The High Jump

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The specific techniques of the run are just as crucial to excellent high jumping as are those of bar clearance, and must be practiced as often and as attentively to exact details. The run sets the basic pattern for the jump; if it is ill-done or ill-timed, bar clearance will be equally so. At least one accurately placed check-mark is mandatory.

Angle of run: The greater the angle of run, the more the cross-bar forces an athlete to jump up, vertically, but the more difficult it is to drive a straight leg up from a close take-off, and the greater the lateral distance over which arms and legs must clear the bar. The smaller the angle of run, the shorter the lateral distance becomes, but the greater the tendency to dive and slide along the bar. Most great straddle jumpers have run at angles of 30 to 40 degrees.

Length of run: The run must be long enough to give gradual and smooth acceleration to the desired speed at the take-off. If such speed is slow, the run need be no longer than seven strides; if fast, 13 strides may be found to be effective.

Speed of run: If a jumper has the leg power and conversion technique to use it, the greater the speed of the run, the greater the body momentum that can be converted upward. It is suggested that a jumper's speed should be their natural fast rhythm. This may be too fast for best jumping now. Thye jump better today if they slow down. But power training of related muscles and better technique in the gather and take-off will make effective use of such speed and enable the athlete, in the future, to jump nearer their real potential.

The method of run: All high jumpers use three or four fast steps just prior to the take-off. They differ in the number of preliminary steps, the number of check marks, the speed of the early steps and therefore of the later ones the lowness of the crouch, and the angle of body at E the take-off. In 1960, when jumping his best, John Thomas took three slow and four fast steps. Later, influenced by Brumel, he ran longer and faster, but never fully mastered such increased momentum. Brumel took four easy steps and seven fast. The Swedish jumpers Petterson, Nilsson, et al took three short steps, to a first checkmark, six accelerating steps, to a second check-mark. and four very fast steps to the take-off; 13 in all. If the run is long, two checkmarks should be used; though as the technique of the run is mastered, the second will be of lesser importance.

Gymboss Timers


The conversion of momentum from a fast run to a vertical jump requires great strength of the related muscle groups. This includes a lowering of the center of gravity, a momentary bracing of the take-off leg at a proper angle against horizontal momentum, and an effective use of the arms and lead leg in achieving the take-off.

The left arm-hand drops down toward the crotch. The right elbow and shoulder drive above the left. The eyes are kept focussed well above the bar; this aids backward lean. Both arms are pulled back and down; then forcefully up to aid upward drive. The right leg is straightened to provide full power upward, then bends after becoming airborne while nearing the bar, then straightens again at the bar. At one instant during foot plant, the left leg is straight so as to block forward progress; it bends in figure during foot roll-over to lower the COM (center of mass) to aid forceful left leg extension that provides the upward impulse. The COM should be lowered as much as eight inches. Right leg must bend to avoid dragging spikes on ground.

Leg angle at heel strikes 45 degrees The heel strikes first and HARD!


The take-off has one goal---one all-out objective: jumping HIGH! To jump one's highest requires an ignorance of all caution, a desperate, reckless explosion upward, without regard for possible muscle or tendon strain, with no thought of an economical clearance of the bar, or any other aspect of technique.

Such controlled recklessness is possible only when a person has achieved a toughness of muscle and tendon, as well as of attitude, through months and years of hard training. When done properly, such training develops muscle-tendon elasticity and durability, but at the same time it helps one to lose the inhibitions against effort that are such a hindrance to all-out performance. Gradually, through many repetitions these inhibitions are dropped, awareness of one's potential for effort is sharpened, an awareness that muscles trained gradually, carefully, but maximally, are free from injury.

But even that is not enough. Such controlled recklessness must be trained also at the high jump take-off. A man must jump at high heights in practice; at times, with no concern for the niceties of technical correctness.. Championships are won for clearing high bars, not for technically proper styles. Technical excellence is merely a means; the end is height in the air. A man must learn to run fast into the take-off, to block forward speed, to discover the exciting thrill of driving off the ground and up into the air with nothing held back. With such power and such recklessness, men can let themselves go to heights now considered impossible.

This is not at all to say that proper technique is unessential to maximum performance. It is crucial, every aspect of it. If, through his emphasis on a straight lead leg, one finds it necessary to slow down the run, it has diminished the potential jump, regardless of a determined attitude. If, through the emphasis on a fast run, one leans into the bar at take-off, and dissipates the powerful extension of the take-off leg in a twisting thrust to set up a rotating lay-out over the bar, no competitive urge can counter-balance the loss.

To achieve a maximal take-off, everything must be right. The take-off foot must be extended well forward of the COM (center of mass); the line of the body must angle backward at about 45 degrees (assuming a fast run); the take-off leg must be strongly braced momentarily so as to block all forward progress. With such a take-off, the jumper is forced upward, even without jumping. To understand this better, one might relate the action to the last two strides in the javelin throw.

But in addition to this horizontal blocking, the take-off includes a compression of the springs of the legs and torso. There is a natural settling of the body weight by some six to ten inches during the last three strides, and a powerful reaction upward. Add to this reactive drive, the upward thrust of the lead leg and of the arms.

The elements essential to a powerful take-off: natural ability---maxi related power---mastery of the mechanics---competitive recklessness.


In general, it can be assumed that the straighter the lead leg the greater its potential values for jumping high. First, such a straight leg tends, both actually and psychologically, to produce a more pronounced settling of the body during the take-off. The need to swing the leg high before horizontal momentum carries it into the bar causes the torso to settle back and down, thus compressing the springs of the body. This gives potentially greater force for the reactive extension upward, as well as a greater time through which that force can act.

Second, such a strait leg possesses a greater potential upward force by virtue of its greater length.

But, we must also assume that the faster the run, the more difficult it is to achieve and use such a straight leg. In the past, the straightest lead legs have been used by jumpers who had relatively slow runs, such as Charles Dumas and John Thomas. The faster runs of the Swedish jumpers were accompanied by bent lead legs and a dive straddle style

By power training, Valeriy Brumel acquired strength by which to ensure a low crouch, a 45 degree brace against forward momentum, a long-time upward thrust from the take-off leg, and with all that, an 80% extension of the lead leg which rose fast enough to clear the bar.

Persist in trying for a straight lead leg AND a fast run. Never compromise on either if you hope to achieve your potential in jumping height


The method of clearing the bar is largely pre-determined by:

If the forward momentum of the run has not been fully blocked, so that the jump continues forward toward the crossbar, the style will necessarily be some variation of a dive-straddle. In general, this style of lay-out is associated with a fast run.

In contrast, if the lead leg is fully extended and driven well above the bar and if the head and chin are erect so as to rise momentarily above the bar, then dropped quickly down and if the direction of the body's COM is close to the vertical, then the jump can be called an orthodox straddle style. Such a style tends to be associated with a slower run.

By long-time practice and power training, the athlete can combine a faster run with a more vertical jump and thus achieve a lay-out style closer to the desired form. This is difficult but it can be done. The greater the extent to which it is done, the higher the bar that can be cleared.

Though the path of movement of a jumper's COM is fixed by take-off direction and methods, one can still change the relative positions and movements of his extremities: the head:, arms, and legs. By dropping the head down quickly , the trail leg and hip can be lifted up and over the bar. By dropping the right arm down and twisting the head, the trail leg-hip can be lifted, and the left hand-arm-shoulder can be pulled out of the crotch and away from the bar. Or, by its own direct action, the trail foot can be rotated outward and upward. There is a close action-reaction between the movements of the extremities.

For most straddle-style jumpers, the trail foot-leg-hip are the most difficult parts of the body to get over the cross-bar. Each successful jumper seems to have their own unique way of trying to solve the problem. Most effective of all is to acquire the special power and flexibility demanded by this unique action, not duplicated in any other sports event. Assuming power and flexibility are adequate, the jumper should try several methods then select one for special emphasis. Actually these are variations of one method; the body always acts as a unit; each action here will have an equal reaction there. However, try:

  1. rolling around the bar without awareness of special action of any one part
  2. thrusting the lead arm-shoulder and head down just before the hips reach their greatest height; a compensating reaction will tend to lift the trail foot-leg
  3. rotating the face toward the bar and/or down
  4. lifting or everting the left hip along with a drop of the head--the trail foot-leg will follow
  5. throwing the trail foot straight up, with little concern for rotating the foot
  6. concentrating on an outward rotation of the trail foot, with extension of the leg

Great high jumping requires three essentials:

1: Competitive competence: self-confidence, concentration of physical-emotional-mental energy, self-control and reckless abandon

2: Adequate power: Such power in the related muscles makes full use of a maximum approach to each of the many phases of high jumping.

3: Mastery of skill: The many phases of skill in the gather, the takeoff, the upward thrust of the arms and lead leg, and the mechanics of an efficient clearance action must be mastered in part and as a whole. Such mastery leads toward complete automatism, to the point where high jumping becomes an artless art. Conscious intelligent practice of the many parts of action gradually loses all consciousness of those parts. A great champion jumps holistically as a unit the run-gather-take-off-spring-clearance are merely words by which to transmit and comprehend ideas. Only the ideas are partial; only the words have separate entities; the high jumping action from first step to landing is an inseparable whole.

NOTE: The above was edited from a technical paper supplied by high jumper Charlie Rader, M50/54


Relative to the other jumps, the approach run for the high jump is short, usually consisting of only about ten strides. The shape of the approach is a "J" shaped curve. The end of the "J" curve must be maintained at takeoff.

Visual tracking should be initiated as the jumper stands at the start mark looking straight ahead to a point straight out from the bar extended. Then the look should be to the take-off point, on to the other standard, then to the mid-point of the bar and finally back straight ahead to the bar extended line. These points need to become fixed in the mind of the jumper.

The drive phase segment is initially a straight line and should be five strides in length. At the start, the body should be rocked back, keeping the ankle locked with the toe up in the dorsiflexed position. In the drive out, strides two and three should provide maximum acceleration.

On the fourth stride anticipation of the bar should begin, with the eyes flicking back and forth from the straight ahead to the target. At the fifth stride maximum velocity should be attained, with the body upright and slightly turned toward the bar. Velocity must be maintained through liftoff.

The curve usually starts from between 15 and 16 1/2 feet out from the bar extended. The feet should be turned into the curve so that the rotation begins in the lower body with the hips turning before the shoulders. The outside shoulder should not be ahead of the hips or inside shoulder.

The feet control the turn, not the shoulders. In running the curve, enough torque should be developed so that there is a feeling of running on the sides of the feet. The curve must continue through the takeoff stride.

On stride eight, the outside arm should be held back and not driven ahead of the body.

On stride nine, which is the penultimate stride, heel lift should be kept low with the ankle locked and fixed in the dorsiflexed position. The foot should land directly under the COM and the tibia should be vertical. The arms should be driven back just before the foot makes contact. Coming down on the bar is often caused by a bad penultimate stride.

In going from the penultimate to the takeoff stride, the heel lift should be kept low, landing with the ankle fixed and the foot very slightly ahead of the COM. The curved path must be retained on this stride and the takeoff foot toe should be pointed toward the far standard.

The hands, with the palms turned outward and the thumbs pointing down, should move back past the hips. The shoulders should be made square with the hips.

There should be flexation of the takeoff knee, lowering the COM. Lowering the COM requires leg strength and the lower the COM, the more difficult the liftoff. However, the lower the COM goes, the higher the upward thrust can become.

The shoulder and hip axes should be in line and a "butt out" position should be avoided. The free leg should move away from the bar and the arms should block with the humorous in the arms parallel to each other. The elbows should be slightly flared out from the rib cage.

At liftoff, the free leg knee should be slightly bent and it is critical that the liftoff leg be fully extended prior to liftoff. Once this foot leaves the ground, the flight path has been determined and can not be changed!

The body will rotate over the bar rather than arching over it. The knees should be kept separated and as the shoulders drop going over the bar, the hips will rise. Once the butt has cleared, the chin should be tucked down toward. Currently some coaches train that the chin should be turned toward the shoulder while others teach that it should go straight to the chest. This is pretty much a question of personal preference.

A key thing to remember is that the takeoff is straight up and not into the bar. Momentum will carry the body over the bar. Coming down on the bar is usually caused by a bad penultimate stride.



To get the feel of landing on your back, take two legged jumps up and backwards into the pit. Remember, you jump over the bar and not into the bar. These jumps should be done from the standing position with emphasis placed on landing on the upper portion of the back rather than on the neck or the buttocks.

Next, take a three stride run-up, turn and jump and taking a "jump-sit" into the pit. The emphasis should be on jumping up and not into the pit.

Following this, go to a slow speed five stride run-up and do a scissors jump over a low bar. Again, make certain that the jump is up and not into the pit. This begins to train the body to coordinate the run and the jump.

From this go to a five stride curved run-up to get the feel of the momentum introduced by running a curve. These jumps should also be over a low height with the emphasis on going up with the back to the pit and allowing the momentum to carry the body into the pit. A lot of time should be spent on this drill.

For safety, it is better to do the drills and some of the jumping using a rubber tube stretched between the standards rather than a bar. Doesn't hurt as much when you land on it.

Recommended Resources UK


Recommended Resources USA

Related Articles:

High Jump: The Straddle and the Flop

High Jump: Technical Aspects



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