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Pole Vault Guide

What Is Pole Vault?

Pole vault is a track and field event in which each competitor uses a long, flexible pole, made of either fiberglass or carbon fiber, with the purpose of vaulting over a bar that is set at a specific height.

Pole Vaulting Rules
  1. Each athlete chooses his/her height that they wish to be entered for in competitions
  2. Each competitor has three tries to clear the height; if cleared, the jumper advances to the next height and will again, have three more attempts.
  3. If a competitor fails to clear all three attempts, they are out and their highest height is recorded; if a competitor fails to clear any bar throughout the entire competition, they will receive a ?NH? which stands for ?no height?.
  4. Competitors also have the option of passing a height. For instance, if a vaulter misses their first jump, they have the option of passing on to the next height, but with only two attempts instead of three. Correspondingly, if a vaulter misses two jumps in a row, they can also pass to the next height but with only one attempt left. Once a competitor reaches their third miss, they are out.
  5. A jump-off takes place in the event of a tie and it is considered sudden death starting at the last attempted height. If both vaulters miss, the bar is lowered and if the jump is made, it is raised a little bit. Each competitor gets one attempt.
Fouls Are Ruled When:
  1. The pole dislodges the bar, even if the vaulter cleared the bar
  2. The competitors fail to complete a jump within the time that is allotted, counting as a missed attempt
What Kind of Pole Vault Pole Should I Buy?

When determining which pole is the best suit for you, the athlete?s weight plays a huge role. Usually, the fiberglass and carbon fiber account for 3-6lbs. of the pole and the remainder can weigh anywhere from 20-40lbs. or more (depending on the weight of the athlete). The pole must be an accurate weight in order for it to support the vaulter.

However, as competitors increase their height for competitions, it is recommended that they seek poles that are at least 20-30lbs. over their body weight. Once they become more familiar with this weight, it is suggested that these athletes begin training with a new pole that is 1 foot longer and 10lbs. over their body weight. Some competitions actually forbid poles that are under competitor?s body weight as a safety precaution, so be sure to check the regulations before you make the purchase!

The flex rating also corresponds to the athlete?s weight and is made specifically around that. Start out with a pole that weighs as much as you do and as you develop, seek a pole that weights more than you do.

Poles are measured in feet. The more experienced and skilled you become, the longer the pole becomes. The length of your pole is determined by how high you can vault. You should be able to skillfully vault at least 15 inches above your hand-hold before you should even consider buying a longer pole. After all, safety is the most important factor here! Call the manufacturer directly if you ever have a question or concern.

The 3 biggest factors that play a role in which pole you buy are:

  1. Approach speed
  2. Technical skill
  3. Vault height

Terms to know when determining pole: Penetration - how far back you land after your vault. Pole bend - how extensively the pole is being bent

Bending Type Penetration Type Resolution
Large bend Little penetration 1. Lower the grip
2. Determine if the grip width is bigger than the shoulder width
3. Improve run and takeoff approach
Large bend Deep penetration Switch to stiffer pole
Little bend Little penetration 1. Is the vaulting technique strong or poor?
2. If strong, just switch to a softer pole
3. If poor, improve approach / technique
Little bend Deep penetration Raise the height of the grip
  • Poles are manufactured specifically for people of all skill levels and body sizes. Sizes can range anywhere from 3.05m (10ft) to 5.30m (17ft. 4.5in). It is the manufacturer?s responsibility to determine the weight rating as well as where the handhold band should be located on the pole.
Do I Need Any More Pole Vault Equipment

Pole Vaulting Tips: A durable rubber that allows for a softer plant and enduring performance

Vault Grip Tape: An alternative and affective way for Vaulter? to avoid slippery hands and blisters

Stickum Spray: An aerosol adhesive spray that enhances the vaulter?s grip

Pole Vault Landing System: [Purchased primarily by track competition coordinators, trainers, and coaches] Landing systems are a crucial component for pole vault because they provide a soft landing after competitors complete their jump.

Pole Vaulting Training Tips

It's all about the approach: The faster you run, the higher you vault. Vaulter?s sprint down the runway as fast as possible in the correct position to ensure a successful take off position: ideally, aim for 18-22 strides before the jump, but if you are not that fast, 7-10 strides is more common for those at beginner levels; by doing this, it will allow for a greater amount of potential energy and momentum leading up to the jump.

Run in place: this will improve your quickness when you approach the vault

Dribble a soccer ball: by doing this you will not only gain foot speed, but this drill will also help to enhance coordination

Quick Skips: Practice hopping on one foot for the distance of 20 meters, while switching feet after each interval. This will boost power, strength and coordination.

Did You Know?
  • Originally, poles were used as a means of overcoming natural obstacles by vaulting over provinces, marshes, canals etc. without getting wet. It became standard that every home located by these bodies of water kept a stack of jumping poles for the purpose of jumping over the canals.
  • Sergey Bubka, a Ukrainian track and field athlete, set the record for pole vault by reaching a height of 20ft. in 1994.
  • Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian track and field athlete, was the first to break the world record for pole vault in 2009 by jumping 16ft, 7 ? inches.