Teaching the Jumping Events

Teaching the long jump, triple jump, high jump, and pole vault require proper teaching progressions. We will discuss the rules, biomechanics, and proper coaching methods for the all of the jumping events in track and field.

Long Jump and Triple Jump Basic Rules

Athletes get one minute to start an attempt after their name is called.

Athletes must takeoff from behind the board.

The measurement is taken from the end of the takeoff board to the first mark in the sand made by the athlete.

The athlete must leave the pit past the landing mark.

Athletes get three attempts in random order, the top 8 jumpers get three more attempts in reverse order, with the best jumper from the prelims competing last.

If there are 8 or less competitors, a fair mark is not required to get all 6 attempts.

Ties are broken by second best performance after the competition.

Performances with wind readings over 2.0 meters per second are not considered for records.

High Jump and Pole Vault Rules

Jumpers get 1 minute to start an attempt after their name is called. If two to three athletes remain, each athlete gets 2 minutes. When one athlete remains, 5 minutes is allowed.

A miss is when the cross bar is dislodged from the standards.

Athletes are out of the competition after 3 consecutive misses, jumpers can pass and go to the next height if they have 1 or 2 misses.

If the plane of the crossbar is broken, it is considered an attempt, even if the jumper doesn’t takeoff.

Some federations have weight limits for poles.

In the pole vault, jumpers can’t touch the crossbar during an attempt with their hands, if lower body touches the cross, the attempt can be considered valid if the bar stays on, it is up to the official.

Tie Breaker

In case of a tie, the athlete that has fewer misses at the last height wins if the jumpers are still tied, the athlete with the fewest overall misses wins. If the multiple jumpers are still tied, they can have a jump-off by lowering the bar to start, after a successful clearance, the bar would be moved up, and the jumpers would keep trading off attempts until only one athlete has cleared the height. Another option is to stop competing and share the place; this happened in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo in the men’s high jump; two athletes shared the Gold.

World Athletics Jump-Off Example

Heights announced by the Chief Judge at the beginning of competition: 1.75m; 1.80m; 1.84m;

1.88m; 1.91m; 1.94m; 1.97m; 1.99m…

Jump-off, as follows:

Athletes concerned must jump at every height until a decision is reached or until the athletes concerned decide not to jump further.

Each athlete shall have one jump at each height.

The height to start the jump-off is determined by the officials and the athletes actively competing.

If an athlete is not jumping at a height, they automatically forfeit any claim to a higher place. If only one other athlete, then remains, they are declared the winner regardless of whether they attempt that height.

“A”, “B”, “C” and “D” all cleared 1.88m.

Rules 26.8 and 26.9 of the Technical Rules now come into operation; the Judges add up the total number of failures, up to and including the height last cleared, i.e., 1.88m.

"D" has more failures than "A", "B" or "C", and is therefore awarded fourth place. "A", "B" and "C" are still equal and as this concerns the first place, they shall jump at 1.91m which is the next height after the height last cleared by the athletes concerned.

As all the athletes failed, the bar is lowered to 1.89m for another jump-off. As only "C" failed to clear 1.89m, the two other athletes, "A" and "B" shall have a third jump-off at 1.91m which only “B” cleared and is therefore declared the winner.

 Jumping Events and Biomechanics

The three major biomechanical factors need to be considered in the jumping events; velocity at takeoff, angle of takeoff, and height of the center of mass at takeoff (Thompson, 2009).

Approach

The approach is designed to set up the next phase, the takeoff in an accurate location in proper body positions at optimal speed. The approach creates horizontal velocity and momentum that is converted to vertical force during the takeoff. 

Takeoff

Velocity at takeoff is the result of horizontal velocity and vertical impulse (force times time). The takeoff angle will influence the established flight path; a different takeoff angle is optimal for each event. The flight path of the center of mass has a predetermined parabola at takeoff but can be altered by movements in flight.

 Optimal Takeoff Angles

  • Long jump: 20-25 degrees
  • Triple Jump: 11-14 degrees
  • High Jump: 35-45 degrees
  • Pole Vault: 18-21 degrees

The height of the center of mass is determined by body height and position at takeoff.

Coaching Point: the height of center of mass can vary in the pole vault during the takeoff based on the transfer of energy to the pole during takeoff and the energy returned to the pole vaulter after takeoff.

The Stretch Shortening Cycle and Takeoff

The stretch shortening cycle intensifies an effective takeoff by stabilizing the muscles isometrically prior to the takeoff leg plant. The isometric phase prepares the muscles for eccentric large impact forces converted into a rapid concentric lengthening of the muscles during takeoff. The elastic response from the stretch shortening cycle results in greater force production during the takeoff.

Coaching Point: it is recommended for younger and less experienced jumpers to start with a shorter approach.

Flight

The parabola of the flight path is predetermined primarily because of takeoff velocity and takeoff angle, but the location of the center of mass can be altered in flight by changes in body position. Accelerating or decelerating various limbs while in flight can change the jumper’s position, impacting clearance (pole vault and high jump) and landing (long jump and triple jump). The movement patterns are related to Newton’s third law of physics (for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction) that impacts angular momentum and other biomechanical factors.

Landing (Long Jump and Triple Jump)

In the long jump and triple jump, the landing is effected by the takeoff angle, flight path, and changes in body position while in flight. Since the takeoff angle and flight path are predetermined at takeoff, the only changes in body position can affect the landing during flight. Inflight mechanics aims to slow forward rotation and set up a proper landing position. The body’s center of mass moves backward as both feet reach forward during the landing to maximize jumping distance.

Clearance (Pole Vault and High Jump)

Bar clearance will be determined by the takeoff angle, flight path, and body positions in relation to the bar. Since the takeoff angle and flight path are predetermined prior to bar clearance, changes in body position in relation to the bar in flight will impact bar clearance. Reaching peak height during bar clearance will be based on the jumper’s center of mass, parabolic path, and changes in body position while in flight.

Long Jump Teaching Progression

Developing proper sprint mechanics is an essential part of consistent runway management. 

The athlete runs at a steady pace, keeping sprinting form and the coach counts the steps. For the competition, youth jumpers can reach optimal speed usually in 8 to 10 strides. This is not maximal speed, optimal speed is the fastest running possible while executing good technique for the best distance.

Coaching Note: practice the approach run to get consistent foot placement on or near the board. After the approach run is consistent, add a takeoff or easy jump after the run.

Teaching fundamental movements to prepare young athletes is the first step to long-term success for the jumping events. Slowly introduce walking and jogging with a jump. Emphasize a controlled run in a ‘tall’ position, with the takeoff leg slightly in front of the body. Focus on keeping the takeoff leg on the ground as the athlete moves forward and up. Walking down the track with three step pop ups barely getting the takeoff leg off the ground, then advance to pop ups with a big lead knee drive, aggressively driving the arms (opposite arm/knee drive).

Introduce more advanced running and jumping for height from 70-75% speed from 4 to 8 strides. Coaches can use a bar to focus on height during the jump. Set a bar at lower heights to start with and then progressive by raising the bar higher. Emphasize quick steps and a high knee drive at takeoff.

Practice jumping from 20′ and 25′ and 30′ away to help establish an approach. Athletes should start slow for 2-3 strides, speed up, and hit 85-90% speed during the last few strides.

Approach Lengths for Youth

The athlete runs at a steady pace, keeping sprinting form, and the coach counts the steps. For the competition, youth jumpers can reach optimal speed, usually in 8 to 10 strides. The optimal speed is the fastest running possible while executing good technique for the best distance; jumpers can't control maximal speed and still hit a good takeoff.

Coaching Note: practice the approach run to get consistent foot placement on or near the board. After the approach run is consistent, add a takeoff or easy jump after the run.

Approach Options

  • 2 to 6 walking steps into a long jump (single leg)
  • 2 to 6 jogging steps into a long jump (single leg)
  • 6 step approach jumps
  • 8 step approach jumps
  • 10 step approach jumps

Depending on the age and ability of the developing athlete, the approach could be up to16 running strides with maximum controlled speed to optimize jumping distance. The top long jumpers in high school and college use up to a 20 stride approach during competition.

Long Jump Tips

  • Use only maximum controllable speed
  • Train the full approach with check marks
  • Ingraining good mechanics into the penultimate stride
  • Maintain horizontal velocity
  • Do not slow down at takeoff
  • Practice jumps are used for technique, not for distance
  • Good technique will eventually create good distance

Coaching Note: when teaching the long jump landing technique, use a ramp to increase air time to complete the proper execution of the landing in the long jump. 

Standing Long Jump Variations

Standing long jump variations can be trained to learn the takeoff and landing basics for the long jump. Start on the edge of the long jump pit with the feet approximately shoulder width apart, bend the knees, push off the ground with the feet and swing the arms forward. Land in the sand with both feet flat and let the knees give a little and hold both arms straight out during the landing.

Next, perform the same exercise, then pause, and add kicking the feet out and land with the lower body in the sand. Then, try a regular standing long jump landing in the sand with the heels first, sliding the knees up to the heels in the sand. 

Penultimate Stride and Takeoff Variations

Continuous  penultimate stride and takeoff (3-4 strides between)

  • Most specific plyometric drill for long jumping

Easy jog into the penultimate stride and easy takeoff

  • Focus on dropping on the penultimate stride

4-6 steps with a jump into the split landing

  • Forces athlete to hold drive knee

6-12 steps into takeoff

  • Develop speed into a good drive knee into the takeoff

Full approach jumps

  • Run with near optimal speed on the full approach into a takeoff

Ramp Jumps

4-6 steps with jump with only takeoff from a ramp or box

  • Forces athlete to put takeoff foot down quickly

6-12 steps with jump off from a ramp with full technique

  • Low impact simulation jumps

Using a ramp and jumping into a high jump pit can help teach proper landing mechanics. Using 6-12 steps and taking off into the high jump pit is an excellent low impact exercise for long jumpers.

Standing on the high jump mat and jumping up, kicking the feet forward, and reaching the hands to the toes is another good exercise for landing in the long jump.

Triple Jump Teaching Progression

The triple jump is a complex event with three different skills, hopping, bounding (stepping), and jumping into the sand.

The first phase of the triple jump is the hop phase.

Hopping

Start with easy hopping and progress to more aggressive hopping for distance.

Sample Drills for the Triple Jump Hop

  • 5 short single leg hops (12 to16 inches per jump)
  • 3 intermediate single leg hops (24 to30 inches per jump)

Bounding

The bound or step phase is the second part of the triple jump.

Sample Drills for the Triple Jump Step or Bound

  • Walk into alternate leg bounding x20 meters
  • Jog into alternate leg bounding x20 meters

Hopping and Bounding Combinations

As the triple jumper develops the technical skills in each phase, combination drills can be used.

Sample Drills for the Triple Jump Hop and Bound

Walk into three single leg hops, followed by alternate leg bounding x20 meters

Jog into three single leg hops, followed by alternate leg bounding x20 meters

Bounding and Long Jump

Linking together the last two phases of the triple jump is an important technical combination to teach.

Sample Drills for the Triple Jump Bound and Long Jump

Walk into alternate leg bounding x15-20 meters, followed by a long jump into the sand

Jog into alternate leg bounding x15-20 meters, followed by a long jump into the sand

Triple Jump Sequence

  • Bring all three phases of the triple together in proper sequence
  • 4 steps into three hops, three bounds, followed by a long jump 
  • 4 steps into three hops, one bound, followed by a long jump 

Short Approach Triple Jump

  • 6 step triple jump
  • 8 step triple jump

Triple Jump Coaching Points During Each Phase

  • Drive forward with the body displacing on the takeoff of each phase
  • Swing the free leg to prepare for the next phase
  • Ground contact should be slightly in front of the body
  • Land with the toe up with a good heel strike
  • Roll from the heel onto the toe during takeoff
  • Run tall, jump tall
  • Keep each triple jump phase equal

Coaching and Training Tips for Youth Athletes

Athletes can start with different combinations of jumping movements that include:

  • Standing triple jump from both legs
  • 2 to 4 walking steps into a triple jump (both legs)
  • 2 to 4 jogging steps into a triple jump (both legs)
  • 4 step approach jumps
  • 6 step approach jumps
  • Multiple hops
  • Multiple bounds
  • Multiple hops to multiple bounds
  • Multiple bounds to long jump
  • Multiple hops to multiple bounds to long jump

Triple Jump Tips

Start with standing jumps before adding speed.

Add combination jumps that are controlled, marked by cones or chalk.

Keep the jumps at a similar distance; for example, place 5 cones approximately 2′ apart, the athlete hops 5 times on one foot to the cones, not past the cones.

Slowly increase the distance of the approach and the distance between the cones as the athlete progressively gets better.

Short Approach Triple Jump

  • 6 step triple jump
  • 8 step triple jump

Takeoff Drills for Triple Jump

  • 4 step and takeoff repeats down the track
  • 8 step and takeoff repeats down the track

*add phases 1 and 2 and land in the sand

High Jump Teaching Progression

Approach

The high jump approach starts with a straight-ahead run followed by running on a curve into the takeoff. The curve is the final five steps of the approach. High jumpers use checkmarks for the start of the approach and at the start of the curve.

How to Triangulate the High Jump Approach

The distance from the near standard and the start of the run are triangulated. Draw a line as if the crossbar was extended out about 15’ out; the distance from the near standard will vary with each jumper from 10′-25′ out. Extend a tape measure to the starting distance of the approach, creating a 90-degree right angle; if the triangulation of the high jump approach is too complicated for beginners, try one to two large strides away from the edge of the pit and two to four large strides forward to mark the start of the curve.

Approach Run

  • The steps leading to the curve should be a smooth, gradual build up 
  • Start the approach with a gradual build up to about 50% speed for beginners
  • The eyes should be focused on the checkmark into the curve

Curve Running

  • Apply outward pressure against the ground
  • The body leans inward slightly
  • The arm action helps balance the body
  • The foot plants on each step along the curve of the circle
  • The eyes should focus on the near standard during the start of the curve
  • The eyes will shift across the bar and onto the far standard during the final steps

Curve Running Drills

  • Circle runs (20-25′ radius)
  • Figure 8 runs
  • 5 step curve run 

Takeoff

The high jumper prepares for the takeoff by lowering the hips on the penultimate step.Most beginning high jumpers will takeoff about 5-6′  away from the bar (arm’s length); the takeoff point is near the standard on the jumping side of the pit. Advanced high jumpers takeoff further away from the pit and travel across the bar longer. The toes of the takeoff foot are pointed at the back corner of the pit; the takeoff foot is placed in well in front of the jumper. The free leg drives up aggressively with the knee up. Both arms work together, driving back and then up during the takeoff.

The high jumper will lift off the ground and rotate during takeoff because of the lateral momentum of the curve and forceful vertical lift during the takeoff.

Running and Take Off Drills

  • Figure 8 runs with takeoff
  • 5 step curve run with takeoff
  • 5 steps straight ahead plus 5 step curve run with takeoff

Flight

The body is laid out over the bar; the hips rise, and the has a slight arch over the bar. The knees are separated and bent; the arms drop to the side of the body. The head is lifted as the feet pass over the crossbar.

High Jump Drills (over bar or bungee)

  • 1 step
  • 3 step
  • Half circle run
  • 5 step
  • 5 walking steps into five step
  • 5 jogging steps into five step

Coaching note: the vertical lift during the takeoff should be directed up, not into the bar; the body moves from leaning away from the bar into a vertical position.

Pole Vault Teaching Progression

Technical proficiency is the key to quality pole vaulting. There are many safety concerns with the pole vault, from pole selection to the location and size of the pit.  Proper teaching progressions and a safe environment will help eliminate many of the risk factors.

Grip

Place the hands slightly wider than shoulder width, close the grip loosely around the pole. The top hand or right hand for a right handed pole vaulter is near the top of the pole. The top hand should be 6-18″ from the top of the pole; the palms will face up when the pole is extended overhead.

Carry

The top hand is placed next to the right hip; the bottom hand is near the center of the body, chest height.

 Approach

The pole tip starts high as the pole vaulter pushes forward and accelerates: the pole drops slightly with each step. The pole should fall gradually to set up a good plant into the box; the pole drop is more prominent during the last four strides. Use checkmarks for the start of the approach, six steps from the takeoff, and the plant.

Coaching Note: develop a consistent approach on the track planting into a towel or chalk mark before advanced drills are performed.

Plant and Takeoff

The pole plant must be achieved before the vertical component of the vault can occur. Prior to the takeoff, the hips lower during the penultimate stride, similar to the long jump. Takeoff with the left foot directly under the top hand; push the pole up with both hands at takeoff. The pole is moved from a horizontal to a vertical position during the plant and takeoff. Maintain good posture during the run and plant.

An active jumping action off the ground forward and upward will help load the pole and allow the pole vaulter to get vertical.

Terms

  • “Under” Planting too close to the box
  • “Out” planting too far away from the box

Sand Vaulting Drill (land both feet in the sand)

  • 3-5 steps plant and ride

The Swing

The torso propels forward; the top arm and torso stay extended. As the swing slows, the hips extend forward with lower legs moving near the pole, followed by the rest of the body. The swing is completed as the body and pole are inline; the pole vaulter pulls the hands to the chest and hips lift up. The body gets inverted, and both arms pull along the axis of the pole.

Term: “Pole speed” is the rate of speed that the pole moves to get into a vertical position.

Stiff Pole Drills

  • Pole slide approach (takeoff and ride)
  • Pole slide approach (takeoff, ride, and swing)

 Clearance

While rotating, the pole vaulter bends at the waist, raising the hips over the bar. At the end of the bar clearance, the pole is pushed away, and the arms move up and away from the bar.

Teaching Pole Vault Progression

  • Approach- Takeoff/Plant
  • + ride
  • + swing
  • + invert
  • + turn

Coaching note: Develop the technical elements from a short approach (5-8 steps) before moving the approach further back.

Teaching Points for the Pole Vault for Beginners

  • Develop the horizontal elements of the run and takeoff
  • Use stiff pole and sand vaulting drills
  • Focus on jumping higher than the hand height (12″ plus)
  • Keep the standards pushed back
  • Land in the center of the pit in the target zone
  • Use short poles with the proper bodyweight rating

World Athletics Track and Field Symbols 

World Athletics Jumping Rules

Link to World Athletics Rules

Competing Order and Trials

The athletes shall compete in an order drawn by lot (random).

Except for the High Jump and Pole Vault, no athlete shall have more than one trial    attempt in any one round of trials of the competition.

In all Field Events, except for the High Jump and Pole Vault, where there are more than   8 athletes, each athlete shall be allowed three trials and the eight athletes with the best valid performances shall be allowed three additional trials.

In the case of the last qualifying place, if two or more athletes have the same best performance. If it is thus determined that there has been a tie, the tying athletes shall be allowed any additional trials, permitted by the applicable regulations.

Where there are eight athletes or fewer, each athlete shall be allowed six trials, unless the applicable regulations provide otherwise. If more than one fail to achieve a valid trial during the first three rounds of trials, such athletes shall compete in subsequent rounds of trials before those with valid trials, in the same relative order according to the original draw.

In both cases:

the competing order for any subsequent rounds of trials shall be in the reverse ranking order recorded after the first three rounds of trials, unless the applicable regulations provide otherwise;

when the competing order is to be changed and there is a tie for any position, those tying shall compete in the same relative order according to the original draw.

Time Allowed for Trials

The official responsible shall indicate to an athlete that all is ready for the trial to begin, and the period allowed for this trial shall commence from that moment.

For the Pole Vault, the time shall begin when the crossbar has been adjusted according to the previous wishes of the athlete. No additional time will be allowed for further adjustment.

If the time allowed elapses after an athlete has started their trial, that trial should not be disallowed.

If after the time for a trial has begun, an athlete decides not to attempt that trial, it shall be considered a failure once that period allowed for the trial has elapsed.

Completion of Trials

The Judge shall not raise a white flag to indicate a valid trial until a trial is completed. The Judge may reconsider a decision if they believe they raised the incorrect flag.

The completion of a valid trial shall be determined as follows:

in the case of Vertical Jumps, once the judge has determined that there is no failure; in the case of Horizontal Jumps, once the athlete leaves the landing area.

(Rule 185) Long Jump Competition

An athlete fails if:

they while taking off (prior to the instant at which they cease contact with the take-off board or ground), break the vertical plane of the takeoff line with any part of their take-off foot / shoe, whether running up without jumping or in the act of jumping; or

they take off from outside either end of the board, whether beyond or before the extension of the takeoff line; or

they employ any form of somersaulting whilst running up or in the act of jumping; or

after taking off, but before their first contact with the landing area, they touch the runway or the ground outside the runway or outside the landing area; or

in the course of landing (including any overbalancing), they touch the border of, or the ground outside, the landing area closer to the takeoff line than the nearest break made in the sand; or

they leave the landing area in any manner other than described in the rules

When leaving the landing area, an athlete’s first contact by foot with its border or the ground outside shall be further from the takeoff line than the nearest break in the sand (which may be any mark made on overbalancing completely inside the landing area or when walking back, closer to the takeoff line than the initial break on landing).

Note: This first contact is considered leaving.

An athlete shall not be regarded to have failed if:

they run outside the white lines marking the runway at any point; or

except as described in Rule 30.1.2 of the Technical Rules, they take off before reaching the board; or

a part of their shoe / foot is touching the ground outside either end of the take-off board, before the takeoff line; or

if in the course of landing, they touch, with any part of their body, or anything attached to it at that moment, the border of, or the ground outside the landing area;

they walk back through the landing area after having left the landing area in the manner described in the rules. 

(Rule 186) Triple Jump Competition

The Triple Jump shall consist of a hop, a step, and a jump in that order.

The hop shall be made so that an athlete lands first on the same foot as that from which they have taken off; in the step they shall land on the other foot, from which subsequently, the jump is performed.

It shall not be considered a failure if an athlete, while jumping, touches the ground with the "sleeping" leg. 

It should be noted that it is not a failure (for that reason alone) if the athlete:

touches the white lines or the ground outside between the takeoff line and the landing area; or

lands in the pit in the step phase through no fault of their own (i.e. if the Judge incorrectly indicated the take-off board) - in which such case the Referee would normally offer the athlete a replacement trial.

It is, however, a failure if the landing of the jump is not within the landing area.

(Rule 182) High Jump Competition

An athlete shall take off from one foot.

An athlete fails if:

After the jump, the bar does not remain on the supports because of the action of the athlete whilst jumping; or

They touch the ground including the landing area beyond the vertical plane through the nearer edge of the crossbar, either between or outside the uprights with any part of their body, without first clearing the bar.

They touch the crossbar or the vertical section of the uprights when running up without jumping.

(Rule 183) Pole Vault Competition

Athletes may have the crossbar moved only in the direction of the landing area so that the edge of the crossbar nearest the athlete can be positioned at any point from that directly above the back end of the box to a point 80cm in the direction of the landing area.

An athlete shall, before the competition starts, inform the appropriate official of the position of the crossbar they require for their first trial and this position shall be recorded.

If subsequently an athlete wants to make any changes, they should immediately inform the appropriate official before the crossbar has been set in accordance with their initial wishes. Failure to do this shall lead to the start of their time limit.

An athlete fails if:

after the vault, the bar does not remain on both pegs because of the action of an athlete whilst vaulting; or 

they touch the ground, including the landing area, beyond the vertical plane through the back end of the box with any part of their body or with the pole, without first clearing the bar; or

after leaving the ground, they place their lower hand above the upper one or move the upper hand higher on the pole; or

during the vault, they steady or replace the bar with their hand(s).

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