Pole Vault coach Beth Harris explains how to choose the right pole for you. This will depend on your bodyweight, strength and technical ability. There are also specific rules for pole vault competitions to avoid injury. Initially when learning to vault you need to learn on a straight, stiff pole to make sure you can vault safely over a bar onto the bed.
After many serious accidents in the 1990’s the U.S. National Federation of High Schools changed some of the rules.
- The athletes grip on the pole was reduced in height
- Athletes must only jump on poles that are equal to or more than their own body weight.
- The crossbar must be between 40 and 80cm from the zero line at the back of the planting box.
This changed the event immediately back to that of stiff pole vaulting, and it did reduce the number of accidents.
Before these changes the majority of high school pupils used a 14 foot pole, which weighed in at 63kg. After the rule changes a 72kg, 13 foot pole became the most popular.
Pole selection should also be decided upon the athletes ability. A more able athlete who can convert energy into the pole well, will need to use a pole heavier than their own body weight.
It is not just the weight and length of the pole that the vaulters have to be concerned with, pole speed is a huge factor in successful vaulting. If a vaulters pole speed is too fast they will clear the preferred landing zone, and if it is too slow they will not reach. Either of these outcomes can result in injury.
However if the speed is consistent and good, yet the vaulter is still landing outside of the zone then the athlete will have to look at:
- Changing the grip height – use small increases or decreases. An increase will slow the pole down and a decrease will speed it up.
- Changing the pole stiffness – use small changes. A more flexible pole will be quicker than a less flexible pole.
- Changing the pole length – if all else fails and an athlete reaches the point where they cannot grip the pole they are using any higher then they will have to use a longer pole. Still use small changes.