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High Jump Rhythm – The Language of Flight

High Jump Rhythm – Just Like Dancing.


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The music starts with the audience in the form of hand claps. The dancer is the athlete who morphs his or her shoes, legs, hips, and body into the desired gyrations on the approach runway.  The gyrations are high jump rhythm approach running. They are critical for the athlete to get the tempo, pace, and rhythm correct to be successful.

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History.


When humans started walking upright, running happened with hunting and fleeing needs as food and predator avoidance needs.

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Competitive running grew out of religious festivals in various areas such as Greece, Egypt, Asia, and the East African Rift in Africa. The Tailteann Games, an Irish sporting festival in honor of the goddess Tailtiu, dates back to 1829 BCE, and is one of the earliest records of competitive running. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Running

Competitive running evolved with science in recent history as movements, style, technique, form, and results gathered attention.

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Running studies use focus terms like footstrike, midstance, propulsion phase,  swing phase, upper extremity function, stride length, hip and knee function, and posture.

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All of these concepts influence high jump rhythm and pace in order to produce a result and high jump approach running is no different. High jump approach running is like a morph between sprinting and distance running.

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High Jump Rhythm – Description.


Rhythm is “a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound”.

High Jump Rhythm - Man Male Young Model Lifestyle
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For the high jumper, the strong, regular, and repeated movement is the strides and stride length. The jumper runs on the toes or heel-to-toe if desired; in the straightaway, it’s not important. What is important is the rhythm of the strides. They should be identical and slightly increase as the jumper nears the curve.

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Here is Allesia Trost running the high jump approach. Pay attention to the even strides and rhythm before she starts the curve.

Rhythm is so important in the approach that Jonathan Broom-Edwards, World High Jump Silver Medalist, uses the crowd claps to assist with his rhythm.

Rhythm is key for high jump, so losing that is detrimental for the jump; the clapping sometimes brings that rhythm back if you have temporarily lost it. https://www.paralympic.org/news/what-makes-perfect-high-jump
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High Jump Rhythm – Technique.


High jump approach running technique is no different from general running technique except that the athlete must have an upright torso, no forward lean once settled.

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Here is a list of basic and effective running mechanics for the high jumper in order to achieve, smooth, paced, running with tempo and rhythm.

* foot lands underneath the knee * don’t lengthen your stride by reaching forward with your foot, a longer stride happens by pushing up and forward from the ground * the head is steady * elbows are at a 90° angle * stride length and landing happen at the same interval * hands should be relaxed * shoulders should be down and relaxed * free foot pulls through close to the butt with dorsiflex position (great wheels) * shoulders are over hips (not leaning forward) (https://www.runnersworld.com/beginner/a20811257/proper-running-form-0/)(http://www.advantageathletics.com/sprints/sprinting_form.htm)

The purpose of the mechanics is to generate force and eliminate unnecessary movements. Unnecessary movements hinder momentum and take away lift at the end of the high jump approach.

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High Jump Rhythm  – Benefits.


By running with force and no wasted movement, the high jumper moves momentum into the penultimate and takeoff steps. The momentum now has the chance to hit the blocking angles correctly and travel upwards with maximum lift. There are no movement distractions and the high jumper will jump his or her highest at this moment.

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High Jump Rhythm  – Downfalls.


The idea is for the high jumper to use all energy into momentum and move it upwards. Failure to do so simply takes away momentum and lost momentum is lost lift.

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Here’s what happens when the mechanics are wrong.

Foot.

  • foot lands behind or in front of the knee
    • you can be injured
    • the athlete will not be able to lengthen stride by pushing up and forward from the ground
    • a high jumper will miss

Stride.

  • don’t lengthen your stride by reaching forward with your foot
    • a longer stride is achieved by pushing up and forward from the ground
      • an athlete can be injured
      • will not be able to lengthen stride by pushing up and forward from the ground
      • the high jumper will miss

Head.

  • head bounces all over the place
    • every head movement is lost energy and will take away lift
    • the high jumper will lose track of steps and rhythm in the chaotic environment
    • a high jumper will miss penultimate and takeoff angles
    • the high jumper will miss

Elbows.

  • elbows break angles continuously
    • the high jumper will lose force from the ground
    • a high jumper will lose momentum
    • the high jumper will miss

Stride Length.

  • stride length and landing should be the same interval
    • you lose momentum
    • the high jumper will lose track of steps and rhythm in the chaotic environment
    • a high jumper will miss penultimate and takeoff angles
    • the high jumper will miss

Hands.

  • hands are tense
    • tense hands cause other body parts to move
    • extra movement loses momentum
    • a high jumper loses lift
    • the high jumper will miss

Shoulders.

  • shoulders are up and moving around
    • tense shoulders cause other body parts to move
    • extra movement loses momentum
    • a high jumper loses lift
    • the high jumper will miss

Free Foot.

  • free foot pulls through low to the ground
    • low feet cause blocking issues at takeoff
    • high jumper loses lift
    • the high jumper will miss

Shoulders Again.

  • shoulders are leaning forward
    • forward shoulders are hard to get in-line during the penultimate step
    • high jumper tries to leap over the crossbar
    • the high jumper will miss
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Establishing approach rhythm happens during the “J” straightaway and the rhythm gradually and subtly increases as the jumper nears the curve. The rhythm is set-up by good running mechanics and is critical for lift and a successful high jump.

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Oh, and one more thing. Take a look at Derek Drouin’s approach run and tell me that doesn’t look like dancing and choreographed steps!

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Author:

Former collegiate high jumper and current high jump coach. I love teaching and sharing useful information. I love the sport of high jump and track & field events in general. Looking to help as many high jump enthusiasts as possible!

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