Long Jump Drills for the Approach

The long jump approach should be a continuous build up of speed with proper sprint mechanics. Good running mechanics will help the jumper obtain the necessary running velocity and ensure an accurate takeoff point. The final four strides set up the takeoff in the long jump leading into a solid penultimate step and plant onto the board.

Keys Point of the Long Jump Approach

When teaching long jump approaches from the back of the runway, a simple crouch type start is best for beginners, similar to an acceleration run from a two-point stance.

More advanced jumpers sometimes add individual styles at the back of the runway but use a visual checkpoint to start the acceleration pattern.

Maximum speed is not required in the long jump approach. Jumpers sprint down the runway with good acceleration mechanics and transition into maximum velocity mechanics during the final steps on the approach run.

Transitioning from acceleration to max velocity mechanics should be smooth, with the body alignment maintained as the jumper slowly rises up into a good sprinting position.

Approach Preparation

Preparing for the approach should take place on the track and not on the runway. After the basic running technique is developed, a long jumper can learn how to move down the runway to prepare for the takeoff.

The key is a consistent acceleration pattern using good sprint technique.

Long Jump Drills (30-40-meter approach acceleration pattern)

Set cones every 10 to 20 meters for acceleration checkpoints

10 meter-10 meter -10 meter drill

10 meter-10 meter - 20 meter drill

The long jumper learns how to accelerate and move down the runway with visual checkpoints at 20 meters; top runway speed is achieved then maintained for the last 20 meters.

Long Jump Drills (12 step approach checkmarks)

Run down the track using good acceleration mechanics, taking 12 steps

Repeat four to five times to find a consistent mark for step 8 and step 12

Then move the approach run on the long jump runway taking 12 steps

Always teach beginning jumpers a simple static start for the approach.

Long Jump Drills (Cone drill)

Cones can be used to mark steps and acceleration patterns; this helps set a pattern for the coach to observe the change in speed down the runway; this will help develop a consistent pattern for the approach. Jumpers need constant acceleration on the runway until top end controllable speed is established.

Coaches can determine which part of the runway is causing problems when fouls occur or the jumper is short on the board using a checkmark system at step eight and the takeoff board.

Approach Length

Takeoff marks can vary depending on the age of the athlete and the time of year for more advanced athletes. More advanced jumpers take 14 -20 step approaches. For most beginners, a six-step approach is enough to gain momentum and prepare for the takeoff. The approach is a build up run; when the athlete is about halfway down the runway on approaches longer than six steps, the jumper should be near their controlled top end speed. The top end controlled speed is maintained until takeoff preparation (the last two steps prior to the long jump takeoff).

General Approach Guidelines

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; long jumpers do not jump using maximal speed because of the lack of consistency and body control after the takeoff.

Coaching Point: 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. 

Beginning level jumpers and athletes under 14 years old

12-14 total steps

Intermediate level jumpers and athletes from 15-17 years old

14-18 total steps

Advanced level jumpers and athletes over 19 years old

20+ total steps

A general rule of thumb is matching the age of the jumper and the number of strides taken in the approach run.

Speed on the Runway

Good sprint mechanics and proper acceleration are the keys to speed on the runway.

But how fast is maximum controlled speed?

From research done by Dr. Philip Graham Smith of the University of Salford in England, he estimates that a good technical male long jumper needs a 10-meter time of one second to jump 7.30m (24'). For women with high technical skills, running 1.2 seconds in the 10 meters equals 5.49m (18') in the long jump.

When top coaches discuss the factors in long jump distance, it is commonly thought that about 90% of the jumping distance is from the speed of the approach.

Approach Length for Training Jumps

For practice sessions, when taking actual long jumps, it is best to take short approach jumps. Generally, 6-12 step approach jumps are performed in training; longer or full approach jumps are only completed during competition.

Consider short approach jumps as long jump drills and do not be concerned about the distance; focus on the technical execution of the various phases of the long jump technique.

Long Jump Approach Types

Blind 5 step approach

Do this off of the runway. Coach uses chalk to mark the 5th step. (Only count contacts of takeoff foot. Step 1, step 2, step 3…etc.) Consistent first two steps. Good rhythm. The athlete can not change the approach to adjust for the board.

Move 5 step approach to runway

Measure distance of most consistent chalk mark to the start point. Measure this distance on the long jump runway. The 5 step approach is used for most practice jumps. Have athlete master the rhythm of 5 step approach.

Blind 7-8 step approach

Same rhythm and process as 5 step approach, only add more steps (2-3 lefts or 2-3 rights) to create more speed at takeoff.

Move 7-8 step approach to runway

Only allow the athlete to use maximum controllable speed! Hips are tall at takeoff, and good rhythm is essential.

Long jump drills for the approach can help train the athlete not foul and how to correct errors. Using a checkmark system with your long jump drills will help develop the approach run.

12 Step Running Approach

Long jump drills for the approach include a 12 step running approach, six strides with each leg; the athlete should count only the step with the takeoff leg. For example, count six lefts if the jumper takes off the left leg in the long jump.

Jumpers need to practice on the track without the takeoff point to develop the proper cadence and rhythm. After the approach is consistent, the athlete can move to the jumping area.

Next, the jumpers will practice the approach with a pop up to simulate the approach and takeoff. Other long jump drills can be used with the approach run also.

Increase the number of strides only after proper running mechanics are established, and the performance is consistent. Do not make adjustments to the last practice before a major competition or at track and field meet.

Estimated Performance to Add Strides 

Long Jump 22'6" (male) 18'0" (female)

Checkmarks and Steering

Checkmarks are used in all of the jumping events by the coach and athlete. The first checkmark is at the start of the attempt. The next check is at four steps into the approach and can be used by both the coach and the athlete; the fourth step is the coaching mark to judge adjustments on the approach.

Athletes can make a minor adjustment to either increase speed or decrease speed at the first checkmark if they miss the four step marker. The four step mark is the most common point used to adjust runway speed. Over-stepping the mark indicates the athletes should focus on staying down and pushing more down the track, especially if the athlete misses the takeoff point by the same distance they were off the coach's checkmark.

Subtle adjustments are made in the approach visually by the athlete if the takeoff point is incorrect. This visual correction by the jumper is called steering. Generally, the earlier the adjustment in the approach, the more likely the jumper will have a well executed attempt.

Marks and adjustments

Several variables can affect check marks during competition. Sometimes it is the athlete, and sometimes it is the meet conditions, or it can be both. Establishing an approach rhythm first then adjusting the checkmarks is recommended. Taking a few approaches with a pop-up can determine the adjustments needed that day.

Consistency with the four step mark will solve most problems. 

In the long jump, a common error is over striding, causing foul problems. The simple solution of moving the jumper back is usually not the answer. The athlete pushes more out of the back and gets into proper maximum velocity sprint mechanics down the runway; they need a steady build up of speed. Long jump drills for approach can include developing proper running mechanics and acceleration training.

Marks and Adjustments

On four stride mark and hits takeoff mark (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump). 

GOOD

Short of four stride mark and hits takeoff mark (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

ADJUST if running speed is not maintained: move up by amount missed.

GOOD if running speed is maintained: look to make check mark adjustments in training if needed.

Over four stride mark and hits takeoff mark (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

GOOD if running speed is maintained: look to make check mark adjustments in training if needed.

Over four stride mark and over takeoff mark by the same distance (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

GOOD if running speed is maintained: look to make check mark adjustments in the back of the runway.

Over four stride mark and under takeoff mark by the same distance (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

ADJUST watch the rhythm of the approach, more gradual build up in speed.

Under four stride mark and under takeoff mark by the same distance (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

GOOD if running speed is maintained: look to make check mark adjustments in the back of the runway.

Under four stride mark and over takeoff mark by (half the takeoff board in warm ups for the long jump and triple jump).

ADJUST watch the rhythm of the approach, more drive out of the back, quicker transition into high-end speed. Watch for over striding into the last three steps.

The four-step approach mark can be moved to the sixth stride for approaches over 18 strides.

Long Jump great Mike Powell offers his advice:

"The thing that I try to tell coaches, get your athletes to think of the long jump as a vertical jump. It's really not a horizontal jump. The distance comes from the speed.

"I believe that the approach is 90 percent of the jump. It sets up the rhythm, it sets up the takeoff, and that's really the majority of the work. Once you leave the ground this whole distance that you can go is already pre-determined (by) the amount of speed you have at takeoff, your hip height, takeoff angle and the amount of force you put into the ground. All you can do when you get into the air is take away from that."

Video

Travis Geopfert is recognized as one of the best coaches in the United States in the field events, his athletes have won SEC Championships, National Championships and competed in the Olympic Games.

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