Pole Vault

Beth Harris, Pole Vault Coach Level 4, explains Pole Vaulting technique with free to view pole vault drills videos to improve each aspect of the jump. We have divided practice exercises into warm-up and conditioning, the approach, the plant and take off, drive & swing as well as other hints and tips to improve your pole vault technique.

Pole Vault warm-up & conditioning

The pole vault places a lot of strain on the lower back so it is important to warm up thoroughly and in particular mobilise the lower back. These drills take you through a pole vault specific warm-up.

  • Core strength is also important not only for stability at the plant but enabling the vaulter to efficiently invert on the pole.
  • Rope training is an excellent way of improving core strength and getting the athlete used to being upside down.
  • Gymnastics is also an important part of a vaulters training and here we demonstrate a number of useful gymnastics exercises for pole vaulters.

Pole Vault approach drills

The following drills aim to improve the approach or run-up. Staying relaxed and gradually increasing speed to a maximum controllable take-off speed is what we are trying to achieve as well as being as efficient as possible.

  • Standing pole drops encourage the vaulter to develop a smooth and gradual pole drop throughout the run-up with the pole starting inline with the skeleton and almost vertically so the weight is not carried purely by the arms.
  • Walking plant drill – the plant is a very important part of the vault. Get this wrong and it will not just result in a poor vault but could cause painful injury. The following plant drills work on plant technique a step at a time.

Plant & take off

The plant is very important. If you get this wrong the rest of the vault will likely go wrong. It is important for the athlete to keep their head looking up, not down at the box, as in athletic movements the body follows the head. Both hands should be pushing the pole up above the shoulders, with the palms aiding this upward push.

  • Walking take off – a starting point when learning to vault but essential to perfect even for the higher level vaulters to provide a firm foundation for the rest of the vault.
  • Two-step plant drill – progressing from the walking drill the top arm is driven up and overfocusing on pole movement and keeping the pole driving forwards.
  • Long jump pit plant drill – this is another plant take off drill but this time is done in the long jump pit which enables the vaulter to put a bit more speed and height into the drill without fear of the bottom of the pole moving once they are airborne.
  • Two-step take off – to achieve a one-arm take off slide the pole down taking off with full extension and really driving the top arm forwards. The end of the pole vault run-up is similar to the long jump so it needs to be faster, shorter and sharper at the end.
  • Four-step take off – to achieve the four-step running take-off drive both arms up though the take-off into an explosive movement forwards. Avoid the temptation on short approach drills to drop the left arm.
  • Running plant drill – adding plant action to previous drills. A six-step running take off moving the pole through, right arm up the line of the body with a nice strong take-off position, knee up and take off leg back preparing for the next phase of the vault.

Pole Vault developing bend

Developing bend in the pole is one of the most difficult things for beginners. The following drills explain how to resist the pole and develop bend. Contrary to what some people believe and often what it looks like a bendy pole does not ‘spring’ the vaulter off the top but rather allows them to hold higher up the pole which in turns results in a higher vault.

  • Pop up inversion drill – initially, all drills are done with a straight pole because we need to learn to move the pole forwards and swing on a straight pole before bending. This is a straight pole inversion drill that gets the vaulters used to being upside down on the pole whilst jumping.
  • Bendy pole drive drill – a progression from the straight pole-vaulting into creating a bend in the pole and keeping the pole moving. We need to keep the pole ‘rolling’ after take-off and keep the movement right the way through to the vertical.
  • Developing bend in the pole – the core of the body should be firm, with the whole body in an extended position. The arms should be as high as possible pressing upward. The pole must be kept moving by putting pressure on it. Keep the pole away from the body. Raise the hips and roll the shoulders underneath. This will bring the pole in close to the body in a vertical alignment.
  • Bendy pole inversion drill – This drill combines developing bend in the pole with being able to invert fully in order to be in the best position to clear the bar.

Pole Vault technique & training

The basics of technique, common pole vaulting errors that beginners and more advanced vaulters alike make including take-off refusal problems. We also look at the elements of a pole vault training program as well as how to choose the right equipment.

  • Pole vault technique – the perfect pole vault technique broken down and explained including the approach run, plant and take off, drive and swing and bar clearance.
  • Elements of a training program – as well as technical work a pole vaulters training program should include sprint training, strength training, and gymnastics.

Choosing a vaulting pole

Selecting the right equipment is essential in this event. Choosing the right pole will depend on your body weight, strength and technical ability. There are also specific rules for pole vault competitions to avoid injury.

Common pole vaulting errors

Beth explains the more common errors vaulters make which includes the approach run, plant and take off, choice of pole and grip height.

How to beat take off refusal

Another common problem most vaulters encounter from time to time is an inability to take off. Beth Harris explains some tactics to cure pole vault take-off refusal.