How the bottom arm should be used

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How the bottom arm should be used

Unread postby GasPasser » Sat Aug 23, 2014 10:56 pm

altius wrote:....., like Tim, I believe that vaulters MUST learn to use the left arm very precisely throughout the plant and into the take off. My observation of large numbers of young vaulters in the US over the last few years along with discussion with their coaches indicates that few really understand how the lower arm/wrist/hand should be used in this phase. I remember Petrov did an hour lecture on this topic at Reno a few years ago and I sensed that most of the audience were left bemused because what he was presenting was so different from their practice; in essence they did not understand why this very specific method was critical to the take off and swing into inversion.

I realised some time ago that I had not adequately clarified this issue in BTB because I had tended to take it for granted - should not have done so because it is very important.

Great topic - So lets have should the bottom arm be used properly? I wasn't present for Petrov's lecture - I'm all ears I've heard/read advice like: "the top arm bends the pole, not the bottom arm", "its pole vaulting, not pole bending", "make space with the bottom arm", "arms go elastic", or "don't lock out the bottom arm - it kills with swing". None of these (other than the last one) are very specific instruction for the vaulter in what the role of the bottom arm should be in the plant and take-off phases of the vault. But without proper use of the bottom arm, the vault is doomed.

Case #1
I've attached an example that I think shows improper use of the bottom arm. (Note: The top hand is about 7'10" or 2.39m above the runway at takeoff, and the grip height on the pole is 12'0" or 3.66m - so the pole angle is pretty steep to start with.) This vaulter is not using the bottom arm well, so his body swings from the top hand like a pendulum and is on his back too soon. I've also seen examples of too much bottom arm. or blocking, which is bad too. How do we coach this aspect (use of the bottom arm) of the plant & take-off?

4-part_takeoff.jpg (54.69 KiB) Viewed 7092 times

Using this vaulter as a case study, how do we fix this? What drills will correct this? What should we tell a vaulter with this issue to focus on at plant & take-off so that the bottom arm is used correctly?

Case #2
This vaulter goes to the other extreme - locking out the bottom arm at plant and take-off to get the pole to have a big bend. As you can start to see in the last frame, he has to break the lock on the bottom arm in order to swing his legs up. However, he also has to break at the hips as well and tuck because so much of his swing was blocked by his lower arm in the take-off & drive phases.

3-part_takeoff.jpg (50.18 KiB) Viewed 7072 times

Likewise, with the bottom arm blockers - how do we fix this? What drills will correct this? What should we tell a vaulter with this issue to focus on at plant & take-off so that the bottom arm is used correctly?

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Re: How the bottom arm should be used

Unread postby KirkB » Mon Aug 25, 2014 2:25 pm

GasPasser, I'm surprised that no one has replied to this thread yet. It's a very important topic, as it covers one of the key differences between a "good" and "bad" Petrov Model vault (I cannot speak for the difference between a good and bad tuck/shoot vault, as my personal opinion is that that technique is flawed from the get-go).

GasPasser wrote: "the top arm bends the pole, not the bottom arm",
"its pole vaulting, not pole bending",
"make space with the bottom arm",
"arms go elastic", or
"don't lock out the bottom arm - it kills the swing". ...
"without proper use of the bottom arm, the vault is doomed"

TRUE, TRUE, FALSE, FALSE, TRUE, TRUE. "make space with the bottom arm" is FALSE if it's referring to AFTER takeoff; and "arms go elastic" is FALSE if it's referring to BOTH arms. It's not the arms that should "go elastic" - it's the whole body!

Maybe one reason why no one has replied yet is that most of this info has been discussed before - many times in the past 5 years on PVP, so you can dig up lots of interesting threads merely by searching for keywords "bottom arm", "push", "press", etc. If you add "kirk" to your searches, then you will get my personal point of view on this topic. I don't intend to repeat myself much on this thread, as I've already said almost all I need to say.

Perhaps most of the confusion and controversy on the push/don't-push with the bottom arm is that there is a moment in time when the takeoff foot leaves the runway, and just before that moment, it's imperative that the bottom arm be used to position the pole into the box in a precise way, with elbow up (not down as shown by your Case #1). I think that's what Tim and Altius (and yourself) are referring to when they emphasize the importance of the positioning of the bottom arm on takeoff.

But immediately AFTER the moment that the pole hits and the takeoff foot is airborne (a free takeoff), I strongly believe that there should NOT be a CONTINUATION of the upward impulse of the bottom arm. Many people believe that the bottom arm MUST be impulsed to initiate the bend, but (from first-hand experience) I don't.

Also, no matter how they're coached, many vaulters can simply not help themselves, and continue their "up-impulse" past the takeoff point, resulting in using the bottom arm to initiate the bend. Even if the top arm is what's bending the pole (inertia from the run and takeoff), they THINK that the pressure from their bottom arm is what's bending it.

I believe that the vaulter must STRETCH to a "C" in the takeoff moment, and then quickly (almost instantaneously) switch directions from the "C" to a vigorous downswing. This isn't easy, but it's (in my experience) the most effective way to maintain your forwards/upwards swing whilst staying behind the pole and letting it roll forwards.

To be more specific, in your Case #1, your vaulter is already slightly leaning back (instead of slightly leaning forward) on takeoff, and is leaning back even more when the pole hits the box. His posture could be improved by having a slight forward lean on takeoff, and then STRETCHING his chest in to keep his CoG back as the pole hits the box. This will set up a much better downswing (instead of getting jolted or jerked into his swing, as shown between pics # 3-4).

With a 12-0 grip, it's not easy to do all this (so little time), but as grip increases to 13, 14, and 15 feet, it gets easier and easier (more time). A softer pole with a 12-0 grip might help give this vaulter more time to stretch and initiate the downswing before the full impact of the pole "hits". But overall, I prefer his technique much more than the vaulter's in Case #2.

Case #2 is a lost cause from the get-go. I wouldn't even start coaching this vaulter on the merits of not blocking out until I can convince him that he's going down the wrong path, and that blocking out is futile. This takes much time and patience; the vaulter trusting your advice; and you proving (by drills) that the pole will bend without the bottom arm.

At UW back in the day, Coach Shannon spent my entire freshman year convincing me of getting rid of my highschool habit of pressing with my bottom arm. (He actually convinced me quite quickly - because I trusted him - but it took a full year to rid myself of the muscle-memory of pressing). He started by demoing how a light pole will bend when you walk into it and plant against a wall, holding it just with the top hand (bottom arm used just to position it - BEFORE the bend) ...

The more vaulter #2 has ingrained his brain to think he's doing it "right", the more difficult it's going to be to transition him to the Petrov way. You have correctly identified the consequences of blocking out, and what he must do to "save" his vault - stop blocking, and then tuck (very inefficient).

I leave it to others to recommend specific drills to correct these flaws.

Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Re: How the bottom arm should be used

Unread postby Tim McMichael » Mon Aug 25, 2014 10:07 pm

Yes. Yes. Yes. Let's dig into this from the perspective of, "how do we fix this." Crucial topic.

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Re: How the bottom arm should be used

Unread postby altius » Tue Aug 26, 2014 9:12 am

Should never need to 'fix this' if the pole is carried and planted properly. However I am on the road in England at the moment so don't have time to do more that refer you to 'The plant for ambitious young athletes' in BTB. When I get settled I will add some more as it has become increasingly obvious that many coaches do not understand this issue. Sadly many are still teaching athletes to jam the bottom arm in at take off!!!
Its what you learn after you know it all that counts. John Wooden

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