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High Jump: “J” Doesn’t Always Mean Jump

By Travis Bishop, Elite High Jump Coach

“J” doesn’t mean jump, in this case, it stands for the “J” approach. Additionally, the “J” approach is critical to the success of the jump.


High Jump “J” approach diagram showing checkpoints and steps.

The approach isn’t a real “J” but rather a “J” with half of the curved part. Unfortunately, many jumpers think of the whole curved part of the “J” and end up too parallel to the bar at takeoff when takeoff should happen with the plant foot pointed at the back corner of the landing pit


The purpose of the “J” approach is to gather correct momentum, run the curve while leaning away from the bar, and jump while still leaning and allowing the torque of the curve to twist you in the air so you can clear the bar back-first AND allow the leaning takeoff to produce the backward somersault. If executed correctly, the jumper only has to think about jumping straight up and the physics of the approach will do the rest.

“J” Approach Facts

Some “J” Approach Facts:

Untitled Document

• The more a jumper leans around the curve, the more rotation they have in the backward somersault

• A jumpers feet will land one-in-front-of-the-other (crossover steps) when running the curve, not side-by-side

• Approach speed starts in the straightaway and slightly increases in the curve

• The preliminary movements like hops, skips, and jogging happen before the straightaway is actually started

• If a jumper isn’t leaning at takeoff then the curve of the approach flattened out at some point or is too wide

• The penultimate foot plant misses the curve slightly

• The jumper feels like they are running on the edge of their feet when running the curve

The High Jump approach is the “J” approach and it’s critical to the success of the jump.

travisbishop_114x151Travis Bishop is a former collegiate track and field high jumper and prep champion. He is a high jump coach, organizational manager, leader, and motivator as well.  Growing up in rural America, Travis earned many awards and championships and practiced the straddle technique throughout his younger competition days. He was the only straddler of the time. Finally, finishing his jumping career as a collegiate Fosbury Flop guru. Please visit High Jump Life for more of his High Jump articles and videos.