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Pole Vault Coaching Information - Eamon FitzGerald


Reports of true competitive pole vaulting as we understand it today first appeared in the mid 19th century from Ulverston in the English Lake District. The first modern Olympics in 1896 were won with a height of 3.30m using a pole made of ash or hickory wood. This was soon replaced by bamboo poles, then metal alloy poles in the 1940s and finally fibreglass poles in the 1960s. Pole vault competition for women was first introduced into the Olympic Games in 2000.

The Event

Is sprinting with a pole, planting the pole in a trough, jumping off the ground and then a gymnastic swing to inversion on the pole. Once inverted the vaulter then pulls and turns to push off the top of the pole and clear a bar. There is a very strict sequence of events, or phases, which must happen correctly to be successful and safe. It demands speed, strength, agility and daring to reach the top. The event attracts a very special sort of person who must learn to handle the immense mental as well as the physical challenges. It does offer a wonderful sense of excitement, adrenalin rush, camaraderie, variety in training and achievement.


The different phases of the vault can be drilled separately then regularly linked and brought together in the complete vault. Complementary training and exercises as befits a sprinter, long jumper and gymnast will also be undertaken. Suitable practices include: Sprinting with a correct pole carry – lowering the pole while sprinting – walking plant drills – running plant drills – full run up and plant into a towel on the track – any sprint drill while carrying the pole – short run up and vault into sand – (excellent for training the plant and take off) – straight pole vaulting – (shows weaknesses very quickly) – Short and full run up vaults into landing area – swing to inversion on a soft pole – Gymnastic high bar, rings and rope work – gymnastic floor exercises (handstands, back flips etc) – general conditioning with a special emphasis on core strength and stability.

As the vaulter matures weight training and plyometrics will be added to the training regime.

Common errors, which can be solved by the practices above, include

Loss of correct running posture because of poor pole carrying technique. The pole should be carried with the top hand beside the right hip(assumes right handed vaulter), the left hand 20cm in front of the centre of the chest Palms of both hands face forward. The left wrist should remain higher than the left elbow for the entire run up with the left hand remaining on the centreline of the body as the pivot for the pole drop and plant.

Slowing and stretching into take off.

Late plant. Bent top arm when taking off.

Taking off too close. Taking off too late and being pulled off the ground by the pole.

Failing to jump up at take off.

Bending the pole before take off.

Slow swing and failing to invert.

Key point

Because of the sequential nature of the event any errors in one phase lead to inevitable problems in the next and subsequent loss of overall performance.

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