional male pole vaulters average approximately 1.10 m more than the top females. This relates directly to body mass. Males generally weigh more, which translates into greater gravitational potential energy produced by motion, or kinetic energy. The pole an athlete uses for vaulting needs to have the correct stiffness to support the kinetic energy he produces. If the pole is too stiff, his force of energy will not be enough to optimize the bend in the pole.

Calculating Center of Mass

The difference in height between men and women makes a slight but noticeable impact on pole vaulting. The center of mass is considered to be the point in a body that acts as if all body mass were concentrated at that point, at approximately 55 percent of your total height. The center of mass is most crucial during pole vaulting at the top of the vault, when the athlete elevates the center of mass above the crossbar and rotates the body over to clear it.


The biggest variable in a pole vaulting action sequence is the athlete’s sprinting speed. The amount of kinetic energy developed during the run-up is largely dependent on how many meters per second can be covered. The faster the athlete runs, the greater the kinetic energy. Combining speed with body mass — through the stiffness of the pole, which converts mass into gravitational potential energy — and overall technique results in the fundamentals of pole vaulting. Greater speed and body mass typically result in higher vaults.


The difference in male and female body mass has no impact on pole vaulting technique, which contributes greatly to how high an athlete can vault. The quality of various pole vault elements, such as grip, pole plant, push-off, transition, rotation and pole release, are purely based on hard training and skill, with no discernible gender inequality. But when considering the other factors in pole vaulting, males in general outperform their female counterparts as long as technique is optimized by both.

by: Dan Harriman

Pole Vaulting
Pole Vaulting


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