Troubleshooting High Jumping Problems
A lot can go wrong with a technical event like the high jump. When you’ve knocked the bar off, it can be difficult to figure out what exactly went wrong. Here are a few common problems high jumpers make, ways to diagnose them, and steps you can take to fix them.
Landing on the Bar Close to the Far Standard
You have a beautiful flight arc. You’re taking off at the right spot. Your mechanics in the air look good. But you’re travelling a long ways along the bar in the air, and coming down on it close to the far standard.
The cause for this high jumping downfall is almost surely some aspect of the approach. It could be that you are running the curve too widely. It could be that you are decelerating through the curve. Or, it could be that you are not running the curve as an even and uniform arc.
How to Fix
You can place tape markers along the curve you want to run. You can have someone familiar with the high jump — preferably your coach — place tape along the curve you are actually running to see how it looks. Or you can do both! You’ll be able to see if the shape of your curve is an issue. Laying down tape will help you fix the problem and break any bad habits you’ve formed.
You can also try speeding up your initial steps and maintaining the tempo through the curve. If you speed up the approach, you’ll have more momentum moving toward the back of the pit.
Landing Deep & Knocking the Bar off with Your Heels
You are landing really far back in the pit, and typically your heels are what knock the bar off.
Your takeoff foot could be parallel to the bar instead of pointing somewhere between the far standard and the back of the pit.
The problem also could be that your curve is too shallow, causing too much of the approach momentum to be directed toward the back of the pit.
Another cause might be that you are dipping your body prematurely in the approach. Instead of waiting for the penultimate step to begin lowering your body, you might be starting to hunker down three or more steps out from the jump.
How to Fix
If your curve is too shallow, you can put down tape where your ideal curve is and practice running along it. Each step of the curve should move just slightly inside the previous step, without any sudden changes in the angle of the arc. Sometimes just thinking of having each step slightly inside the previous step can be enough to solve the problem.
If your takeoff foot paralleling the bar is the problem, running a more even curve can influence your takeoff foot to point further toward the back of the pit.
If you are dipping too prematurely, there are several things you can try to remedy the problem. First, simply try to mentally address the issue, telling yourself to be “tall and away” at takeoff. Tall refers to your body, and away refers to your jump in relation to the bar. Simple mental cues, if they work, are often the best way to solve a technique issue. Second, you can tape down a foot zone: An area in which you want your takeoff foot to land. You should run toward the marker, but instead of stepping on it, attempt to step over it. Doing this will ensure that your final strides remain long. It also prevents you from dipping prematurely.
Taking off Too Close to the Bar
You might be hitting the bar on your way up, or dragging it off with your heels. Either way, it is not too hard for an outside observer to spot when you are taking off too close to the bar.
Your starting point might be off. This isn’t the most likely cause, but it is the simplest to fix.
You might be attempting to run a tight curve and are not strong enough to fight the centripetal force. If this is the case, you will often simply be missing your takeoff point. If strength is the issue, you will have trouble keeping the curve tight enough at your desired approach speed. You can test this by putting down tape along your desired curve. If you can’t seem to help swinging wide of the tape you’ve placed without slowing down, a lack of strength is likely causing your problem.
How to Fix
If your starting point is off, you merely have to adjust it in the same direction that you want the takeoff point to move.
If, however, the starting point is fine, the curve might be too tight for you to handle. The short term solution is simply to slow down the approach, or widen the curve. The long term solution is to get stronger in your lateral support and stabilization muscles. This way you can reap the benefits of a tighter turn while maintaining your speed.
Taking off toward the Bar
Whether you’re hitting the bar or not, it will be pretty obvious to an outside observer when you are directing your takeoff toward the bar instead of upward. If you do clear the bar, not taking off enough vertically will often result in increased horizontal rotation, impeding your in-air timing.
The most likely cause is where you are directing your energy and the placement of your takeoff foot. If your foot is angled too far out (parallel to or away from the bar), you are much more likely to takeoff toward the bar. You might also just be directing your energy at the bar, as many beginning high jumpers do. Remember, the momentum of your approach should be the primary cause of both your horizontal movement and rotation.
How to Fix
Make sure your takeoff foot is pointing somewhere between the middle of the bar and the far standard. For someone familiar with the high jump, this observation should not be difficult to make.
Next, make sure you are directing your energy upward as you jump, rather than thinking of getting “over” the bar. Upward should cue you to jump straight up. “Over” might cue you to try to use the takeoff itself to cause your horizontal movement toward the back of the pit. Instead, try the mental cue “tall and away.” Your energy should be directed slightly away from the bar, and you should be tall at takeoff. Your body should start the takeoff leaning away from the bar and move to completely vertical throughout the takeoff, but this will happen naturally. Thinking “away” will help prevent you from jumping toward the bar.
The high jump is an intricate series of complex movements. Be patient if something is going wrong. It can be frustrating to knock the bar down and not know why; let alone how to fix it! Know that you’ll improve more quickly if you stay patient and avoid getting frustrated.