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Pole Vault Approach and Pole Carry Technique and Drills
by Advantage Athletics Pole Vault Coach
Tim Werner
Pole Carry / Plant / Take Off / Swing / Rockback / Pull, Turn & Push

       Pole Vault by Advantage Athletics can increase your ability to coach or train for the pole vault. The sequence photos of pole vaulting and pole vault drills with an explanation of proper technique will enhance your pole vault knowledge and form.  The exercises for weightlifting, running, sprinting, throwing and jumping will help develop form, balance, technique, flexibility, speed, strength and power.

      This page shows the pole vault pole carry drills that we do at practice.  These drills will help increase the speed and balance of the pole vaulter while running with the pole and putting up the plant in the last few steps.  The pole vaulter doing these drills is Jeff LaMonica, decathlete and pole vaulter.

Technique

Standing at the Back of the Pole Vault Runway

     Place the left foot on the starting mark. The right foot will be slightly behind and to the right of the left foot for good balance. Hold the right hand along side of the body at or above the waist. The left hand holds the pole a few inches in front of the chest. The pole is balanced in an almost vertical position. The vaulter should be in a position ready to drive off the starting mark.

To Start the Pole Vault Run

     The right hand remains constant at the waist. The top hand holds the pole a few inches away from the chest as the initial body lean and push-off of the left foot tilts the pole toward the pit. Drive hard off the left foot to get the pole moving. Transfer the weight of the pole into the right hand. The legs are driving the hips. The hips are driving the top hand and the top hand is driving the tip of the pole. Relax the drive and work into a smooth accelerating run.

The Pole Vault Acceleration and Pole Drop

     The pole vault acceleration and pole drop begins at the starting mark an ends when the tip of the pole hits the back of the box. The pole tip has a smooth and constant drop to a horizontal position during the acceleration and pole drop. The height of the pole tip dictates the speed and form of the run. The run gets faster and the turn-over of the feet moves forward under the hips as the pole tip drops. If the right hand gets behind the hips during the acceleration and pole drop push it forward going into the left foot as the pole reaches its level position. The vaulter may have to raise his or her elbows slightly to get the pole to a perfectly level position. For the high school pole vaulter this position is about hip level. For the more advanced vaulter, this level position will be higher do to the longer length and heavier pole.

The Pole Vault Plant

     The pole vault plant starts on the left foot two strides before the take-off.  The pole at this point is level with the runway. The right hand moves directly vertical up the side of the body and finishes directly above the head. The left hand is also moving up as the pole tip continues to lower. If the pole tip starts level with the top hand both hands can be moving up through this phase. Continue to run tall and maintain running turnover, pulling the toes through quickly and not letting them point of drag behind. The stride length must remain constant. Only the stride frequency accelerates. The right hand should be at ear height and behind the ear when the vaulter is on his/her right foot. The pole tip continues to lower, and the hands continue to rise. The top hand reaches its highest point with the top hand extended as high as possible when the left foot touches the ground. The top arm should stay behind the ear.  Do NOT throw the hands forward.  The pole vault pole tip must not touch the back of the box before this task is finished. The hips, shoulders, head and top hand should be directly above the take-off foot when the pole tip hits the back of the box. The lead leg should continue its natural running movement off the ground.

     The idea of this pole vault plant is to run the  pole vault pole tip into the box. During the pole vault plant the top of the pole rises but maintains its horizontal acceleration in conjunction with the run. All energies are focused on getting the top of the pole to its fastest and tallest position while maintaining the direction of speed. Any change in this  will result in energy and efficiency loss.

     Do not try to jump off the take-off.  To jump the vaulter must change the running form, which will slow the vaulter down. Jumping off the ground also changes the direction of the forces generated in the run. Any attempt to jump over the pole is only taking potential energy from the pole.  However, we do teach our vaulters to "POP" off the ground.


DRILLS

A.  Pole Vault Plant Position Running

     Start at the starting mark. Put the plant up in the take-off position with the pole vault pole tip 6" off the ground. Do full approach runs in this position keeping your running speed through the box. The top hand stays directly above the head and behind the ear tying to keep the hand high. The left arm pushes up on the pole to maintain its position. The bottom arm elbow is bent.  Both elbows are out.  Work on keeping the hands above the head while the feet maintain good turnover as described in the one step plant drill. Try to keep the knees up. Accelerate until a constant stride length is achieved then maintain that stride length. Accelerating from here is only done by increasing the tempo of the stride. Keep running until you pass the box.


B.  Pole Vault Hurdle Drill

    Begin at your starting mark with a normal approach start with the pole vault pole up in the vertical position. Do the pole vault acceleration and pole drop phase of the approach. When you reach the #2 tape mark on the runway the pole tip should be even with the top of the hurdles and over the center of the runway. Hold the pole in this position, level with the runway, until the pole tip reaches the second set of hurdles. Put the plant up on the next two steps. Let the pole tip hit the ground when the plant goes up. Hold the plant up until the body passes the last set of hurdles. Try to maintain total body and pole stability and proper running technique as described in the speed plant drills. Keep the stride length constant through this phase.



C.  Catching the Pole Vault Step

     Using a starting mark, a tape box and a mark at the plant on the track ,do full pole vault run approaches. Use this drill to practice the pole vault approach and speed plant. Run through the plant and continue to run for 4 more strides (or 2 lefts). Have someone catch the pole vaulter's step each time. Measure this approach from the back of the box to the starting mark and use this distance on the runway to measure the pole vaulter's step for pole vaulting. This drill can be used to get the measurement for any length  pole vault run.

New: It's preseason now and we do not use any mark on the runway for a box.  We'll measure their runs later when they get this drill consistent and do as shown above.  We have our athletes count their left foot every time they do this drill starting from the first left after their starting mark.  They try to do 3 things at the same time when their 8th step hits the track:  

  1. Their 8th left foot hitting the track.
  2. Their top arm fully extended and their hand straight up over their head.
  3. The pole tip hitting the runway.