advanced pole vault

What is your correct takeoff point?


This is a simple question right? Let me show you that the answer is not as simple as it seems and perhaps, I would go as far as to say that there is no single correct answer. 

When people ask this question do they assume the takeoff point at the highest competition grip, the highest run up speed and the best takeoff jump performance by an athlete? Do they consider the athlete's plant style and the rest of the jump? Does athletic’s jump style and ability allows her to cope with resisting pole while on the ground or do they have a free takeoff?

These and many other questions make the answer difficult if not impossible to define with a single number! 

Let me illustrate my point. Let's take a female athlete whose highest competition grip is 14'6" and who's highest approach speed is 8.5 m/s and who can long jump 19'4". So lets assume that her takeoff at the best physical performance is 11'8". 

Now assume, she can run at the maximum speed only 40% of the time (which is close to real life probabilities) in competitions and 60% of the time she runs around 8.3 m/s so majority of her speed will fall into the 8.3 range. With a lower speed would that bring her “perfect” takeoff point closer? The answer is yes, 4-5” closer with that difference in speed making it 11’3”. 

Now assume that she can only maintain her jumping ability at the 100% (19’4”) level only 30% of the time, because it is really more difficult to maintain the consistency of the jump then the approach speed. Athletes use different compensation methods to keep approach speed more constant in different physical output states. It is more difficult to compensate for the jumping output because there are much fewer options to compensate for the luck of physical output. Would this bring her “perfect” takeoff point closer? The answer is yes, 3-4” closer to now 11’0”! 

But wait, now if you combine majority of her performances, the lower physical output in speed and takeoff jump, occurring at the same time, may bring the takeoff point even closer perhaps to 10’8”!! That is not all! At the lower physical output she may not be able to grip 14’6” and only grip 14’2” consistently to bring her “perfect”, or lets call it optimal from now on, takeoff point to 10’6”!!!

We ended up with quite large deviation here in our assumptions, nearly 1’2”! But wait thats not all! Current world indoor record holder Suhr does not utilize a free takeoff in her model. She is quite comfortable and can work through the pole resistance while on the ground receiving pole resistance as early as the takeoff foot touching the ground in some instances of successful clearances. So her ability to clear the bar is even less dependent on the takeoff point compare to someone who uses a "free takeoff" and this also allows her to be a lot closer then a free takeoff jumper. So if you add all this together the variations of the takeoff point of the same athlete could be as much as 1’4” to 1’6” from the best, 10% probability, performance.

So the question I ask again, what is your correct takeoff? Can you answer it now with the same suhreness, no pun intended? Are you willing to put yourself in the box by putting towel at certain takeoff point no matter what? Could you give me a number?

What do you think now, would the takeoff point not be different in training vs. competition jumps?

Considering all this, 20 some years ago, I stop boxing myself and later athletes I coach into the “perfect” takeoff box. I make all possible effort to avoid peer-pressure to define such a point. I do not use the takeoff point as a reference of a good or bad takeoff at all, except in a few warm up exercises in which the takeoff point helps me and the athlete to determine her physical readiness and plant/jump timing. Not to say, that I cannot tell you what your takeoff point was from 50 yards away, from any angle of observation, I absolutely can. Before I have seen Suhr's WR jump on a side profile video, I was watching a video shot from finish line 2 o'clock behind her, I though she took off from 11'2" well it seems actual number was 11'1" and she is gripping 4.55-4.60 (??). So do you think she has a good takeoff point? It's a rhetorical question, she set a World Record!

So the question then becomes what is the best measure of the correct takeoff. Isn't it why we even taking about takeoff point? My answer is the ability of an athlete to complete “free takeoff” or in case of “resistance takeoff” the ability to experience the least amount of resistance and all balanced with optimal conditions for the highest bar clearance. Now even this is not an absolute, because there are instances of a particular physical output combinations where the total bar clearance would be enhance by being slightly “under”. The example would be an athlete with her, relatively high, approach speed at 8.4 and ability to long jump only 17’.

The true secret is, you can not train the takeoff point with a towel, but instead with the drop/plant/jump combination, ability to actually jump and the speed ability, which is in itself a complete section of the membership area of the site.

So my friends, if you think this conversation is interesting imagine the rest of it!! Become a member today to learn more.

by Roman Botcharnikov


Copyright by Roman Botcharnikov & Do not reprint or repost this content or any part of it without express written permission from the copyright holder.


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