Pole Vault Combine

News about Elite US pole vaulters and elite competitions that occur on US soil.

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Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby PV2020 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:08 am

This past outdoor season the NCAA had 12 men jump over 5.50m outdoor. There were also a few more individuals that have cleared 5.50 but just not this past outdoor season. There were also 7 individuals over 5.60 which is considered the 'B' standard a lot of years, two of those over the world championship 'A' standard of 5.70 and one to be the first 19' pole vaulter in a long time in the United States.

This is one of the deepest fields we have seen in a long time. and almost all of them are American!

Before I get too long winded I will get to the point. A while ago someone posted they were trying to help support emerging elite pole vaulters. But I feel as if developing vaulters is handled the wrong way. I once asked my college coach why he would sometimes recruit 14' pole vaulters when there were a hand full of 15' in the area. His answer was that in our conference it took over 17' to score so there was no need to recruit a 15' guy that he didn't think was athletic enough to jump 17' if there was a 14' one he did think was athletic enough to eventually go 17'.

I think the same can be said for developing elite pole vaulters. In the USA, receiving sponsorship pretty much means you are currently the best available, not the one with the most potential. What if the 5.50 guy is far more athletic than the 5.80 guy but he was just a late bloomer or did not have the right area to train? Other than watching them on the podium at USA indoors, what is the point of a company signing a a 5.80 guy that does not have the raw speed and strength to ever go over 6.00m when a hand full of 5.50 guys have the potential.

This all being said, is there anyone out there right now that you truly has the athletic ability to one day consistently jump over 6.00 or challenge to bring the world record back to the USA?

If there was to be a pole vault combine among college and emerging elite athletes who would be the champion?

This would include things like:

40 yard dash (30m for track nerds)
Broad Jump
Overhead shot put
Standing triple jump
Flying 10m speed

I know these are not all 'directly related' to the vault, bu they show who the true athletes are. I bet if you took a guy like Bubka he would dominate all of those test.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby PV2020 » Thu Jan 02, 2014 3:22 am

Athletes in the top 25 outdoor who did another event besides pole vault:

John Prader: 5.67 pole vaulter, 6.70m long jumper (about 22')

Logan Cunningham: 5.53m pole vaulter, 10.88 100m, 22.28 200m dash

Jeremy Klas: 5.50m pole vaulter, 11.70 100m dash

Chase Brannon: 5.41m pole vaulter, 11.41 100m dash, 59.77m Javelin

Michael Arnold: 5.41m pole vaulter, 11.80 100m dash, 6.60m long jump

Thomas Reinecke: 5.41m pole vaulter, 6.54m long jumper

Dustin Gehrke: 5.41m pole vaulter, 6.62m long jumper

So as you can see from what they have done other than pole vault, according to what is on paper, most of the top vaulters are pretty slow. Logan Cunningham is by far the fastest guy who has ran anything, and I am sure there are others in the top 25 that could outperform these marks. But even the one thing I noticed about vaulters who hop in the decathlon or heptathlon for their universities for points, they are pretty slow. They are just big strong guys that have a lot of impulse and can sometimes long jump pretty well off of power.

One of my favorite quotes from a coach: "There have been good tall pole vaulters, there have been good short pole vaulters, there have been good skinny pole vaulters, and there have been good muscular pole vaulters, but there have never been any good slow pole vaulters!"

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby dj » Fri Jan 03, 2014 11:43 am

Speed, how we are teaching (OR NOT TEACHING IT AT ALL)the approach run, short runs and SHORT RUN VAULTING.... IS what is keeping us ok but average...

In the 80's and pre short run vaulting 9.4's/9.5mph over the last 4 steps was "average" now 9.1's/9.3's is the norms for American vaulters...

And it's not drugs or lack of speed talent, it is simply how we are teaching, coaching and approaching the event.

We are teaching vaulters how to run slow, over stride, take off under, force bend the pole and they cannot adjust and vault with speed. Even when they have speed and need it for a high grip, bigger pole or a higher vault they "blow up" and don't know how to vault with speed because they have practiced incorrectly.

Mike Tully improved his runway speed to 9.4s/9.5s and he was one of the slower vaulters of his era... Once he improved his run his vaulting started to get much better, easy, consistent 19 foot jumps, he just ran out of time and messed up an Achilles at the wrong time...

As Kevin Brown said at the USATFCCA coaches conference a few weeks ago... Accelerate from the start... Not slow dancing.

I like to say it like this... "Toe your mark and haul A$$"....

If you don't you WILL get beat....


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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby ADTF Academy » Fri Jan 03, 2014 2:41 pm

Benchmarks are in fact vital, but looking only at athletic marks in other events can be misleading. Let me make this case and tell me if these numbers are considered good by themselves.

100: 11.38
LJ: 7.19
JV: 38.86
400: 53.84

would you consider those numbers to be special athletically?

BTW those are of Renaud Lavillenie when he did his multi this year. The best and most consistent pole vaulter in the world right now.

If you going off raw talent than the greatest pole vault potential of all time should be Ashton Eaton. Will he ever jump over 6 meters? Will he ever have the mental ability to grip high enough to challenge Sergey's Record? Athletically he has more than enough tools.

Here are my bench marks for the next male 6 meter vaulter.... (vaulter can be +/- a few cms on grip and push)

Over a 5.05 meter grip
Over 9.6 m/s velocity in the last two steps (plus mentally being able to handle the velocity)
Toe off to peak of jump in around 1.42 seconds
Achieve a push of over 1.10 meters

Here are my bench marks for the next female 4.90 meter vaulter.... (vaulter can be +/- a few cms on grip and push)

Over a 4.45 meter grip
Over 8.6 m/s in last two steps (plus mentally being able to handle the velocity)
Toe off to peak of jump in around 1.40 seconds
Achieve a push of over .60 meters

There is the master plan for the men and woman so go find a vaulter who can match these numbers and you will have near your next 6 meter and 4.90 vaulter. These are approximations so they can be on the +/- side of grip or push. If you do the math they equal 5.95 and 4.85 hence the must be over component. Good Luck!!!!!

We have vaulters with the grip, but their vault time is too slow. We have vaulters with the speed, but their grip is too low. We have vaulters with the push, but gripping to low. We have vaulters with the grip and vault time, but either not fast enough or doesn't have good enough posture at takeoff to get on a stiff enough pole to get the needed push. It's 100% a numbers game so tweaking things can limit you in other areas. Be smart!!! That's the job of the coach/athlete to work together to figure out what is the perfect numbers for that athlete not for pole vault as a whole. The athlete's job is to execute at the highest velocity possible with the highest grip on the stiffest pole with the least wasted time possible that allows them to safely rotate the pole past vertical. Yep that generic!!!

Can you identify the next vaulter with the mental ability to grip high enough on a stiff enough pole with enough speed that has little to no delays in their jump? Not rocket science by any means just challenging to find all three of those dimensions at the same time and than take into account the more important issue: mentally can they perform the movements all the time under every condition imaginable.

If you're someone reading this with a high end high school or college vaulter. Compare the numbers above, as well as the grip data below, to the athletes you have. How far off are they? Than ask the question how can I close the gap on those numbers. Than and only than will you have someone who can compete at the highest level. If you're hunting for height and its not by adjusting one of those four components good luck. Technique or coordination improvements aid in the achievement of athletic movements it does not 100% lead to improvements in height. Doing running drills till you master them won't make you faster by themselves. It will aid in teaching the body the coordination pattern needed to perform the athletic movements needed to sprint faster.

Secondary Benchmarks, but not 100% maxes, but these are a safe time IMO to say did we get the most out of that length of pole. I will be the first to admit that higher pushes can be achieved by IMO cheating the system to produce push yet killing the ability to rotate higher grips. Both must improve at the same rate ideally IMO. We see it all the time high school girl jumps high only to stale out in college because she can't improve grip. Vault was taught to maximize push while sacrificing pole rotation speed. No win situation for college coach and athlete. I think it's less evident on the guys side they tend to want to grip higher 99.99% of the time.

Basic chart I use to ask the question is it time to look at the next length pole. Approximations!!!! Not gender specific but gets a little off for guys at 15 and 15'7 poles. Shouldn't stay on length of pole long if nearing 17' IMO anyways.

12' poles will lead to even push so roughly 11' to 11'4 clearances
13' poles will lead to 30cm push so roughly 12' 4 to 13'4 clearances
13'7 poles will lead to 40cm push so roughly 13'2 to 14'2 clearances
14' poles will lead to 45cm push so roughly 13'10 to 14'10 clearances
14'7 poles will lead to 52cm push so roughly 14'8 to 15'8 clearances
15' poles will lead to 60cm push so roughly 15' 4 to 16'4 clearances
15'7 poles will lead to 75cm push so roughly 16'4 to 17'4 clearances
16' poles will lead to 90cm push so roughly 17'0 to 18'4 clearances
5 meter poles will lead to 1 meter push so roughly 17'6 to 19'0 clearances
5.10 poles will lead to 1.1 meter push so roughly 18'0 to 19'8 clearances
5.20 poles will lead to 1.2 meter push so roughly 18'4 to 20'6 clearances

Which numbers are they hitting? Which numbers are they missing? Close the gap.... If you're a coach that looks at these figures and says those pushes are way to low than you're probably a coach that focuses on the swing as the number one component of technique. If you look at them and say they are a tad high than you focus on moving grip as the number one component of technique. As long as both types are being safe and making sure the number one importance is landing safe in the pits than neither approach is wrong it's their choice. If a parent and athlete don't agree find a new coach to work with. I will say as a developmental coach I'll take the college kid who came from a system of rotate pole grip safely into the pit over a grip low and swing vaulter. Someone who learns a technique focused on safely rotating grip tends to have a greater upside IMO on the elite level. If your competitors are out gripping you by over a foot sorry you can't beat them.

Basically everyone on the elite level is a freak athlete. I'm around them on a regular basis. They all have a special body type about them. Even the short woman have legs that go on and on for ever. The question is as a coach guiding the athletes are you clever enough to find a way to constantly make improvements to grip height, vault time, runway speed and push height?

To me the answer to the original question with help from the the data on Renaud that shows average athletically performances in other events can produce a 6 meter vaulter. The vault is not the 100 meter dash or the Long Jump. It is it's own set of skills. So can you find the athlete who has the athletic ability needed that will actually trust the system in place enough to produce improvements to grip, stiffness, runway speed and vault time. If the athlete trusts and the coach has an understanding of how to improve those areas than you have an athlete that will improve. If the athlete doubts or thinks they know better the system they will probably fail 99.99% of the time. On the woman's side I feel like there are a few candidates in the US who meet this. On the Men's side I don't see this to be the case. Second tier elites tend to be self coach thinkers. The top guys seem to be engulfed in a highly focused program from technique to meet selection. College vaulters are basically told your here on scholarship you do what I tell you to do or there is the door. So they do as they are told and advance to a degree. After college the ability to self think and explore I feel can get in the way at times. Over thinking is the worst thing an athlete can do IMO.....

Best tests I've seen so far are to demonstrate potential...

Max Hang Clean for 1-3 reps? This is while catching at a max squat position of near 90 degrees.
GCT Forces applied on impact with the ground?

If you don't have a force plate the second one is tough to know. The first one isn't. How much can the athlete pull from their thighs not the ground and catch it? Some athletes get really good at the technique of cleans and catch the weight really low than do a front squat. Video the lift they really don't have to lift it very far they are good at the action of catching in a deep front squat. See how much weight they can move and catch near/above a 90 degree squat? This will show you their real power numbers in the hang clean in performing triple extension. It matches up very well with the power component needed for a natural Stride Length.
Last edited by ADTF Academy on Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby PV2020 » Fri Jan 03, 2014 10:44 pm

I do strongly agree that more people need to run faster on the run way as well as start working their grips up. I feel as if it is easier to teach technique than grip height. I have personally seen guys that can grip high slowly get better by improving their technique while guys with 'perfect' technique struggle with low grips and although they have good push offs they get beat by guys with bigger grips.

However saying Renuad is a 11.38 guy and that you do not have to be 'that' fast is an understatement. Renaud's PR according to all-athletics is 11.01 and he has posted video of him running a laser timed 6.70 in the 60m dash which adding a good reaction time comes out to 6.85-6.90 and that converts to anything from 10.40-10.70.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby ADTF Academy » Sat Jan 04, 2014 12:27 am

His PR is actually 11.04 at the Bondoufle French Club Ch. meet in France on 22.05.2011 according to all-athletics.com.

The 11.38 time in the 100 was from the 2013 season... Do you have post of the laser 60m dash video? Guy sprinting at near 10 - 10.2 m/s is a common thing in the US. Last year roughly 572 sprinters in the US alone ran faster than 10.70 seconds in the 100 meter dash and around 1,650 sprinters in the world. I wouldn't say 11 seconds in the 100 is fast. Maybe for a pole vaulter, but I'd guess a lot of athletes around the world can run in the low 11's for the 100 meter dash that call themselves a pole vaulter that doesn't mean they have the speed to vault 6 meters. That isn't anything against Renaud or any athlete. It is a comment about a time in a race like the 100 meter dash and comparing it as a bench mark for the pole vault.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby PV2020 » Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:22 am

His website list 6.64s with 1m start before laser

http://www.renaud-lavillenie.com/pages/ ... 65999.html


Your comment about 10.7 is exactly the problem. It is not that fast, and I do not think many vaulters could do it! In the NCAA decathlon, which is where most the fast vaulters end up out of high school, under 11 is still considered somewhat fast at the college level.

At the high school level if someone is fast enough to run under 11 at MOST high schools they just become sprinters because they are one of the best on their team. If they are somewhat fast at a young age and become pole vaulters odds are (unless they have a really good coach), they will spend four years of high school playing around jumping at the pole vault pit or maybe going once a week with a club coach somewhere and will not develop their speed like they should.

If I had the chance I would go find a high school that had a freshmen guy running under 11 seconds and try and convince him to pole vault. Let him keep sprinting and getting faster, but slowly teach him how to vault the right way over the next four years.

Some of the most athletic vaulters in the USA? Mike Morrison (17'6 in HS and practically won the VA state championships by himself but did multi in college), Trey Hardee was a 15+ vaulter that because he could run under 11 in high school he moved to the dec.

People look for immediate greatness. I would like to take a high school 10.5 guy and teach him to vault because odds are there are very few 10.5 guys pole vaulting and the chances of him going under 10 one day are very low. By the same accolade, a college coach would love to take a 15' vaulter with 10.9 speed and teach him the other events in the dec because odds are most the decs are not that fast and can not pole vault that high.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby VaultPurple » Sat Jan 04, 2014 3:46 am

Speed wins. This is typically always true at the elite level. The fastest guy on the runway wins.

However how fast are they really running?

Every year we test the 30m dash and our top lady sprinters run around 4.15-4.20 seconds for a 30m dash (no blocks). These same ladies run around 7.40 for the 60m dash which is not winning nationals, but still pretty good.

If we say in their PR races they have a really good start, and the first 30m plus reaction time of .20 is 4.30 seconds to the first 30m. If the race finishes in 7.40 seconds, they would have averaged 9.68 meters per second over the last 30m of that race.

Now lets take a look at DJ's chart and it tells us that 9.5 with a pole in hand is fast enough to jump close to 20 feet!!!!

Now I know these ladies are not running with 5.00m+ poles in their hands but the point of this is to show that above average college women can run faster than what about 99% of adult men run with a pole in their hand.

But it goes to show that although 10m/s is very fast, it is not THAT fast. People just need to stop jogging with the pole in their hand!

Renaud runs 6.64 over 60m with a 1m step in meaning he is probably running about 10.5m/s over the last 30m of the race (this guy can accelerate, he averages 9.4m/s over 10m with just a 5m run in in one of his test on his website).

Now I do not know the exact numbers on Renuad so someone might could help me out with that, but lets say he averages 9.8m/s on his 6m jumps. That is a 6.7% reduction in speed because of his pole.

That means that if one of these above average college women (who are probably built a lot like Renaud) were to have a 6.7% reduction in speed because of a pole, they would still be running 9.03m/s. THAT IS FAST ENOUGH TO ALMOST JUMP 19 FEET!!!!

To me this just means that there are very few pole vaulters out there that are truly confident in attacking the pole vault pit with a pole in their hand at 100%.

This by no mean is me saying that more speed will not help anyone and that faster people will not make better pole vaulters, because they will. I just think most people are under performing. The majority of the college vaulters out there today are probably between 7.0 and 7.4 in the 60m dash which puts them at on average 10.0m/s without a pole, so they are more than athletic enough to jump over 5.80. But if you are trying to break a world record, you are going to need someone that runs around 10.8m/s without the pole (or is effected less by the pole). 10.8m/s is roughly a 6.75 60m dash which would be a pretty good college sprinter and top 5 in the US at the high school level.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby dj » Sat Jan 04, 2014 10:34 am

Good stuff VP,

We are under achieving. The problem I'm seeing year after year, even with our best vaulters is we are not addressing the real issues, one being that we are not running on the runway.

T-Mack tried to run faster in 2000, didn't adjust quick enough. He adjusted some/enough in 2004 and went on to win gold.

We have current vaulters with = or better numbers than Tim, they just seem to be unsure of what needs to change.

I see two issues. The first one is the run and that comes from vaulters and coaches not knowing how to change to a faster run and have the correct "feel"... That relates to the "physics of speed" and I know that the coaches or athletes have not understood that yet.

The other issue is vault pole designs... We have to many and to many "experiments".. Vaulters never get the correct "feel" because sometimes, many, many times each pole on successive vaults has a different pattern/design. The vaulter, even if they are great, fast athletes, they never get comfortable and never learn to trust their pole because the feel is always different... When they do have the right pole and right run they think it's wrong.. Telling me in amazement that it can't be that easy and that simple..

I'm told all the time when vaulters hit my chart numbers and have their best vault that it's wrong... That I'm wrong!!!

I suggest if you really want to be your best that you will personally eliminate every issue that doesn't follow the physics of "run fast.. Hold high and use a big stick".....

Based on physical ability women should have been vaulting 17'3" a long time ago....

Bubka cleared a 5.85 bar with his center of mass at 6.12 with these numbers

Grip 5.10
Takeoff angle 16.4 degrees
Takeoff point 4.37m
Speed 9.50MPS
Pole bend 27.1 percent
Max pole bend at .49 sec from takeoff
1.47seconds from takeoff to max COM

His MID in LA with a similar jump was 17.20m/56 feet... Which means he had speed and posture


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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby PV2020 » Sun Jan 05, 2014 3:46 am

I do not know if this video argues in favor of my argument or against it. But I think it is something that needs to be discussed.

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=66 ... =3&theater

The athlete in this video is probably one of the most athletic pole vaulters of all time coming out of high school. He vaulted 17'6 and ran the 55m dash in 6.39 seconds. He has also long jumped well over 24 feet.

I know he was a previous NCAA champion in the Decathlon, however I always felt that if he would have just stuck to vaulting he could have been the next American record holder.

What I think should be discussed here is how you have a guy that has been pole vaulting for over 10 years who appears to jog down the run way and clear 17'6. If I had to bet he has to hold himself back to only be going about 8.5m/s at take off right there!

I know as a decathlete some athletes hold back a little in events, but he is already running a 9 left approach which is pretty far for a multi. Why not just actually sprint? If he just practiced pole runs and hitting the take off full speed he would be over 19' in about a years time.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby ADTF Academy » Sun Jan 05, 2014 10:39 am

I would assume your prediction of velocity on the runway to be way off. He is near/over 9 m/s on this video not 8.5 m/s. He is running a lot faster than my athlete (a woman) on the runway. I didn't attend the meet and the angles are tough to see the markings on the ground so its hard to confirm that. If it'a a 5 meter pole in his hand than he is gripping near 4.80 unless cut so effective grip is around 4.60 with 10 cm hip height or more over bar giving a push near 85 to 90 cms. If those numbers are close to being correct than this was a very effective jump. He is on pace to easily jump over 5.50 this year. If he can find around 10-15 cm of grip and maybe get on roughly .6 to 1.2 stiffer pole he will take shots at 5.60+. The fun is how?????? Thats up to him and his coach to figure out.

There is a secondary effect people need to understand. Velocity means out of control at a certain point if you ramp it up too much. You can't sprint out of control on a runway. Not in the pole vault or in the long jump. There is a coordination factor of being under control while you sprint. Though the difference between sprinting and an approach run are not great there is a difference in their rhythm while they run that must be taking into account. Making a generic statement like he should sprint faster doesn't take into account what he is able to handle and/or is working on. I will say as DJ has commented some over do this Rhythm motion. Maybe he can't quite hand 9.7 m/s velocity yet. Approach at those velocities with a pole in your hand is a learned skilled that must be overcome with reps and courage. Some athletes can just pull the trigger and let it rip. Others struggle and it's hard to guess on an athlete that I personally have no background information on. Only his current and college coach can answer that. Someone that worked with him 10 years ago really doesn't have much knowledge of who the athlete is today.

I would also assume this athlete is quite a bit heavier than he was in high school meaning the same poles that worked once upon a time he now picks his teeth with. This adds a secondary mental block running at high rates of speed and executing a takeoff with a stiffer pole in your hand. Training for a decathlon creates a situation of lessen mastery of any single event thats the norm. The execution becomes about how can I safely do this and score as many points as possible. Potential is definitely there be patient.

On a side note this always becomes the problem with pointing out a specific athlete and saying they are doing this or that wrong. It's a guessing game on each of our parts as to what may or may not be going on. Velocity is only one part of the equation. A flaw in the jump is another small issue. Unless your working on a daily basis with the athlete its a guessing game. Everyone has opinions doesn't mean they would work if you were working with that athlete.

Getting back to the original question what are the bigger intangibles that are needed for an elite vaulter to reach 6 meters or 4.90 meters. Only past and present elites as well as their coaches can really understand those intangibles. It's not just the physical traits its much more than that. I know I didn't get it at first, even though I thought I did, till a few years of having the opportunity to work with and develop the elites I have.

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Re: Pole Vault Combine

Unread postby altius » Mon Jan 06, 2014 4:59 am

"Making a generic statement like he should sprint faster doesn't take into account what he is able to handle and/or is working on. I will say as DJ has commented some over do this Rhythm motion. Maybe he can't quite hand 9.7 m/s velocity yet. Approach at those velocities with a pole in your hand is a learned skilled that must be overcome with reps and courage."

As always straight to the point and on the mark.

I can only add a couple to things. One to give you a couple of facts re Hooker - they are already on the record. In O7 he jumped 5.81 with 9.14 m/sec in the 10/5 slot with a 3.85 take off point. In 09 he jumped 5.90 at 9.24 with a 4.35 TO. Also interesting in 09 was Gripich -at 1.71 height - he ran 8.73m/s and TO at 4.25 to jump 5.75.

Will also add part of C24 from BTb2 re run up - it has comments from both Bubka and Petrov - along with my interpretation of what those comments meant for young athletes.

Chapter Twenty Four: The run up for ambitious young vaulters
“If the vaulter can put all his speed to the pole, the bending of the pole will happen in a very natural way and this, together with a good height of grip will ensure good results. Sergey Bubka.

The primary objective of any ambitious athlete who has begun to master the advanced technical model should be to try to exploit higher grips and to use the strongest possible poles. To do this safely and efficiently they must be able to first generate and then direct the energy required to drive the long lever towards the vertical. This requires a fast accurate run up, a precise planting action and a powerful upspringing take off. Unfortunately while many athletes pay lip service to the importance of the run up, they do not always commit the time and effort needed to perfect it. This not only inhibits their development but it may lead them into danger as their increasing physical parameters are not matched by improvements in their consistency and control of the runway.
Petrov’s ideas on the run up and plant are as rational as his approach to every other element of technique, and reflect the completely integrated nature of his technical model. His comment that the pole vault begins with the first step was not a simple throwaway line; it affirmed his view that the run up is the beginning of a continuous chain of energy input into the vaulter/pole system and that every aspect of the run up and the plant must be structured to ensure a powerful upspringing take off from precisely the right spot as shown in Figure 24.1.
This image of Bubka is arguably the most significant photograph ever taken of this challenging event. Not only does it capture a key instant in the first ever six metre clearance, it clearly shows that he has hit the pole with a solid body and that the hands are being driven up through the pole. The pole is clearly straight and therefore not loaded, a key element of the Petrov model. It is unfortunate that while these important elements are still neglected, or even rejected by many coaches, the myth that Bubka’s success was almost entirely due to his great speed on the runway continues to flourish.
What makes this myth so damaging is that it does contain a grain of truth! Bubka was a very good runner, both with and without the pole, but he will be the first to say that his success was due to the overall efficiency of his technical model and not simply because of his speed on the runway. While Tables 1 and 2, confirm that there is a moderate statistical correlation between run up speed and the height cleared across a wide performance band, our assessment is that the data suggests that run up speed is a necessary, but not a sufficient determinant of the height jumped!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! However we feel that a study restricted to elite performers would indicate a higher correlation because at that level, athletes would be both technically and physically better prepared to convert speed into height.
So we believe that there will only be a high correlation between speed on the runway and the height jumped IF vaulters have already developed the technical ability to exploit their speed and when their bodies have been conditioned to cope with the shock of an explosive take off. The fact is that the faster you run while carrying a long lever, the more difficult it is to maintain control and balance, so danger lurks around the corner. Athletes are intuitively aware of this and unless they have a death wish they will often pull out of the take off at the last instant. Those with a death wish will continue on, and their out of control and off balanced take off, will feed a host of problems as the jump progresses.
The critical question is, ‘How much speed does any given athlete need to fulfill their potential’? As Bubka said in Jamaica, The important thing is how much of your speed and your strength you can use while actually jumping. Somebody can run the 100 metres in 11 seconds, but if he does the proper movements, in the exact moment, he can jump very high.
With this thought in mind, the data provided by Table 3 (Petrov), next page is of particular interest because it counters the popular notion that it requires blazing speed to be an elite vaulter. These data suggest that it would be possible for a male vaulter with 11.4 one hundred metre speed to make an Olympic men’s vault final, while someone who could manage 10.9 could break the American record! Of course the critical point here is that every aspect of their technique would have to be good enough to squeeze the maximum performance from their speed. As we will see in the following chapter, this means that they must certainly be able to continue to accelerate through the last five metres before take off.
So it is our view that unless the vaulter has already mastered the key elements of technique, especially the plant and take off, they will gain little benefit from increasing speed on the runway.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Indeed there is little point in running any distance at all if the athlete is out of control, off balance and unable to take off in precisely the right spot and with a body which is solid from top hand to the toe of the take off foot! So what should ambitious young athletes focus on as they try to improve their approach run?
We believe that although vaulters should always work towards improving their speed at take off, their first priority should be to achieve consistency in the run up and precision in the plant. Both will bring enormous benefits, some obvious, but others which have rarely if ever been articulated.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
A consistent, accurate approach run and a precise planting action allow the vaulter to;
• Attack the take off with confidence – a critical factor in this challenging and potentially dangerous event.
• Choose their pole stiffness, grip height and bar placement safe in the knowledge that they have controlled the most important variable - their take off point.
• Prepare for competition efficiently. They will need no more than two full approach jumps in warm up confirm that they are ready. This allows a vaulter to go into the competition with confidence and without the inevitable drain of physical and nervous energy resulting from repeated and often ineffectual efforts to take off.
• Select their opening height with certainty.
• Avoid wasting jumps throughout the competition as they struggle to find out where they should place the bar or what pole they should use.
• Pass certain heights, and so limit the total number of jumps they take.
• Cope with variable weather conditions - such as rain, head or cross winds with greater confidence.
• Possibly achieve a higher placing when a count back is involved.
• Finally, they will minimise the stress on their coach!

o Here it is important to understand that every maximal attempt in the pole vault places considerable demands on the athlete’s neuromuscular system. This can severely limit the number of high quality full jumps an athlete can take either in training or in competition. This means that ambitious athletes aiming for significant performances should carefully control the number of jumps they take as they move towards the crucial heights. Bubka was a master of this; at his peak his usual pattern was to make clearances at 5.70 and 5.90 then an attempt at a new world record – on occasions this meant that he took only three jumps in a competition!
o The best way to learn to jump high is to jump at high bars, so a consistent and accurate run up also allows the athlete to train more efficiently. If the number of full jumps an athlete can take in any one session is already limited by neuromuscular demands, then every failed attempt to take off is not only a waste of valuable energy, it is a wasted opportunity to improve.
o The integrated nature of the vault means that the second, third and fourth phases of energy input all depend on the first – the run and take off. This means that you cannot work to improve the timing of the swing into inversion efficiently unless you can take off consistently and effectively.
On the other hand any athlete who is unsure about the accuracy of their run up will tend to focus on the box; this will mean that they will often take off with their eyes and their head pointing down – not forward and up as they should - to the detriment of their take off. As Bubka said, Many jumpers look at the box, the box doesn’t move, it is always there. I think it has to do with being scared.
Our view is that they may look at the box, not because they are scared, but because they are not certain that they are in the right position to take off.
So an athlete with confidence in their run up will give themselves many more opportunities to improve other key elements of the vault. Some of these elements are quite subtle. For example we believe that at some point in the swing to inversion the athlete must operate intuitively – where “Intuition is the distilled essence of past experience”. Clearly athletes must make hundreds of jumps to build this intuitive ability – so they cannot afford to waste jumps in training simply because they have not developed a consistent approach run.
Its what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

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