Pole Vault Training Zone

Inside Pole Vaulting #12 –
Make Your Swing Work for You!

By Bill Falk

Question: How can I swing my body upside-down after the Pole Vault Take-Off? I bring my knees in toward my chest, but then I can't get my hips to keep going up the pole vault pole. They get stuck.

Answer: Your hips are blocked, because you row your top arm forward and across your body during the Swing. That forces your hips out towards the pole vault crossbar and prevents you from clearing heights above your top handgrip. Once the top handgrip and the pole get in front of your head, the Swing ends. You must swing your chest, hips and legs up the pole without pulling or rowing the pole forward.

Question: I understand what you're saying, but I feel I have to row my top arm, because I don't have enough momentum after Take-Off. How can I develop a better Swing, so I don't have to bring my arms forward?

Answer: Good point. You can build momentum by improving your Pole Vault Approach Run and your Plant. Remember, pole vaulting is a "Continuous Chain." Everything that happens later builds on what happens before. So improving your Approach Run and Plant will give you more speed and power to give you a better Take-Off and Swing.

Improving Your Approach Run

Each step must hit the runway underneath your knee, since the foot acts as a brake if it lands in front of the knee. You must build power during the Approach Run. Recently, I listened to Gary Gray, an expert on body movements, speak about using the "core" of the body more effectively. The body core (lower abdomen and back plus the hips) can produce great power if properly utilized. I adapted Gary's ideas as follows: Try driving your lead knee and thigh upward and a bit more forward than usual during your Approach Run. That will to make your hips work more effectively so greater speed and power can be produced. Make sure the foot still lands underneath the knee on each stride.

Improving Your Plant

A faster, more powerful Approach Run sets up a better Plant.  Maintain momentum by lifting both arms during the planting action to keep the top of the pole moving upward, so you are free to follow the pole. Too many pole vaulters stop their momentum by jamming the pole forward against the back of the box during the Plant.

Improving Your Swing

After the Take-Off swing your chest, hips and legs ahead of your top arm. Resist the temptation to bring your top arm forward. You must believe you can swing up without bringing your top arm forward. You have maintained momentum during the Swing, so you don't have to bring the top arm forward.

I suggest practicing the Swing using rings. You can imitate the movements of a great Swing. Make sure you also practice Step-Ups to increase your jumping ability. That will make your Plant, Take-Off and Swing more dynamic.

Next Inside Pole Vaulting Article: Good Body Position – The Secret for Great PV Take-Offs
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