The height of a pole vault is the most recognized part of a pole vaulting sequence, but the height is directly influenced by the components leading up to clearing the bar. As a vaulter you begin running forward while holding the pole vertically, gradually lowering the pole to place it in the “box” for takeoff. The top of the pole bends back toward you and you use your arms and body strength to pull and push yourself into a vertical position — feet toward the sky — before rotating your body to arch over the bar.
Pole vaulters often are fast sprinters, as horizontal speed will play a large part in determining how high you go. According to the American Physical Society, by using your height and sprint speed, experts can approximate the upper limits of your jump. Your sprint speed is particularly critical in terms of its translation into the height you achieve. Elite pole vaulters seek to eliminate energy loss during takeoff — when you are moving from a horizontal to a vertical position. In addition to pushing you to new heights, your speed will directly determine the size of the pole you can use. Pole length, in turn, will influence the heights you can attain.
During the takeoff phase of a pole vault, myriad events are occurring. You will plant the pole in the box; because the pole is now stationary, the energy of your run — plus added energy from your arms and body weight — bends the pole toward you. This phase, called the “swing” or “rockback,” also is important. You will leave the ground and swing your body upright, using as much of the kinetic — or moving — energy built up during your run as possible to shoot upward and turn your body to clear the bar.
Sport of Inches
Accomplished pole vaulters and their coaches are aware that inches, in all aspects of the sport, matter. Speed is an important component and must be practiced and honed to give you any advantage possible. Other factors, such as where you place your hands on the pole, the pole’s position during your approach and the distance of your approach, all add up to gaining or losing an inch of height. Elite vaulters practice for years, studying techniques and breaking down vaulting sequences to find areas in which to improve just an inch or two.
by: Christy Callahan