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The key to better high jumping: it's all in the 10-step approach!

In clinically analyzing the performance of a high jump, the expert eye is inevitably drawn to the point of bar clearance.

It is fairly easy to spot such flaws as poor head position, incorrect arm action, failure to keep the knees apart, and clearing the bar in a sitting position.

Any one or combination of these flaws can cause the athlete to fail. Although specifically designed drills can help correct such flaws, they may not necessarily provide the root of the problem.

The real culprit - cause of the mishap - may very well lie not in the take-off or the clearance, but in the approach.

Theorem: Success in the high jump is directly proportionate to the consistency with which the athlete can produce the maximum controllable speed to the take-off point.

PROPER RUN

The flop is characterized by a curved approach run resembling the letter J. It is a fast, bouncing action with good knee lift and arm action.

The jumper must work toward a gradual build-up of speed and rhythm. It must be practiced daily, with every position being carefully observed and the jumper staying tall and relaxed.

With each running stride, the athlete must place his center of mass over the foot as it touches down. Once the athlete learns how to run, he can progress to the whole approach.

In working with beginners, we recommend running on the high jump apron without the distraction of the landing pit and with good mechanics and posture.

A 10-stride approach will enable the athlete to run five strides in a straight line and five strides in an arc. Note: Regardless of the number of strides taken, the coach must make sure the jumper uses the full five-step arc.

The first step is critical, though often overrated. For the approach to work, the first step must be consistent. Measure it, establish a check-mark for it, and practice it. Make sure the athlete starts the same way every time.

The sixth step, made with the jumping foot, is very important. A poor foot placement can put the jumper into a less desirable position for his plant/takeoff.

The jumper should turn his foot out 40 to 45 degrees on his sixth step. This will initiate the curve or arc and put the athlete in a leaning position away from the bar.

The lean must be maintained throughout the arc to the plant/takeoff, as it allows the jumper to be vertical rather than leaning in toward the bar at the takeoff.

RUNNING THE CURVE

This requires time and practice. Beginners commonly err in dramatically slowing down their run through this portion of the approach. They tend to run on the heels and/or reduce their arm action.

Circle run drills can help the jumper master the curve. The drill simply involves running in a circle - with the left-footed jumper running counter-clockwise and the right-footed jumper running clockwise, while leaning to the inside of the circle.

The lean originates from the ankles, with the posture otherwise erect. The runner must stay relaxed and run with good knee and arm action, with a noticeable knee lift through the curve. The outside arm (farthest from the direction of the lean) should be worked slightly across the body.

Circle runs and running through the measured approach without actually jumping will greatly improve the mechanics of running the curve. Remember, strength is closely linked to the speed of the approach.

It requires more strength to bring more speed to the bar.

"SETTLING"

The lowering of the center of gravity before the takeoff is referred to as "settling." The terms "speed jumpers" and "power jumpers" indicate the difference in the length of the penultimate stride. The speed jumper takes slightly longer penultimate strides, which lowers the c.g., and a shorter last stride in which the foot is planted very fast.

The power jumper takes a shorter penultimate stride and a longer last stride, which lowers the c.g. before plant/takeoff.

Another method of "settling" has the athlete bending his knees more on the last two or three strides. Experimentation will allow the coach and athlete to discover which method is best for the athlete.

MEASUREMENT OF THE APPROACH

Once the athlete is consistently running the 10-step approach with the proper mechanics, the coach should check to see that the jumper is hitting the checkmarks and running the curve well.

Remember, "running the curve well" includes the proper foot placement at step six, a lean away from the bar, and good action with the arm farthest from the direction of the lean working slightly across the body. A settling of the hips should be evident in the movement into the plant. This is the time to mark the tenth, or plant, step.

The coach or jumper should run a tape measure straight down from the starting line to a point on line with the take-off spot. He should mark this spot and then run the tape directly to the take-off. That will give him the perpendicular lines demarcating the 10-step J approach shown in the diagram.

The jumper can then align laterally with the right standard, facing the opposite standard. He should stand far enough away from the standard to be able to reach and grab it with a slight bend in the (right) arm. He can then take two (toe to heel) steps forward and mark the spot. This will be the takeoff spot.

The jumper will now have an approach he can work with. He should spend time working on the approach without the landing area. He can walk through it and jog through it.

Working at these slower speeds will help him get a feel for the positions needed in a correct approach. This will pay off as the jumper progresses to his regular jumping speed.

As the season moves on, the jumper can shift the emphasis to the plant-takeoff area in practice sessions.

In early season, however, the jumper should focus on the approach. He will eventually be glad he did.
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Copyright 1999, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Author:Boggis, Don
Publication:Coach and Athletic Director
Date:Apr 1, 1999
Words:1007
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