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Pole Vault Rockback 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.

Technique

The Pole Vault Rockback

The transition from the swing to the rockback starts with the trail leg and hips coming in line with the shoulders and top hand. It is best when the body moves through this point when the vaulter is at a 45 degree angle to the runway with his/her feet in the direction of the box. Keep the shoulders from dropping back before full extension of the body (Or piking at the shoulders before full extension). The rockback starts when the body, from the shoulders to the trail foot, begins to rotate around the shoulders. Keep the trail leg extended and long. At times the trail leg bends to speed the rockback but the trail leg MUST be extended when it reaches the top hand. The shoulders drive down and back at the same time the trail leg and hips lift. Do not let the top hand catch up to or pass the shoulders. Keep the head in line with the body as it helps drive the shoulders back. Keep the hips moving through the rockback in a circular motion around the shoulders. Emphasize lifting the hips with a piked body (bent at the waist) up the vertical line while driving the shoulders back. This helps to load the pole more and keep it moving forward. The lead leg comes in line with and stays slightly ahead of the trail leg towards the end of the rockback getting ready for the turn. Piking at the hips speeds the rockback. Bending the trail leg because you do not have the strength or speed to do this most efficiently lets the pole recoil early. If this happens, the vaulter's top hand will pass the shoulders, the vaulter will have to split the legs swinging the lead leg around and past the top hand, and the lead knee will be stuck under the piece of pole between the hands. The Bubka drill is done when the straight trail leg reaches the top hand. The body must NOT shoot out of this position. If the vaulter comes out of this position too rapidly the legs and feet will drop out in front of the vaulter. The Bubka drill must be done on the pole in timing with the pole recoiling. If done properly the vaulters shoulders will drop or "rockback" under the vaulters extended body. The power rockback ends when the extended body covers the top of the pole. If this is completed before the top hand catches up with shoulders the weight of the vaulter will have its base of support on top of the pole rather than resting on his/her shoulders. This will point the body, from the shoulders to the feet, away from the crossbar. This enables the vaulter to "clean" (or pull) the top of the pole to below his or her shoulders. From there the vaulter can make a quick turn balancing on top of the pole. "Cleaning" (a weightlifting term or lift) the top of the pole also keeps the pole compressed and moving forward.

This brings us back to why the vaulter should not "row" the hands forward. If the line from the shoulders to the top hand ever points vertical, or even worse, toward the crossbar, the vaulter cannot position his or her weight on top of the pole. "They" say not to pull, because if the vaulter pulls while in this position, the force of the shoulders rising behind the pole will cause the feet to drop in front of the pole.

By completing this move properly the vaulter raises his /her base of support from the shoulders to above the top hand.





Drills

Pole Vault Power High Bar Rockback

The purpose of this drill is to develop the pole vault rockback strength in the shoulders. Use a bar high enough to keep the feet off the ground when you are hanging from the bar. Hold the bar the same way you would hold the vaulting pole. Have someone push your shoulders about four inches in front of the bar. Start with the body in the take-off position with the trail leg back and the lead knee up. Whip the trail leg around and lift the hips when the trail leg is in line with the arms and body. The initial whip of the trail leg must be strong enough to get the trail leg all the way to the top hand. Make sure your shoulders are always in front of the bar. Keep the arms straight. Lift he hips and trail leg at the same time.

Pole Vault Power Rockback Rack

The pole vault power rockback rack is a device that does the work of holding the shoulders forward during the pole vault high bar power rockback drill. It is made of at least 1" steel pipe. There are 2 vertical pipes at shoulder width that hang over the front of the high bar. These pipes are well padded. They are attached at the bottom by a horizontal support pipe that extends to both sides of the vertical posts that support the high bar. This horizontal pipe also raps around the front of the high bar posts.

Pole vaulters can best practice the power rockback with this device because it holds the shoulders slightly in front of the top hand. This is the same position the shoulders are in when vaulting. It also makes it more difficult to rockback than just hanging from a high bar or rings.

The pole vaulter holds the high bar with a vault grip. The hands should be outside the vertical pipes of the power rockback rack. Start with the body in the take-off position with the trail leg back and the lead knee up. Whip the trail leg around and lift the hips when the trail leg is in line with the arms and body. The initial whip of the trail leg must be strong enough to get the trail leg all the way to the top hand. Make sure your shoulders are always in front of the bar. Keep the arms straight. Lift he hips and trail leg at the same time. Go all the way back until the shoulders are pointed down and the body is extended and balanced on the shoulders. Finish with the shoulders back and the chest on the vertical pipes. This should rock the straight rigid body over the top of the hands putting the base of support of the body on top of the high bar.


Pole Vault Tap Slam

Pole Vault Tap Slams are done on a high bar high enough to hang and swing in the pole vault take-off position without hitting the ground. Hold the bar as you would hold the pole vaulting pole. Pull up and cast out to start an easy swing. Pike in the back and arch in the front of the swing. From the down swing in the back, just after you arch, snap the trail foot down taping it the way a gymnast would do on the horizontal bar. Then, power rockback driving the hips to the bar while driving the shoulders back. If this is performed properly, the shoulders will continue to swing back in front of the high bar while the hips hit the bar finishing in the same position as the power rockback rack drill.


Note: In the finished position on the right, the shoulders are in front of the vertical line of the top hand.
For more information on the Tap Slam see: Gymnast and Pole Vaulter Tap Move Comparison

Pole Vault Swinging Rings

Hang on the rings in the pole vault take-off position. Have someone push you hard enough to generate a big swing. With enough swing generated you will begin to swing on your own. At the apex of the back swing, power rockback. Try to keep the body long and extended. Hold the upside-down extended position as you swing forward. Try to keep the body perpendicular to the ground as the rings swing up. As the body approaches the apex of the front swing, pull the shoulders through the hands and extend the body as high and as far out as you can. With the body fully extended, there should be a smooth transition back into the swing. If this pole vault drill is done right, the swing on the rings will become larger.

This pole vault drill simulates the shoulders dropping back during the power rockback. It also helps develop balance and strength to keep the body extended while the pole vault pole is recoiling.

Pole Vault Bubka Drill

For Advanced Vaulters: Do the Beginners move. Hold ankles at the bar. Straighten your body while driving your shoulders down and back. Finish with your shoulders under your hands. Return to starting position with ankles against the bar. Repeat this drill from the ankles against the bar position. When you get good at this drill you can feel your shoulders rockback past the vertical line of your hands.

For Beginners: Start in take-off position and bring your ankles to the bar.

Pole Vault Body Curls