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