How To Best Plant The Foot In High Jump

What Direction Does The Foot Point During The “Flop” High Jump Take-off?

There is a common misconception in “flop” high jumping that the take-off foot needs to be turned AWAY from the bar to allow an athlete to turn their back to the bar on take-off.

Let me fix this misconception.

Wrong Direction of HJ Take off foot

Fig 1. Take-off foot turned incorrectly away from the bar

Explanation

A “flop” high jump is characterised by an athlete achieving a “laid out” supine position above the bar with the head and shoulders crossing the bar before the trunk and legs. This gives the technique a “backwards over the bar” appearance, with the athlete landing on the mat on their shoulders/back.

NOTE: I recommend that the “flop” high jump technique only be taught by a coach qualified to do so.

Many young athletes have not yet learned how to generate the necessary forces during the high jump run-up that will turn their back to the bar after take-off.

They will therefore attempt to turn their back to the bar by planting their take-off foot with their toes facing away from the bar. (See Figure 1.)

Problems

Turning the foot AWAY from the bar on take-off can cause the following problems:

Braking/Slowing of the Run-Up

High jumpers need to maintain speed and accelerate right up to the point of take-off. If they slow down it will affect their ability to explode off the ground and to create vertical lift. It is impossible to maintain speed while turning the foot away from the bar.

A Poor Take-Off Position

With the foot facing away from the jumping direction, it is very difficult to create vertical lift. Such a foot position is more likely to cause horizontal forces towards (and into!) the bar, rather than helping the athlete to lift themselves above and over the bar.

Injury

Planting the foot away from the direction of the run-up can cause enormous pressure on the medial side (inside) of the lower leg and foot. This can lead to the obvious danger of acute (sudden) or chronic (slowly developing) injury.

Which Way Should The Foot Point At Take-Off?

The foot needs to be pointed through the bar. A reference point, and an effective external cue, would be to point the toes at the far back corner of the landing mats.

Direction of HJ Take off foot

Fig 2. A better take-off foot position; foot pointed through the bar.

Planting the foot this way allows the athlete to:

  • Maintain their run-up speed.
  • Get into an effective take-off position.
  • Lesson the chance of a lower leg injury.

How To Fix An Incorrect Foot Plant

Use Coaching Cues

If you notice that an athlete is planting their foot away from the bar as they take off, the first “point of call” may be to try some coaching cues to correct the issue. Try the following:

  • An effective external cue may be to encourage the athlete to point their foot/toes at the far back corner of the landing mats, or at some other target, on take-off.
  • Strengthen the cue by sticking a piece of coloured tape on top of the athlete’s foot, and tell them to “point the tape” at the target.
  • Try chalking/taping/marking an arrow at/near the take-off point to remind the athlete which way their foot needs to be directed on take-off.

Regress the Skill

Decreasing the complexity of the skill can assist an athlete to work on addressing the issue. Try things such as:

  • Shortening the number of steps in the run-up. i.e. Go back to a one-stride approach to rehearse the correct foot plant then add strides as the athlete can demonstrate what is required.
  • Lower the height of the bar.
  • Slow the movement down.

Work On The Run-Up

It is a properly executed run-up that allows the rotation around the vertical axis to occur during take-off and flight. Therefore, teaching an athlete an effective J-curve approach, where they maintain a curved path and a lean away from the bar right up to the point of take-off, will help them to get their back to the bar without having to twist their foot on take-off.

Rehearse Scissors Jumps

The scissors high jump technique naturally promotes an effective foot position – pointing through the bar – at take-off. Because the athlete must leap “scissor-like” over the bar and land feet-first in an upright position on top of the mat, they automatically point their foot “through the bar” in order to do so. Therefore, performing scissors high jumps is an excellent way of rehearsing an effective foot plant position.

Now Try Coaching It

Watch or video a young athlete’s foot position on take-off. If you note a problem, try some of the solutions that I have suggested. (Some of the “fixes” are easy to implement; others – such as teaching an effective run-up – most likely require the knowledge of an accredited high jump coach). I would love to hear what works! Let me know by leaving a comment/reply, or by using the below contact details.

Further reading

Articles:

The High Jump Flop Run-Up: Why is it Curved?

(Video) How to Measure Out a High Jump Run-Up

How to Measure Out a High Jump Run-Up

4 Ways to Ruin a High Jump Run-Up

Scissors High Jump: An Essential Guide for Teaching Kids


If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.


20150614_154020-1Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on TwitterFacebookLinkedin, Anchor or via email.

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