Tag Archives: Centrifugal force

How To Teach Young Athletes To Curve And Lean In The High Jump

Tips For Two Of the Most Neglected High Jumping Skills

Two of the most crucial abilities for a young flop high jumper to master are:

  1. The curve of the run up
  2. The lean away from the bar

Yet they are two of the most under-taught, least understood high jumping skills.

Let’s delve into them.

The Curve

In high jump, if an athlete takes off to jump while running a curve, the centrifugal force will pull them outwards towards the landing area.

In layman’s terms centrifugal force is the outward pull felt by an object moving on a curved path.

If used properly, the centrifugal force generated by a curved approach allows a young high jumper to concentrate on jumping UP, rather than OVER the cross bar. The centrifugal force will do the work rather than the athlete having to.

The Lean

To fully capitalise on the curved run-up and the forces that it generates, the athlete must lean away from the bar throughout the curve and up to the point of take-off. In fact the curve and the lean should go hand-in-hand.

If an athlete is leaning away from the bar just prior to take-off, as they begin to execute their jump, the centrifugal force will pull them into an upright position and then hopefully up and over the bar.

How To Teach The Curve And Lean

chrome airplane flying during daytime

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Use this “aeroplane” drill.

The aeroplane drill involves athletes running a variety of curves and circles while carrying a broomstick or similar across their shoulders, behind their head. It can also be done using the full “J-Curve” run-up (minus the take-off and jump). Have the athletes imagine that they are an aeroplane banking and “dipping their wings” as they run a curve. The analogy will help them picture and understand the movement; the broomstick will assist them to perform the skill and achieve the required positions.

If no broomstick or similar item is available, simply instruct the athletes to run with their arms held up straight out to the side as their “aeroplane wings”.

Ensure that the lean occurs from the ankles rather than the hips and make sure that the athletes are picking up their feet as they run.

This activity will need to be repeated a number of times to ensure sufficient understanding and learning of the concept, so look for ways to “dress up” the drill to avoid monotony:

  • Try running around curves, circles and courses in different directions.
  • Use games such as an adapted follow the leader, where the kids follow a partner who “flies” weaving around.
  • Create a story around the activity. Younger athletes will love to mimic a jet on a “secret mission”.

Remedial Work

If an athlete is struggling to lean effectively while running a curve, first try varying your coaching cues. Get creative. See what resonates with the athlete.

If varied cueing doesn’t help, you may need to introduce some work on remedial running and coordination skills and/or some fundamental strength and conditioning. A young athlete won’t be able to efficiently run a curve if they are struggling with the basic skills of running or are not strong or coordinated enough to manage the forces being created.


  1. A curved run up generates centrifugal forces that pull the athlete towards the landing area on take-off.
  2. The lean away from the bar just prior to take-off allows the centrifugal force to pull the high jumper into an upright position for a vertical take-off.
  3. The “aeroplane drill” uses the analogy of a banking aeroplane to teach the curve and the lean.
  4. Use variety, games and stories to avoid monotony with the activity.
  5. Varying cues, remedial skills or some fundamental strength work may be required if the athlete struggles with the activity.

Recommended Action

Try the aeroplane drill to help kids learn to curve and lean in the high jump. Come up with your own variations, games and stories to keep it interesting. Be prepared to alter your cues and add some remedial skill and strength work if the kids struggle.

I would love to hear how it goes. Let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details below.

Further reading


How to Measure Out a High Jump Run-Up

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

4 Ways to Ruin a High Jump Run-Up


Winning Jumps and Pole Vault from Booktopia  (Australia & New Zealand)

Winning Jumps and Pole Vault from Amazon US Store

101 High Jump Drills from Amazon US Store

Fundamentals of Track and Field from Amazon US Store

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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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