Sky Systems Description

Jan Johnson
B.S. Education M.S. Biomechanics
Former world record holder
Olympic Bronze medallist
National Safety Chairman

SJVSC pole vaulting voice: 1800 652-5201
fax: 1805 466-8119

Sky Systems video titles and descriptions:
Sky Systems 1 1990 (2 hrs) $40 Title: "Essential Fundamental Technique Systems for coaches, vaulters, and parents" Main topics: A generalized system of how fiberglass pole vault. Contains many specific drills with specific explanations to help enhance technique, and understanding. A good program for the intermediate vaulter looking for ways to improve technique.

Sky Systems 2 1991 (2 hrs) $40 Title: "….and now for something completely different" Main topics: The basic training and imitative exercises and drills of elite vaulters set to music, also contains two huge bloopers sections and many world class vaults. A very entertaining program about how to improve your vaulting from a training perspective.

Sky Systems 3 1995 (2 hrs) $40 Title: "Verbatim" Main topics: History, safety, pole collections, basic skills for safety, bloopers, and many world class jumps set to our favorite tunes.

Two New Sky Systems Titles:
Sky Systems 4 (2 hours) $40 2001 Title: "Basic teaching progressions and safety for the pole vault" Jan teaches and demonstrates his entire beginning pole vaulting progression system including pole progressions, with complete explanations. The system requires no additional equipment beyond some poles and a landing pit. The perfect tape for learning how to poles vault assuming you know absolutely nothing. If you are new to pole vaulting we strongly suggest this tape.

Sky Systems 5 (2 hours) $40 2001 Title: "Americana" This video has it all, Its two hours of world class jumping, bloopers, historical moments, classic jumps, camp shenanigans, sjvsc imitative contraptions and devises, and many other related items. "It's the video I always knew I could make about the pole vaulting lifestyle" - jan. Fun, and very entertaining.

Prices: Individual titles- $40 each, $100 for any three, $120 for all five.
Send check or money order to:
Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports club 6505
Santa Cruz Road Atascadero, Ca 93422

(All prices include shipping)

Beginning Pole Vaulting Progressions and formula notes

Beginning Pole Vaulting Progressions and formula notes

Jan Johnson
Sky Jumpers Vertical Sports Club
6505 Santa Cruz
Atascadero, Ca 93422
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Part 1. Grass Vaulting
Starting grip: Standing grip with top hand holding pole as high as one can stand and reach with top hand when pole plug is directly between feet.

  1. Over head carry tip taps. Walking and jogging carrying pole over head tapping the pole plug on the ground with the contact with each left foot contact.
  2. Proper carry and planting mechanics featuring: high hands low tip. Pushing pole slightly forward and then up so that hand are under pole on penultimate step. Pushing pole straight up for arms extended position prior to pole tip passing the front of the planting box.
  3. Over head carry jumping over pole plug with top hand extended over head at take off using a three left run.
  4. Gradually raise grip so that Vaulters pole plug barley brushes ground as pole rows through.
  5. Emphasis on high hands at take-off, jumping up at take-off, and staying right side up after take-off.

Planting from 3 lefts on grass with standing grip.

  1. Carrying pole Parallel to ground.
  2. Shifting hands with the contact of the second left so that arms are extended up over head prior to take-off.
  3. Gradually raising grip so that pole tip barley brushes ground as pole rows under.
  4. Emphasis on jumping up, extended arms and staying right side up.
  5. Emphasis on not over driving the right knee, and at the .same time keeping the trail leg down and back.
    o Best done in practice everyday as part of warm-up prior to vaulting.

Part 2. Short Run Vaulting with no bend in the pole.
Start by vaulting from a run of 3 lefts on to the pads using a grip of standing grip plus two feet. Gradually raise grip so that optimum pole speed is achieved. Learn the following drills and skills:

  1. Stays Downs: Staying right side up and landing in the center of the pads in swing position.
  2. Swing to L: Keeping straight trail leg and not allowing shoulders to roll back. Landing on the pads in seated L position.
  3. Swing Ups: Taking off with high hands, swinging straight trail leg up so that entire body is upside down position next to hand grip on the pole.
  4. Swing and shoot the turn: This is an entire short run vault with no bend in the pole.
  5. When technique is good from three lefts and the following criteria have been met then move to a five left approach.
    a. the vaulter with no bend in the pole can take off directly below or slightly out side his or her top hand grip.
    b. The vaulter is able to select a appropriate hand hold which allows him or her to land safely in the center of the landing pads with hips contacting the pads 3-6 feet directly behind the back of the planting box. 9 out of 10 times.
    c. The vaulter can complete a successful full vault with no bend in the pole gripping the pole 3 feet above his/her standing grip.
    d. The vaulter can swing a straight trail leg into the shoot and turn.
    e. The vaulter can turn over and finish 6 out of ten jumps in the tummy to the bar position landing in the center of the landing pad 3-6 feet behind the back of the box.

Chart A Standard 3 lefts starting distances from back of box

Vaulters Height 5' 5'6 6' 6'3
Right footed start distance 30' 33' 35' 37'
Left foot start distance 25' 28' 30' 32'

Note: distances assume vaulters of average athletic ability and aggressive starting running posture.

Chart B Standard one left distance adjustments based upon body height for vaulters of average abilities.

Vaulters Body height 5' 5'6 6'0 6'3
1 left 10' 11' 12' 12'6
2 lefts 20' 22' 24' 25'

Use the above table to add or subtract length to your vaulters approach, without having to run steps back. Keep in mind that by adding approach distance (lefts) you are increasing speed, by subtracting distance you are decreasing speed. This concept becomes very useful when trying to adjust approach lengths to pole sizes and grip heights.

Moving to longer runs, stiffer poles, and higher grips, and more top hand grip to cross bar efficiency is what pole vaulting is all about. Adjusting all these parameters is perhaps the trust application of coaching.

Part 3. Selecting the correct beginning pole for bending.
(short run vaulting from 5 lefts)
It is my suggestion that beginners, in order to develop and perfect all the important mechanics of: consistent approach run, jumping up onto the pole, swinging and shooting the turn properly, should use approach runs of 5 lefts with no bend in the pole for approximately 8 or 10 practices . These vaulters is usually ready to bend the pole when they are capable of vaulting consistently, and safely from 5 lefts with no bend in the pole, using a grip approximately 3' above standing grip, swinging a straight trail leg, turning over and landing safely in the front/center of the landing pads approximately 5 to ten feet behind the back of the box. After several sessions where this safe and successful jumping is demonstrated, it is my suggestion; that you begin the process of bending the pole in the following manner: First, select a pole that is approximately 2 feet longer than the athletes non bending grip, and equal to, or slightly (5lbs) greater his or her body weight. For example, if your athlete can grip the pole and successfully vault from 5 lefts at 10'6" and he weights 130 pounds then the proper starting pole would be a 12'6" 130 or 135, or perhaps a 12' 135, or 140. Please note, that in the proceeding example I have adjusted the weight of the pole up slightly for the shorter pole.

Since the relationship between pole length and pole and stiffness are inter-related at the basic rate of 6" in pole length equals approximately ten pounds in pole stiffness, both these suggested poles would be acceptable . The suggested beginning pole will probably not begin to bend immediately. However, after a few practices as the athlete becomes more aggressive and more accomplished the pole will gradually begin to bend, and in doing so will allow the athlete to grip higher. Please note that part of the process of learning to bend is a result of having the proper pole, and part of it is the process of having the proper technique. It is very important during this portion of the athletes skill development to introduce the concept of pressuring the pole with the arms. In order to do this effectively it is very important to begin shifting the pole into the overhead position not later than the next-to-last left during the take-off approach. By starting the plant on time; the vaulter will have both his arms in the extended over-head position necessary to give proper resistance to the pole. Proper resistance with the arms into the pole among beginning and intermediate vaulters (contrary to the popular notion) does not mean a straight bottom arm as the pole bends. It really means offering controlled resistance into the pole with the bottom arm, while the top arm simply holds onto the pole. In a well executed plant and take-off; the bottom arm will bend at the elbow approximately 90degrees, so that the bottom hand is approximately 15-18" above his forehead. This distance between the vaulters chest and the bottom hand when viewed directly from the side is know as "keeping space", or staying away from the pole. When the vaulter combines the correct amount of resistance with the arms and the proper leg swing as taught in the non-bending drills he is ready to move back to longer runs and higher grips.

Part 4. Increasing run-lengths and hand hold heights.
Obviously those athletes who can grip the pole higher will have greater potential to vault higher. This is why the athlete must ultimately increase his run length. Because as the run length increases, the take off speed increases, and so the potential to grip the pole higher becomes greater. In my opinion the process of lengthening the run should be done in gradual increments known as "lefts". Lefts, are simply take off foot contacts during the approach run. As the athlete runs more lefts his take off speed increases, and so his potential to grip the pole higher and or vault on a stiffer pole also increases. As the athlete raises his grip the pole will begin to bend more and the importance of having a high and centered plant will become more and more important. The importance of having a take-off step directly below the top hand position will also become increasingly important. During this phase of skill development it may become obvious that the athlete can improve his potential by gripping the pole higher and using a slightly longer run to generate more speed. This adjustment is encouraged if the athlete is landing in a safe position on the pads consistently, and if the pole is not bending excessively. Under these circumstances I recommend that you use the "one left adjustments" outlined in Chart B above. In general, the increased run length may be accompanied by the following grip adjustments:

Chart C Relationships between run length and grip height


Number of Lefts Grip Height Adustment
3 lefts Best Useable Grip
4 lefts +6
5 lefts +5
6 lefts +4
7 lefts +3
8 lefts +2

As a general rule of thumb a 3" increase in grip height will soften the pole at the approximate rate of 5 lbs per every three inches in grip. Please refer to the following table to better understand this relationship:

Chart D Approximate relationships between grip height adjustments and relative pole stiffness.

+12" 20 pounds softer
+9" 15 pounds softer
+6" 10 pounds softer
+3" 5 pounds softer
+1" 1.6 pounds softer

Basic Technique Concepts


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Basic Technique Concepts

By Jan Johnson

Olympic Bronze Medalist, Former World record Holder, National Safety Chairman, M.S. Biomechanics


Pole vaulting is really a series of movements which happen in rapid succession. Although many of the movements can be practiced separately, the vault should be viewed as a "motor whole". Each succeeding phase of the vault builds upon those actions which precede it. The final result cannot be as successful as desired unless the earlier phases in its execution have been equally successful in their precision. The athlete should be taught the vault as a simple and basic technique. In this regard the coach should direct the athlete's concentration toward basic fundamentals. This concept holds true for all vaulters no matter their level of performance. From the very best of vaulters to the very worst the practice directives remain the same; the athlete must concentrate on the essential fundamentals.

Pole selection and grip height are two extremely important items in vaulting success. They are related, yet independent of one another. Everything else being equal, the grip the vaulter uses, perhaps more than any other criterion, determines his potential for height. Simply stated, the higher the grip, the greater the potential to vault high. For sure, many vaulters try to hold too high for their speed and planting abilities. However, just as many hold too low when considering these criteria. The important rule of thumb to follow is that each vaulter in each situation has a pole size and hand hold which is right for him. Experience is the best teacher in determining when to change poles or grips . . . so each vaulter must learn for himself the proper time and place to make these adjustments. The following outline should give you some ideas concerning these problems and their solutions.


OBJECTIVE: To develop consistency and speed necessary to get the pole to vertical time after time.


  • Do every drill from a specific checkmark.
  • Long run vaulting should use a starting mark, 4 or 5-stride check mark, plant check mark, and take-off mark.
  • Plant mark and T.O. marks are for the coaches' use. The others are for the athletes.
  • The athlete must start his approach the same way each time to produce a consistent step.
  • In general, both of the athlete's check marks move toward the box (up) during a headwind and away from the box (back) with a tailwind.
  • The more speed a vaulter can generate during the approach, the more potential he has to hold high and push-off above his/her top hand grip.
  • The vaulter's posture should be erect, neither leaning forward nor backward during the run up.
  • The vaulter should sprint on the balls of his feet, not allowing heels to make contact with the runway except on the take-off step.
  • Vaulters foot should contact the ground directly under knee on each stride.
  • Relaxation and efficiency are important keys to speed.
  • Stretching and chopping both produce slower take-offs.
  • Many vaulters limit their potential by not training to improve their sprinting or jumping abilities.


OBJECTIVES: Efficiency and relaxation, which aid approach speed.


  • Avoid punching the pole back and forth.
  • The distance between the hands should be shoulder distance or slightly (2-3") wider. .
  • The higher the grip, the higher the pole tip should be at the beginning of the approach. Grips over 15' should be carried almost vertical. Grips less than 13', nearly horizontal.
  • The higher the pole carry, the earlier it should be lowered.
  • The vaulter should begin to lower the pole no less than 60' from the box.
  • Lowering the pole late causes a late plant.
  • Both elbows should be bent approx. 90* during the carry..
  • The top hand should be right next to the hip until the plant begins.
  • The hands should grip the pole in a relaxed manner with bottom hand thumb under pole acting as a fulcrum.
  • Shoulders and hips square to the box.
  • Pole tip with-in the vertical plane of shoulders at all times during the approach.


OBJECTIVE: Prepare for take-off, maintain approach speed.


  • A good plant begins with a proper carry: bottom hand thumb under pole, elbows bent 90 degrees, pole tip in proper position.
  • Shifting the pole on time enables the vaulter to achieve a stronger more efficient take-off.
  • The pole should be parallel to the ground as the plant begins.
  • A early hand shift enables the vaulter to have his/her hands in higher, more square position at take-off.
  • The vaulter should begin pushing the pole forward and up as the next to last take-off foot strikes the ground. I.E., if the vaulter leaves the ground on his/her left foot, then he/she would begin shifting the pole on the left foot contact previous to the take-off left.
  • Keep the pole as close to the midline of the body as possible. Avoid "round-housing" the pole.
  • Keep shoulders and hips square to the box.
  • Both arms should be extended up 100% before the pole strikes the back of

the box.

  • As the pole enters the box the top hand should be directly over the head

and not vary to either side of the midline of the body.

  • A good plant is accomplished with little or no loss in running speed.
  • The vaulter must not lean back or stretch his strides during the shift.
  • The next to last step should be slightly longer, lower stride, much like a long jumper. The vaulter should have the feeling of running over a compressed next to last step in preparation to jump-up on the take-off step.
  • The last stride (T.O. step) should be a short, quick, explosive step in an effort to jump up onto the pole..


OBJECTIVES: Re-direction and conservation of momentum (energy).


  • The proper take-off cannot be accomplished without an early, high plant.
  • Jump up at take-off in the direction the pole is about to go . . . try to help the pole rise to vertical by jumping up into it.
  • The proper take-off must be aggressive.
  • Push up with both arms, in an attempt to make your take-off angle as high as possible.
  • Apply pressure to the pole in a upward direction with your bottom arm, while holding on and hanging with your top arm. Do not attempt to pull your-self up at this point in the vault.
  • The pole should not jerk the vaulter on his back; he should stay right side up--and not try to rock back.
  • Try to make the transition off the ground as smoothly as possible but in an aggressive manner.
  • The vaulter should control the pole, rather than be controlled by it.
  • The key to holding high is in the plant and take-off.
  • The ideal take-off spot is directly below or slightly (12") inside the top hand.
  • The faster the speed at take-off, the greater the potential to hold high and push-off the top of the vault over the top hand.
  • The stronger the jump-up off the ground, the smoother the transition onto the pole.
  • The vaulter chest should drive forward and up into the direction the pole is going as the vaulter leaves the ground.


OBJECTIVE: To momentarily delay the trail-leg swing, thus enabling the pole to begin to rise to vertical more efficently.


  • Keep pushing up with bottom arm.
  • Keep head down- chin to chest - watch box if necessary. \
  • Keep trail leg straight and long.
  • Hold take-off leg back; toward runway, don't allow it to sweep through.
  • Drop lead knee slightly
  • Keep chest and bellybutton out in front (swing position).
  • The hang should be viewed as a momentary hesitation of body rotation just after the vaulter leaves the ground.


OBJECTIVE: Create internal forward and upward momentum that will conserve pole speed and get the vaulters body into position to extend up along top of pole during extension.


  • Sweep trail leg from behind hips forward and up around axis at hips.
  • Continue to push up with bottom arm.
  • Bring chin up off chest and start to focus on a point slightly in front of the bar.
  • The trail leg (pendulum leg) should be straight so that it describes the longest radius possible into a pike position with hips low and feet over hands.
  • The swing may also be viewed as a two stage action whereby he first swings; the trail leg first down and forward from the hang position into the pike position, and then; up into the feet above hands with hips low position.
  • The vaulter may find it helpful to think of kicking the trail leg first down and then around a circle into a pike position.
  • "Rowing" the hands forward while swinging the trail leg. This pressurizing of the pole will help speed the swing, and reposition the hands over the shoulders in a better position for the extension phase.


OBJECTIVE: To use the energy created from the forward swing and direct it upward by shortening the radius of the body.


  • Bottom arm now offers less resistance (it may begin to flex slightly).
  • Axis of body's rotation shifts from hips to shoulders.
  • The vaulter should flex at his hips as tightly as possible.
  • The pike speeds the up-sing tremendously.
  • The low hip position of the pike helps enable pole rotation , while the energy from the swing keeps the vaulter turning upside down toward the extension phase with power.


OBJECTIVES: Getting the body totally inverted and keeping momentum going up.


  • Continue to rotate around shoulder axis (force them back).
  • As pole unbends, allow bottom arm to collapse inside the pole
  • The legs should extend upward along top arm in a powerful motion.
  • The top arm should not pull. It should just hold on and hang.
  • The vaulter should never throw the head back, but rather drop shoulders back while driving legs and hips up.
  • Try to shoot hips and legs into vertical position so that top hand hits right thigh as pole nears final stages of unbending.
  • Try to keep feet going straight up over top hand as pole is unbending.
  • Try to delay turn while driving hips higher.


OBJECTIVE: To pull body up in upside down position without dropping feet while turning over.


  • Stay close to pole.
  • Bottom hand should come right by face as turn begins.
  • Keep feet together.
  • Cross outside over inside foot to start turn.
  • Also turn head in direction of turn.
  • Keep head in neutral position..
  • Keep shoulders back and feet going up.
  • The arm pull should start from the mid thigh or crotch area and should follow along the body.
  • Pulling motion with arms should be quick and vigorous.
  • Stay on back; don't rush the turn.


OBJECTIVE: For safe, successful vaulting and proper technique, the pole must get to vertical before the vaulter pushes off.


  • To learn vertical pole timing, the standards must be at least 18" back.
  • VauIting is safer when the pole gets to vertical.
  • The vaulter can keep his feet going more vertically during the pull and turn when he knows the pole is going to get to vertical.
  • It is easier to raise the grip when the pole is getting to vertical.


OBJECTIVES: To push straight down the pole and leave the bar on the pegs.


  • Drop feet after they cross the bar.
  • See the bar as you go over.
  • Do not try to rush over the bar.
  • Keep chest and body concave. Keep head down. Stay "hollow".
  • Bottom hand should let go of the pole first, as top hand completes push-off.
  • Turn over and keep pole near top hand shoulder so that it is mechanically easier to push aggressively at the box for the final clearance.
  • Push directly down pole at the box.
  • The pole should always get to vertical before the vaulter gets off.
  • Standard placement of approximately 18" is recommended.


OBJECTIVE: To vault on the proper size pole; which allows the vaulter the proper technique and grip height.


  • Factors which influence appropriate pole stiffness: plant technique, T.O. speed, grip height, strength, body weight, and aggressiveness.
  • The proper size pole is a must for performing the proper technique.
  • Vaulters will require stiffer poles as they improve.
  • Proper pole size allows the vaulter to hold his maximum grip.
  • In most cases of too much pole speed, where the pole is not over-bending, A vaulter should first try to correct by raising his grip, and if that does not work, then move to a stiffer pole.
  • Stiffer poles are usually the result of higher grips, not vice-versa.
  • Stiffer poles give greater resistance to vertical pole, and are therefor more difficult to make the pit on.


OBJECTIVE: To hold the highest grip individual physical abilities will allow and perform a consistent, safe, efficient vault.


  • If the pole is not over-bending and the technique is sound, the vaulter should raise his grip when he is landing deep in the pit.
  • By and large higher grips result in stiffer poles, not vice-versa.
  • Grip height is a result of the following: speed at T.O., plant and T.O. technique, hang and swing timing, amount of bend, strength, proper pole stiffness.
  • The higher the grip, the greater the potential to vault high.
  • Gripping to high for one's ability will yield poor efficiency at the top of the vault.


OBJECTIVE: A safe, even bend, that will produce the optium grip height and consistent jump.


  • The more the pole bends, the shorter the top hand radius around its tip in the box.
  • The shorter the top hand radius, the higher the vaulter can hold.
  • Vaulters can grip higher on a bending pole then a non-bending pole, because the top hand radius is shorter.
  • Different styles of take-offs produce different bend characteristics.
  • Some bend characteristics tend to break poles more than others (explained below).
  • Slow bending and unbending poles produce less energy at the top of the vault and thus poor clearance efficiency.


OBJECTIVE: To avoid breaking poles by understanding the circumstances which break poles.


  • Most poles break because they are damaged through abuse by the vaulter.
  • Poles cannot be "warmed up".
  • Poles do not need to be "broken in".
  • Late or low plants cause vaulters to jump on poles too soft for their body weight and/or T.O. speed.
  • A pole held lower cannot be bent as much without breaking than a pole held higher - yardstick rule.
  • Vaulters who leave the ground with a smooth, high plant and T.O. style seem less apt to break poles.
  • Vaulters who "muscle" the plant, plant late, or take-off way inside the top hand (24") seem to be more apt to break poles.
  • At the first hint of overbending, the vaulter should move to a stiffer pole or lower the grip and shorten the run.
  • Over-bending or breaking a pole is quite often a sign of take-off improvement.


OBJECTIVE: To develop techniques and select poles and hand grips which result in the generation of the appropriate amount of pole speed on a consistent basis.


  • Pole speed is the result of many the same things as grip height and pole stiffness.
  • Too much pole speed (pole going past vertical) is a good problem because it means the vaulter is doing things right and can raise his grip.
  • Too little pole speed (pole not getting to vertical) is a serious problem because it is dangerous and it limits the vaulter's chances for success.
  • Too little pole speed may be caused by any one or combination of the following: late plant, low plant, pole too stiff, pole too soft, slowing down at box, rocking back too soon, leaning back at the box, pole not bending enough, grip too high, grip too low.



OBJECTIVE: To compare and contrast the styles of two elite vaults.


  • Both vaulters plant high, take-off directly under top hand, drag trail-leg, have passive lead knees.
  • They also collapse bottom arm elbow inside pole prior to turn, have deep standard placement.


  • Applying more resistance to pole with arms at take-off. (fig. 3-5).
  • Keeping hips low prior to pike (Fig. 6), (Fig. 7).


  • Allows bottom arm to collapse slightly (Fig. 3-4).
  • Pushes bottom arm back out (Fig. 5).
  • Right foot moves up outside top hand to get center of gravity behind hands (Fig. 10).



Bail out - Aborting a jump sometime after take-off and going under the cross bar; usually the result of a bad take-off.

Blocking out- Descriptive term where the vaulter stiff- arms the pole at take-off in such a way that it blocks the chest drive.


Big bottom arm - Bottom arm which does not collapse at take-off. The result of a very good plant.

Check mark - A point or points on the runway that when stepped on with the intended foot, produce the correct step at take-off.

Chopping - Shortening the strides during the final stages of the approach, causing the vaulter to slow down.

Drive - The last strides of the approach and the application of force into the pole at take-off.

Extension - The active upward extension of the legs and hips just after the rock back as the vaulter gets into the upside down position, just prior to the pull and turn. (Fig. 9-10)

Fiber head - Type of plant in which the pole nearly touches the forehead just after take-off. The result of allowing the

bottom arm to collapse too much.

Getting ripped - getting "jerked" or yanked off the ground in an inefficient manner as the result of a poor plant.

Go for it Throw caution to the wind.

Grip height- - The distance from the bottom of the pole to the top of the top hand.

Gripper - A vaulter who holds the pole high relative to his competitors.

Hairball jump - A dangerous or out of control jump.

Hang - That stage of the vault just after take-off where the vaulter tries to slow his body's rotation (stay right-side up), thus allowing the pole to bend and rise to vertical more efficiently.

Hang and tucker - A vaulter who stays down a long time and then tucks hard to produce a fast rock back late in the jump.

Heavy jammer - A vaulter with exceptionally good plant and take-off.

Heel runner - A vaulter who sprints on his heels.

Hoe-daddy - A vaulter who is afraid to take-off or rock-back for psychological reasons.

Jump-hit - Jumping off the ground before the pole hits the back of the box. Usually an out jumper.

Soft side - That side of pole to which it bends the easiest. Usually the warp side or label side.

Stalling out - Excessive loss of pole speed preventing the pole from rising to vertical and causing the vaulter to land in the front of the pit or on the runway.

Staying down - Pushing through the pole with the bottom arm and dragging the pendulum leg or both legs during the early portions of the jump so as not to get into the rock back position (past the pole) too soon, thus allowing the pole to bend and rise to vertical more easily.

Stoked - The feeling of excitement after a great jump.

Stretching - Lengthening the strides during the final stages of the approach, causing the vaulter to slow down.

Stride cadence - The rate at which the vaulter takes strides.

Swing - The actions of the body during the pole bending stage, just after the hang. The sweeping of the trail leg forward and up.

Swinger - Style of jumping -here vaulter allows legs to hang behind hips after take-off to slow body's rotation.

Take-off - That phase of a vault when the vaulter leaves the ground.

Take-off angle - The angle of the pole relative to the runway at the instant of take-off. The higher this angle, the better.

Take-off mark - That point as measured from the back of the box from which the vaulter leaves the ground. Also called the "step".

Take-off step - That step with which the vaulter leaves the ground.

Trail leg - The leg the vaulter jumps off the ground with. Also called the pendulum leg.

True axis - Also called "real axis", the axis described by the vaulter's hands as they move around the tip of the pole in the box.

Tuck - That phase of the vault when the vaulter pulls his bent knees into his chest to shorten his body's rotation and speed his rock back.

Under jumper - A vaulter who is more comfortable taking-off from inside the vertical line from his top hand to the ground at the instant of take-off.

Underbending - Not bending the pole enough to execute proper technique.

Late plant - When the plant begins later than two strides from the box.

Levering away - Not allowing the bottom am elbow to collapse inside the pole during the extension phase; resulting in an incomplete extension prior to the turn and pull.

Low plant - When the arms are not fully extended overhead at the take-off, creating a low take-off angle.

Muscler - A vaulter who relies on upper body strength rather than technique for success. Probably not vaulting up to potential.

No boy - No.

Off the wall - Landing back on the runway after stalling out.

Out jumper - A vaulter who leaves the ground outside the vertical line from his top hand to the ground at the instant of take-off -usually a "jump-hitter".

Overbending - Bending the pole too much for grip height.

Over striding - Taking strides too long during the approach, resulting in an under take-off and/or slo. take-off.

Past the pole - That point in the jump when the center of gravity passes the true axis of the pole.

Penetration - Getting in the pit (pole to vertical).

Penultimate step - The next to last step prior to take-off.

Plant - Those motions which bring the pole from the hip position during the approach to the overhead position of the take-off.

Plant check mark - A coach's check mark; that distance from the box -here the plant step occurs (3 steps or 2 strides).

Plant step - That foot during the approach on which the plant begins three steps from take-off.

Pole speed - The speed which the pole rises to vertical.

Pull and turn - The twisting and pulling motion at top of the vault.

Rowing- The action of pulling the pole forward during the swing phase so that the hands are directly over the shoulders.

Rock back - The movements of the vaulter during the unbending stages where the vaulter raises his hips above his shoulders.

Run-through - Full speed approach without taking-off to determine if check marks are valid.

Settle step - Next to last step prior to take-off (penultimate) , vaulter lowers center of gravity to prepare for jump off the ground. Basic Technique Concepts

Understriding - Taking strides which are too short, resulting in a slow -and/or out take-off.

Vertical pole - The highest point to which the pole can rise during a vault (90 degrees to perpendicular to the runway) . This is a must for successful and safe pole vaulting.

Wired - When everything works just right.

Yea boy - Yes.


1. With a tail wind the vaulter:
a. gains pole speed b. loses pole speed
c. should have a faster approach d. can hold higher
e. all except b a &c

2. In pole vaulting take-off speed
a. not important b. very important
c. hurt by pole size d. the result of runway speed
e. b & d and jumping ability f. c & d

3. Which of the following is considered by most experts to be the most important phase of the vault:
a. rock-back b. plant
c. clearance d. pull
e. hang f. turn

4. The correct pole plant begins:
a. one step from T.O. b. two steps from T.O.
c. three steps from T.O. d. four steps from T.O.
e. none of the above

5. The correct pole plant begins:
a. as the plant foot strikes the ground d. all of the above
b. before the plant foot strikes the ground e. none o f the above
c. after the plant foot strikes the ground

6. The plant foot for right handed vaulters is:
a. right foot b. left foot c.either foot

7. In the correct plant the vaulter:
a. curls the pole to the side and up d. should see the bar
b. pushes the pole forward and up e. deaccelerates slightly
c. keeps his arms slightly bent at T.O. to absorb shock f. pulls with the top arm

8. The vaulter's T.O. foot should be:
a. as close as possible to the box b. as far away as possible from the box
c. 12 . - 24' inside the top hand d. directly under the top hand
e. directly under the bottom hand f. none of the above

9. When getting on a stiffer pole for the first time, the vaulter should:
a. raise his grip 1" for each pound of increase in stiffness b. raise grip 2" - 3"
c. lower grip 2' - 3' d. keep grip same
e. move hands closer together f. a & e

10. The vaulter will lose pole speed by:
a. lowering the pole too late during approach b. late plant
c. late rock-back d. slowing down at plant
e. pushing with bottom arm at plant f. all except c & e

11. The swing-up may be aided by the proper:
a. plant b. hang
c. tuck d. pole size
e. grip height f. all of the above

12. The take-off angle is the:

a.Distance from the top hand to the cross bar. b.Distance from the T.O. toe to the box. c.Distance from T.O. toe to top hand. d.Is always the same for each vaulter.

13. Immediately after leaving the ground, the vaulter should:
a. try to rock back d. tuck
b. try to stay right side up e. none of the above
C. throw the head back f. a & d

14. During the swing phase of the vault the vaulter should try to:
a. speed his body's rotation d. - let the bottom arm collapse
b. pull with the top arm e. swing the legs around axis of the hips c & d
c. slow his body's rotation f .a & d

15. During the hang phase, the vaulter is trying to keep his weight behind the pole and low so that:
a. he may rock back earlier d. b & c
b. the pole may rotate to vertical e. a & b
c. he may rock back and avoid stalling out f. a & c

16. During the rock-back phase, the vaulter tucks with his legs and hips so that he may:
a. get back sooner d. slow his rotation
b. speed his rotation e. b & c
c. get back faster f. a & b

17. The vaulter may keep the pole bending during the rock-back phase by:
a. pushing with the bottom arm d. dropping the head back
b. pulling with the top arm e. b & d
c. keeping trail leg straight f. a & b

18. During the final steps prior to take-off, the vaulter should:
a. speed up d. shorten last step slightly
b. lean back to aid rocking motion e. all of the above
c. lower C.G. on penultimate step f. a, c, & d

19. In most cases the more the pole bends:
a. the higher it "throws" the vaulter b. the easier it is to make the pit
c. the easier it is to hold higher d. the shorter the pole axis of rotation
e. all of the above f. all except a

20. Serge Bubka was reported to have run what time for 100m?
a. 10.3 d. 10.5
b. 10.7 e. 12.3
c. 9.87 f. none of the above

21. The real advantage of using a fiberglass pole is:
a. the catapulting effect d. higher carry
b. higher grip e. wider hand spread
c. easier plant f. a & b

22. Given the same grip, which of the following examples yields the shortest top hand radius?
a. b. 20° c. 40° d. 60° e. 80° 100°

21. During the extension phase, the vaulter should:
a. get the bottom arm elbow inside the pole d. throw the head back
b . drop the shoulders further back e. all of the above
c. keep the feet going straight up f. all except d

24. By extending the legs and hips in a strong upward motion prior to the turn, the vaulter may:
a. help the T.O. d. stall out
b. lose control of the turn phase e. help pole speed
c. shoot-out at the bar and extension f. b & c

25. Pole speed is a result of the following:
a. grip height c. pole stiffness e. rock-back timing
b. plant d. bottom arm resistance f. all of the above

26. In relation to the back of the box, which is the best standard placement?
a. 12' in front c. 12' behind e. 20* behind
b. even d. 15* behind f. any of the above

27. Not enough pole speed may cause the vaulter to:
a. hit the bar going up d. land in the box
b. hit the bar coming down e. all of the above
c. go under the bar f. all except a

28. Too much pole speed may cause the vaulter to:
a. see to not rock-back enough d. land in the box
b. hit t he bar going up e. all except d
c. turn sideways over the bar f. all except c and d

29. Which of the following is a must for proper technique?
a. getting the pole to vertical d. early tuck
b. using a pole 10 lbs. over body weight e. early rock-back
c. a proper flyaway f. a & e

30- The best way to correct too much pole speed is to:
a. rock-back sooner d. get on a stiffer pole
b. slow down the run e. swing sooner
c. raise the grip f. lower the grip

31. Most of the world class jumpers today are holding at least:
a. 13-6 c. 15-6 e. 17-6
b. 14-6 d. 16-6 f.18-6

32. The problem of not landing in the center of the pit may be caused by?
a. Too much grip d. all of the above
b. Too soft a pole e.
c. Poor plant f.

33. Which of the following conditions represents a 15' vault:
a. 13' grip 2'8' push off d. all of the above
b. 14' grip 1'8' push off e. none of the above
c. 15' grip 8' push off f. a & c


T F 1. Vaulters should first learn basic technique with no bend in the pole.

T F 2. In a head-wind, the vaulter should go to a stiffer pole.

T F 3. The vaulter should attempt to keep bending the pole by pulling with the top arm and pushing with the bottom during rock-back.

T F 4. The vaulter who resists too long with the bottom arm will not extend properly.

T F 5. The vaulter should attempt to pull down as he leaves the ground.

T F 6. Pole speed is the speed at which the pole straightens.

T F 7. Some world class vaulters would prefer to have their standards as far as 3 feet behind the box.

T F 8. To achieve a good flyaway the vaulter must push-off the pole before it rises to vertical.

T F 9. Too much pole speed is better than too little for raising the grip. -

T F 10. Take-off speed is the energy which makes the pole rise to vertical.

T F 11. Softer poles offer more resistance to penetration.

T F 12. Pole speed, grip, pole size and T.O. speed are interrelated.

T F 13. 17' grip and 3'8' push-off - 20' vault.

T F 14. Sometimes vaulting poles break.

T F 15. Throwing your head back helps you get up side down.

T F 16. The bending pole allows a higher grip.

T F 17. Swing speed and pole speed have no relationship.

T F 18. Faster vaulters should be able to hold higher.

T F 19. Gymnastics ability is an advantage in vaulting.

T F 20. A large amount of pole vaulting technique may be learned from imitative drills and exercises.

T F 21. The vaulter who runs on his heels or leans back during the final strides is slowing down.

T F 22. The axis of the pole is the speed at which the vaulter rocks back.

T F 21. Grip height has no relationship to vault height.

T F 24. Jumping up at take-off is a bad habit because it could cause slowing down.

T F 25. Grip height and clearance efficiency are not related.


Multiple Choice,

1-e, 2-e. 3-b, 4-b, 5-a, 6-b, 7-b 8-d, 9-d, 10-f, 11-f, 12-c, 13-b, 14-e. 15-d. 16-e, 17-a, 18-f, 19-f, 20-a, 21-b, 22-f, 23-f, 24-e, 25-f. 26-e. 27-e. 28-e, 29-a, 30-c, 31-C, 32-d, 33-d

True and False

1-T, 2-F, 3-F, 4-T, 5-F. 6-F, 7-T, 8-F, 9-T, 10-T, 11-F. 12-T, 13-T, 14-T, 15-F, 16-T, 17-F, 18-T, 19-T, 20-T, 21-T, 22-F, 23-F, 24-T, 25-F



Guidelines for the Pole Vault

Guidelines for the Pole Vault

Increase Safety, Reduce Cost & Improve Performance

by Jan Johnson

Teaching Beginners Each season, start all beginners as well as more advanced vaulters with the following beginning drill sequence. Encourage your vaulters to use this set of drills each day as part of their regular routine prior to actual vaulting. Each drill should be done 5-10 times per session emphasizing perfect technique. Your vaulters are ready to begin vaulting for height when they have mastered the beginner's drill sequence. They should first find a pole they can bend and vault on safely from 4 or 5 lefts. This is commonly known as short run vaulting and is an effective approach to learning good technique. As they improve, athletes should gradually raise their grip one or two inches at a time until the pole is too soft. At this point, they should take the same handhold on a slightly stiffer pole from the same run. If the new pole is too big from their present approach, have the vaulter increase the length of his or her approach by one left (two strides). If the pole is still too big, he or she may need to move back one more left. This system is called "making the run fit the pole." It will save your program broken poles, give your kids great technique and improve the safety of your vaulters. Once the fundamentals of technique have been learned, the progression is really just a series of higher grips, stiffer poles and longer runs. During this entire sequence, it's very important to keep your vaulters focused on the basic elements of perfect technique listed at the right.Basic Technique Concepts for Success n n Use a measured check mark system for all approaches.n n Take off directly under top hand. n n Both arms pressed all the way up prior to pole hitting the box at take-off

"Standing Reach Grip" or "Bottom Hand-Top Hand Starter's Grip" is the perfect beginner's starting grip. With the tip of the pole between feet, reach as high as you can with your bottom hand. Then hold 12" higher with your top hand.

  • Jump up at the take-off like a long jump.
  • Stay right side up for the first instant off the ground.
  • Bring (swing) a straight trail leg forward and then up to keep pole moving to vertical and get body upside down.
  • Row hands forward during swing and use top hand as a guide to vertical.
  • Get feet past top hand, pull body (upside down) and stay close to pole.
  • Learn to vault with standards a minimum of 18 inches back.
  • Master all parts of the beginning drill sequence prior to progressing to advanced drills, long run vaulting and higher hand holds.

Common Technique Mistakes

  • Invalid step systems or no step system.
  • Running off the ground instead of jumping up at take-off like a long jumper.
  • Slowing down to plant the pole.
  • Starting pole plant later than the next-to- last left.
  • Hands not all the way up prior to the pole hitting the box.
  • Hands, shoulders, and hips not square at take-off
  • Take off inside of top hand.
  • Jumping around the pole instead of at it.
  • Pulling with arms instead of hanging during swing phase.
  • Tucking trail leg off the ground instead of staying long.
  • Throwing head back instead of swinging to get inverted.
  • Stiff arming the pole and thus blocking the swing.
  • Getting "jerked" (allowing hips and feet to get pulled in front of shoulders right after take off).
  • Holding hands wider than shoulder width.
  • Carrying pole across body so that it creates a roundhouse plant.
  • Holding too high on too small a pole for current technique and ability.
  • Failure to learn proper technique prior to raising grip.