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Pole Vault Take Off Technique and Drills
by Advantage Athletics Pole Vault Coach
Tim Werner
Pole Carry / Plant / Take Off / Swing / Rockback / Pull, Turn & Push

       Pole Vault by Advantage Athletics can increase your ability to coach or train for the pole vault. The sequence photos of pole vaulting and pole vault drills with an explanation of proper technique will enhance your pole vault knowledge and form.  The exercises for weightlifting, running, sprinting, throwing and jumping will help develop form, balance, technique, flexibility, speed, strength and power.


The Pole Vault Take Off

The pole vault take-off and drive start with the take-off foot leaving the ground and the pole contacting the back of the box and continue until the tap swing begins. The lead leg stays in its natural running position in front of the body with the foot under the knee. The head drives forward. The left hand moves up with balanced resistance. With beginner vaulters, it is best to teach emphasis on the top hand and keep the bottom arm relaxed. We teach our beginner vaulters that their top hand is their support and to keep their support (top hand) above their head while riding the pole to a position over and past the top of the box before they swing their trail leg. For more advanced vaulters there is a balanced resistance with the bottom arm. This resistance must be up and not too much forward that it stops the shoulders from moving horizontally. Blocking with the bottom arm (keeping the bottom arm straight or pressing forward too much) stops the horizontal movement of the shoulders and causes the hips to swing forward too soon. The vaulters head, shoulders and hips should stay in a vertical line during the take-off. This is the most efficient way to transfer the energy into the pole generated by the run. This also forces the pole to roll over the box (so the top of the pole can continue to move forward) rather than compress the top of the pole into the box (causing the pole to return in the opposite direction ).

We don't teach our beginner vaulters to jump off the ground. The angle of take-off is dictated by: how tall the vaulter is, how high the vaulter is holding on the pole and the amount of bend on the pole at maximum bend. We do teach them to pop of the ground. Keeping in mind that vaulting poles are made to bend to 66.6% of their original length...a vaulter holding a pole at 12' can take that pole down to 8' with 8.5" of that in the box. A 6' vaulter has a standing grip on a vertical pole at 7'4". With the pole in the box that's already above the normal maximum bend of a pole holding at 12'. We also need to remember that maximum bend is not vertically above the box. Maximum bend is just past 45`. That puts a 6' tall vaulter's 14'+ standing grip still above the poles maximum bend when the pole is just above 45` if the vaulter drives straight forward horizontally off the ground. When a 6' vaulter starts to hold above 14' on a pole, it is time to start teaching that vaulter to start adding vertical jump into the take-off. Remember this vertical jump in the take-off is proportionate to the vaulters height, handgrip and amount of bend in the pole. If a vaulter is holding low and bending the pole, there is no need to jump up at take-off. If the vaulter is holding high and the maximum bend of the pole when the pole is at 50` is above the vertical reach of the vaulter, that vaulter needs to add vertical jump to the take-off. That angle of take-off is different for all vaulters.

Keep the shoulders square to the pit. Keep the back straight and both hands up and moving forward with the body. Try to keep the head, shoulders and hips in a vertical line and extended as it passes through the take-off. Do not let the hips get out in front of the vertical line of the shoulders. Drive forward until the shoulders and hips line up directly under the bottom hand. Be sure to keep the abdominal muscles tight, the chest straight ahead and vertical (not rolled or pointed up, sometimes caused by jumping up), the body rigid and the hands moving forward. Keep the body long and the hands as high while the pole lifts the body through the drive.

Extend the body. Do not hang. Extending is working. Hanging is not work. It will only cause the body to collapse and absorb any energy that should go into the pole. If the vaulter wishes to do this, just remember, any time there is a transfer of energy there is also a loss of energy.

Do not try to "row" or move hands forward to a position above or in front of the shoulders after coming off the ground. This will do two things. It will redirect the energy of the run into the box. The box is a barrier. We are trying to roll the pole over the box, not compress it into it. "Rowing" the hands forward also limits the rise of the hips. I’ll talk about this in more detail in the pages to come. If you row, you cannot clean the top of the pole.


8 Step (or Four Lefts) Straight Pole Sand Vault

Do this pole vault drill on a soft pole vault pole or a pole vault training pole. Dig a hole in the shape of a pole vaulting box in the front of the long jump pit. Make sure the long jump pit sand is soft. Start with a very low grip on the pole. Practice the pole vault plant position, pole vault one step plant and pole vault two step plant drills into the sand. Hold low enough so you can pole vault into the sand from the two step plant. During these vaults hold the body in the take-off position and keep the top arm straight until you land in the sand. Try to stay in an upright position by rotating the top arm around the shoulders after you pass the box. This will keep the pressure on the pole tip after the body passes the box. Swing the trail leg forward. Keep the body and shoulders straight until you land in the pit. Do not turn.

Do the same as above from 4 steps, 6 steps and 8 steps. From these short runs you won’t be able to start with the pole in a vertical position. As the approach gets longer the pole tip starts higher. The vaulter can also raise his/her grip with each longer run. Work back to a consistent 8 step vault into the sand. If it’s hard to keep your top arm straight through the vault, raise your grip. If it is too difficult to get into the pit, lower your grip. Look for a smooth pole drop, proper running form, a constant stride length going into the plant, a good 2 step plant and control through the vault.

Bending the Pole Vault Pole (Distance Vaulting)

Do eight step sand pole vaults. Work on proper technique during the run and plant. Run through the take-off. Do not let the plant slow you down. Try to maintain horizontal speed through the take-off. Try not to let the pole lift you. Make the speed of the run roll the pole forward. Stay balanced and in control. After you pass the box, rotate the top arm around the shoulders while swinging the trail leg forward. The top arm continues to put pressure back on the box after you pass it. Do not turn. Swing the feet as far back into the pit as possible. You can release the pole once the top hand reaches the hips. Try to stay straight and land safely in the sand. Try to land as far back into the sand as possible.

Pole Vault Bleacher Climbs

It is best to wear leather gloves or tape over the palms and fingers for protection when doing this drill. Find a safe place to climb under the bleachers free of scaffolding. Start on a step close to the bottom. Grab hold of a step with an overhand grip. Pull your feet off the ground. Pull up with your arms and reach back with one hand. Grab hold of the next step up and bring both hands together on the higher step. Pull up again and reach back with the opposite hand grabbing hold of the next higher step. Bring both hands together on the higher step. Repeat this climbing to a safe height where you can climb down the scaffolding or release and drop safely to the ground. Try to keep the shoulders straight and the body still while climbing.

This drill, along with "A" FRAME CLIMBS, will help develop the strength of the pole vaulter, so the pole vaulter's hands will not collapse at the take-off. It helps transfer the energy of the pole vault run more efficiently into the pole vault pole.

Pole Vault "A" Frame Climbs

Find a large "A" frame that supports gymnastics equipment for climbing. Many times these frames have slanted pipes supporting the vertical pipes. Start at the bottom of the slanted pipes and pull yourself up the frame hand-over-hand reaching backwards as you go up the pipe. Climb to a safe height and slide back down the pipe using your legs for support.

Pole Vault Slide Box Drill

We learn this drill from a 2 step, then 4 step and then 6 step approach.
DiMarco Slide Box $224

More Pole Vault Take Off Drills

Drill #1: You can do this drill with a hanging rope, horizontal chin-up bar or someone holding a pole at about a 45 degree angle. Do 1,2 and 4 step approaches jumping off the ground and grabbing the rope, bar or pole. Every time you grab the rope, bar or pole you should land in that take-off position and hold it still for a few seconds at least.

Drill #2: Get a box to land on that is about 12 inches high. Do 1,2 and 3 step plant drills landing on the box with the same foot you jump off. Every time you land on the box you should be in the take-off position. (This drill comes directly from Vitally Petrov.)

Drill #3: Hang on a rope, horizontal chin-up bar, or trapeze in the take-off position with your lead foot in front of your trail leg knee. Practice swinging your trail leg in this position. Make sure your trail leg doesn't swing past your lead leg. Generate swing from the hands or top hand if on a rope. You only need to generate a big swing then stop.