Common Ground - Technical Commonalities in the Jumps [ARTICLE]

Common Ground - Technical Commonalities in the


Jumps


Originally Published in Techniques Magazine

Provided by: USTFCCCA

 


While obviously there are variations in technical aspects of the different jumping events, there are also many commonalities. In this excerpt from the USTFCCCA Track & Field Academy's Jumps Specialist Certification Course curriculum, many of these commonalities will be pointed out and elaborated on.

COMMONALITIES OF THE APPROACH

Purposes of the Approach

Developing Horizontal Force. The approach should provide the jumper with horizontal momentum and velocity. This assists performances in events with great horizontal components. This horizontal velocity also eccentrically loads of the muscles of the takeoff leg in all the jumping events.

Permitting an Accurate Takeoff. The approach should place the jumper in an accurate location from which to execute the takeoff, so that proper technique can be used and/or distance preserved.

Positioning the Body for Takeoff. The approach should place the body in the correct physical positions and motor environment to execute the mechanics of preparation and takeoff correctly.

APPROACH BASICS

Approach Length

Determining Step Number. Approach length decisions should center about determining the number of steps, since actual distance covered in a certain number of steps is dictated by ability level. Ability level, training and competition age, and technical proficiency dictate the number of steps used. As these parameters increase, the jump approach should lengthen.

Displacement. When step number is considered a constant, better athletes will have greater approach lengths. This is because they are capable of producing larger forces and greater displacements. When coaching practices are constant, approach length is often a good performance predictor.

Event Specific Norms. The approach ranges from 12-22 steps in length in the long jump, 10-20 in the triple jump, and pole vault, and from 8-12 steps long in the high jump. The ability and maturity of the athlete should determine the approach length. In establishing the approach, the number of steps used is more important than the length of the approach as measured in feet and inches. Approaches may use an even or odd number of steps, depending on the athlete's preferred takeoff foot. The starting stance should remain the same in either case.

Check Marks. One or more check marks for the athlete's and/or coach's use can be helpful in finding inconsistencies in the approach. The athlete usually puts a mark where the run begins and most coaches place additional check marks at other places in the run. The athlete's checkmarks should not be moved indiscriminately. Errors in accuracy usually result from errors in execution, and these errors should be addressed first.

Acceleration and Sprint Mechanics in the Approach. The jump approach consists of an acceleration from a stationary start to maximal desired velocity, achieving the assumption of maximal velocity mechanics. For this reason, the jumper must be technically sound as a sprinter, and a thorough understanding of acceleration and maximal velocity mechanics is essential to success in teaching the jumping events. Unique distributions and patterns of frequency development occur in jump approaches, but the process remains the same.

GENERAL APPROACH MECHANICS

Posture. We have already examined posture as it relates to efficient acceleration and maximal velocity mechanics. In the jump approach, postural alignment is a great determinant of other key parameters.

Posture, Preparation and Takeoff. Improper posture, particularly poor pelvic alignments, alter strike angles and prevent the efficient achievement of correct preparation and takeoff angles.

Posture and Accuracy. Improper posture, particularly poor pelvic alignments, introduce instability during the approach. Typically jumpers react to this instability by advancing foot contact locations or adjusting frequencies in order to create needed takeoff angles. Either practice disrupts the target tracking process associated with steering and results in inaccuracy.

Amplitudes of Movement. The amplitude of movement displayed during the approach directly affects the jump takeoff. Large amplitudes increase the period of the sinusoidal undulations of the body's center of mass. This potentially results in greater displacement in the jump itself.

Frequency Development. Stride frequency should increase throughout the approach in a progressive but patient manner. Increasing frequency too slowly makes attaining maximal velocity mechanics and vertical pushing difficult. Increasing frequency too quickly results in poor momentum development, reduced amplitude of movement, and poor posture.

Distribution. Distribution of the approach refers to the time spent in each phase. Unique distributions of the acceleration process are found in various events. Proper distribution of the approach insures the development of sufficient momentum to effectively complete the approach and takeoff. A sufficiently long drive phase is the most important element in insuring the existence of this momentum.

Steering. Steering refers to the process of adjusting stride lengths in order to hit a target. In all jumping events, athletes adjust the lengths of the final steps in order to hit the board or take off from an appropriate point. This does not lessen the need for rehearsal for consistency, since minimizing these adjustments is helpful. Visual feedback is needed to effectively steer, so proper visual patterns during the approach must be taught.

Phases of the Approach. The jump approach consists of the following four phases. Although we divide the approach into phases for the sake of discussion, these phases should blend into each other smoothly, without radical mechanical changes between them.

The Start. In addition to adherence to the mechanical tenets of good starting, the approach start should be simple and involve very little extraneous movement. For this reason, crouch and rollover starts are the best choices.

The Crouch Start. In the crouch start, the athlete assumes a staggered stance with 6 to 8 inches between the feet. The shins should be tilted forward, the head and shoulders low, and the hips high. The arms should be alternated in anticipation of the first step, with the arm of the rear leg side in front. Upon starting, the athlete pushes off forcefully, displacing the body in a forward and upward direction while the arms and thighs split widely. The crouch start offers the advantage of great consistency.

The Rollover Start. In the rollover start, the athlete assumes a staggered stance with 6 to 8 inches between the feet. The athlete is upright with the hand opposite the front foot raised slightly. To initiate the start, the athlete bends at the waist, lowering the head and shoulders while the hips remain high. This places the athlete in the previously discussed crouch start position prior to the first step. From this position the athlete executes the same movements as the crouch start. The rollover start offers the advantage of giving the jumper visual contact with the takeoff site prior to the start and a more forceful pushoff.

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THE DRIVE PHASE

Drive Phase Length. The Drive Phase consists of the first third of the approach. This results in drive phase lengths of approximately 6 steps in the long jump, triple jump, and pole vault, and 3 steps in the high jump.

Characteristics of the Drive Phase. The drive phase features pure acceleration, characterized by low frequency, high amplitudes of movement and large dis-placement with each step. A good drive phase helps the jumper to overcome inertia and build momentum so that later movements can be performed easily.

Progression of Body Angles. During the drive phase, the body progresses with each step from a significant forward lean to a nearly upright position. Pushoff trajectories progress in the same way, with the horizontal component continuously diminishing as the drive phase progresses. While the degree of body lean changes in the drive phase, the relative positions of the head, spine and pelvis should remain the same with respect to each other. This progression of body angles results from the vertical component of the pushoff from each stride, as the body is pushed into a tall, upright running position.

THE CONINUATION PHASE

Continuation Phase Length. The Continuation Phase consists of the steps in the middle of the approach. The length of the continuation phase can vary from 3 to 10 steps long, depending on the event and length of the approach.

Characteristics of the Continuation Phase. This phase is characterized by continued progression to maximal velocity mechanics, more upright body positions and primarily vertical pushing with each step. Amplitudes of movement should be large.

The Transition Phase. The Transition Phase consists of the final 4 strides in the long, triple and high jump, and the final 6 steps in the pole vault. While the characteristics of a good transition phase are very similar to those of a good continuation phase, many jumpers tend to change their runs in this phase in anticipation of takeoff. Special attention should be paid to this phase because it is here that the steering process occurs and adjustments are made to stride lengths in order to hit the target. We consider these final steps as a separate phase, because it is here that jumpers frequently err by altering their runs in anticipation of preparation and takeoff.

Approach Management. Approach management is a complex task for the coach. The approach contains many variables that must be controlled to guarantee optimal velocity, body positions and accuracy. Approach management considerations are listed below.

Stride Length/Frequency Relationships. In acceleration, stride length and frequency increase simultaneously, but are inversely proportional. When frequency increases too rapidly, stride length decreases and the approach falls short of the target. When frequency increases too slowly, stride length increases and the approach lengthens.

Frequency Development. Frequency development must occur at some optimal rate. When frequency increases too rapidly, Momentum development and elastic energy production during the run suffer. When insufficient frequency is developed, vertical velocity development and vertical pushing at maximal velocity suffer.

Drive Phase Management. Controlling the drive phase is a crucial part of approach management. Besides stride frequency/ stride length factors, failure to devote enough of the approach to the drive phase results in insufficient momentum development and a variety of resultant problems at takeoff. An excessively long drive phase makes attainment of maximal velocity mechanics difficult.

Transition Phase Management. The displacement achieved in the jump is proportional to displacement achieved in the final strides, due to the undulatory factors previously discussed. It is a common error to decrease stride length in the transition phase. Displacement should remain great and stride length should be conserved in these final strides (within the context of good mechanics).

COMMONALITIES OF PREPARATION

Purposes of Preparation. Preparation Phase of any jumping event has two primary purposes.

Preservation. Preparation should permit preservation of key mechanical parameters established in the approach. These include horizontal velocity, elastic energy generation, stability and posture.

Lowering. Lowering of the body's center of mass to provide a vertical path of acceleration at takeoff.

The Penultimate Step. This preparation takes place primarily on the penultimate (second to last) step. The penultimate step serves as a tool to lower the body's center of mass, while preserving horizontal velocity, elastic energy generation, stability and posture. The penultimate step shows marked mechanical changes when compared to the steps prior to it, and we find these changes whenever creating vertical velocities at takeoff is a concern.

PENULTIMATE MECHANICS

Prepreparation and the Penultimate Step. Transition from the run to the penultimate should be smooth. The fourth to last step should not be compromised in anticipation of preparation. A complete push off of the fourth to last step and elastic release of the hip flexor group should result in an elastic recovery into the penultimate step. Faults here result in excessively advanced foot contact locations at penultimate touchdown.

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IMPACT/CONTACT PATTERNS

Precruitment. Prerecruitment should be developed in the leg prior to touchdown of the penultimate step to enable better management of impact. This prerecruitment should take the form of some isometric preparation in the quadriceps group, and the ankle stabilized in a dorsiflexed position. Isometric (not concentric) activity should be seen prior to impact. Rotation control needs and prerecruitment in the leg sometimes result in a lower recovery height of the penultimate step.

The Heel Lead. The heel should lead the movement of the foot to the ground prior to contact.

Contact Location. The penultimate step should ground only slightly in front of the body's center of mass, in order to best manage the tradeoff between lowering needs and velocity preservation. The shin should display an angle of 90 degrees to the surface at penultimate touchdown, and the slight frontside distance present results from slight inclination of the thigh.

Bridging of the Foot. The ankle should bridge late in the support phase. This bridging consists of flexion at the ball of the foot, with the ankle remaining stable at a 90-degree angle. This bridging is associated with good ankle stability while in the support phase of the penultimate step. The presence of this bridged position serves as a landmark, indicating adequate displacement has been achieved.

LOWERING THE CENTER OF MASS

Lowering in Support. A significant portion the lowering associated with preparation should occur during the support phase of the penultimate step, rather than the flight phase prior to it.

Amortization Patterns. Lowering should be accomplished by equal amortization at the hip, knee and ankle joints.

Path of the Body's Center of Mass. Horizontal movement should continue during lowering, so that the lowering occurs in a forward, and downward direction. Late in the support phase, this lowering diminishes and the jumper's center of mass travels in a level, but lowered path.

DISPLACEMENT CHARACTERISTICS

Maintaining Displacement. Effective stride length should be conserved as the athlete moves through the penultimate, since the displacement of the jump is proportional to displacement in the final strides.

Displacement and the Swing Leg. The body should show much horizontal displacement during the support phase of the penultimate step, moving significantly past the penultimate step before the support phase ends. This displacement should result in release of the hip flexor muscle group. This creates an elastic recovery of the swing leg upon takeoff and allows the swing leg to operate through a longer arc. Faulty swing leg mechanics are always related to penultimate mechanics

COMMONALITIES OF TAKEOFF

Purposes of Takeoff. The Takeoff Phase of any jumping event has two primary purposes.

Preservation. Takeoff should permit preservation of key mechanical parameters established in the approach. These include horizontal velocity, elastic energy generation, stability, and posture.

Creating Vertical Forces. Takeoff should involve the creation of vertical forces and velocities, so that the jumper leaves the ground at an angle that allows maximal performances in the event. Appropriate takeoff angles are 18-21 degrees in the long jump and pole vault, 11-15 degrees in the triple jump, and 35-45 degrees in the high jump.

Force Production at of Takeoff. During the short time it takes a jumper to leave the ground, the muscles of the takeoff leg move through three distinct phases. It is important to understand that all of these phases participate in determining the effectiveness of the jump.

Stabilization. The muscles of the takeoff leg are stabilized isometrically prior to impact.

Amortization. Upon contact with the surface, the leg flexes a bit, eccentrically stretching the extensor muscles of the takeoff leg. This sets up an elastic response which contributes to takeoff forces. The amortization production agent is the horizontal velocity generated in the approach.

Extension. Finally, the takeoff leg concentrically extends forcefully, propelling the jumper into flight. This concentric work contributes to takeoff forces.

MECHANICS OF THE TAKEOFF LEG

Prepreparation and the Takeoff Step. Transition from the run to the takeoff should be smooth. The third to last step should not be compromised in anticipation of preparation. A complete push off of the third to last step and elastic release of the hip flexor group should result in an elastic recovery into the takeoff step. Faults here result in excessively advanced foot contact locations at takeoff.

IMPACT/CONTACT PATTERNS

Prerecruitment. Prerecruitment should be developed in the leg prior to grounding of the takeoff step to facilitate the elastic response, and to enable better management of impact. This prerecruitment should take the form of isometric preparation in the quadriceps group, and the ankle stabilized in a dorsiflexed position. The quality of this preparation will greatly determine the efficiency of the elastic response of the takeoff leg. The timely development of this preparation in the quadriceps usually results in a lower recovery of the takeoff step.

The Heel Lead. The heel should lead the movement of the foot to the ground prior to contact.

Contact Location. In events where conservation of horizontal velocity is important, the takeoff step should be grounded only slightly in front of the body's center of mass. Shin angles at touchdown vary from event to event, and are the primary determinant of the takeoff angle. Slight inclination of the thigh at touchdown is present in all cases.

Foot Contact Patterns. The foot's contact with the surface should be flat. In support, a rolling action of the foot should occur, using the entire surface of the foot to absorb impact forces.

TAKEOFF LEG MECHANICS IN SUPPORT

Rotation of the Shin. During the support phase of takeoff, the shin should rotate to a position that enables it to best establish the takeoff angle, transmit forces generated in the hip, and permit elastic operation of the Achilles unit. This final angle varies from event to event.

Translation. During the initial stages of the support phase, the body should continue to move forward, so that the thigh and upper body maintain their same relative positions. This translation, coupled with the rotation of the shin, produces the eccentric loading of the takeoff leg needed at takeoff.

Extension. In the final stages of the sup-port phase of takeoff, when the rotation of the shin has stopped, the hip extends violently, applying force through and along the long axis of the prealigned shin. This extension produces the concentric work component of the forces generated at takeoff. This arrangement best permits efficient joint firing orders and coordination of the elastic and concentric components of takeoff.

Lower Leg Contributions. The forces transmitted through the shin also act eccentrically on the Achilles unit, resulting in enhanced elastic force production at takeoff.

Bridging of the Foot. When takeoff angles permit, the ankle should bridge late in the support phase. This bridging consists of flexion at the ball of the foot, with the ankle remaining stable at 90 degrees.

MECHANICS OF SWINGING - SEGMENT USAGE

Preservation of Elastic Energy. Conservation of elastic energy should be evident in the swinging segments. The swinging movements at takeoff should show amplified versions of the same processes involved in the approach, and an elastic response should be present in the forward component of the swing.

Free Leg Movements. Free leg movements should display large amplitudes of movement. Also, the free leg action should not be purely angular. The hip should advance while the free leg swings. This enables preservation of pelvic alignment, and is consistent with the philosophy of pelvic origination

Arm Movements. Arm movements should display some extension and large ranges of motion at the shoulder.

ARM STYLES

The Single Arm Style. In the single arm style, the arms alternate powerfully at takeoff. Some flexion is present at the completion of the forward movement.

Double Arm Style. In the double arm style, the arms move in unison. At takeoff, the arms move forward in an extended position, flexing slightly near the swig's end. The swing begins with the arms positioned well behind and outside the jumper's body, and finishes with the elbows flexed, forearms perpendicular to the ground, and the hands at forehead height. Upon completion of the swing, the arms are allowed to fall back into the starting position in anticipation of the next takeoff.

Blocking. Swinging movements should be stopped at the instant of liftoff. This blocking enhances takeoff forces by imparting momentum to the body's center of mass.

DISPLACEMENT CHARACTERISTICS

Maintaining Displacement. Effective stride length should be conserved as the athlete moves through the takeoff, since the dis-placement of the jump is proportional to displacement in the final strides.

Path of the Body's Center of Mass. The path of the body's center of mass should be examined. Generally speaking, proper translation and eccentric loading mandate some continued horizontal travel before vertical travel occurs. Factors to examine that vary from event to event include the amount of vertical lift created, and the point at which this lift occurs.

COMMONALITIES OF FLIGHT

Predetermined Flight Path. Except in aerodynamic situations, the fight path of the center of mass of a body projected into flight is some unique parabola. The human body is no exception. The flight path of the center of mass is predetermined, and cannot be changed during flight. While the body is in flight, we can position body parts to prepare for more effective landings and clearances, but the flight path of the center of mass may not be altered.

Predetermined Flight Rotations. Any rotations present (as measured by their angular momentum values) are predetermined as well. These rotations may take place in the sagittal, frontal, and/or transverse planes. Angular momentum values are unique to each plane. Depending upon the nature of the event, these rotations may be desired or undesired. In flight, we may use the Law of Conservation of Angular Momentum and the use of secondary axes to slow or speed rotation, but the values of rotation cannot be changed.

Coaching Implications. For these reasons, the majority of coaching time should be spent on the approach, preparation, and takeoff. Nearly all coaching of the flight phases of the jumping events is concerned with the acceleration or deceleration of rotations.

Affecting Rotations. There are several strategies used to affect rotations of the human body in flight. All of these take advantage of the body's tendency to conserve angular momentum.

Lengthening the Body. Limbs may be extended to lengthen the effective length of the body, slowing rotations.

Shortening the Body. Limbs may be flexed or brought close to the body's center to shorten the effective length of the body, speeding rotations.

Limb Rotations. Rotating the limbs in the direction of the rotation absorbs and temporarily stops the body's rotations.

Newton's Third Law. While in flight, because of the multiple degrees of movement available, the body is particularly subject to Newton's Third Law, and action-reaction relationships become quite visible. Coaching practices in the flight phases of jumps involve proper identification of actions and reactions.

COMMONALITIES OF LANDING

Landing Mechanics. The mechanics of landing are more important in the horizontal jumps than the vertical jumps, because of their relation to performance. The factor most important in determining the location of landing is the flight path of the body's center of mass. Since this path is predetermined, efforts to improve landing efficiency are limited to changes of body position.

Landing Positions. The ability to attain efficient landing positions is determined by rotation values experienced during flight. Since these rotations are predetermined, efforts to improve landing positions are related to takeoff mechanics.

Landing Strategies. Efficient landing positions place the feet to be as far as possible in front of the body's center of mass as possible at the instant of landing. Because the body's axis of rotation in flight passes through its center of mass, this requires positioning as much body mass backwards, away from the feet as possible at landing. While the need to produce efficient landing marks is a limiting factor, the need to slow the forward rotation dictates the use of extended body positions just prior to landing to whenever extent is possible.

COMMONALITIES OF CLEARANCE

Mechanics of Clearance. In the vertical jumps, bar clearance is the ultimate goal. The peak height of the parabolic path of the body's center of mass is the most important factor to performance. This peak height, like the entire flight path, is established at takeoff and is predetermined after takeoff.

Parabolic Placement. Placement of the peak of the parabolic path of the body's center of mass with respect to the cross-bar is another important variable. The peak of flight should be reached directly over the crossbar to optimize performance. This factor is also established at takeoff and is predetermined after takeoff.

Body Movements and Positions. Body movements in flight can improve performance by placing the body in more efficient clearance positions. In the vertical jumps we often see arched or piked positions that may effectively locate the body's center of mass outside of the body itself to facilitate bar clearance. These movements may be volitionally performed while in flight, but ability to perform them successfully may be helped or hindered by the efficiency of takeoff.

Flight Rotations. Rotations can be established that assist clearance by making the attainment of certain body positions easier. These rotations are established at takeoff and are predetermined after takeoff. These rotations must be integrated into bar clearance, so parabolic placement is a prerequisite to the effective use of these rotations.



This article is taken from the USTFCCCA Track and Field Academy Jumps Specialist Certification Course (SCC) text. Boo Schexnayder is the Director of the Track and Field Academy and is primarily responsible for the content of the curriculum.

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