Johnny Mathis

High Jump Takeoff – time to fly….

High Jump Takeoff – The Jumper Must Jump!

When does a high jumper realize if the jump will be successful? High jump takeoff is when a high jumper knows the truth. Furthermore, takeoff is time for blast off and the culmination of everything the jumper did in the approach will soon be realized during the launch.Embed from Getty Images

To be honest, the flight will go up or the flight will go little or the flight will go forward. In fact, takeoff is time to see if the crossbar stays in-place or falls to the runway.

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According to the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the takeoff rule for the high jump has remained the same for years.

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As a matter of fact, the high jumper MUST takeoff from one foot!

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It’s often debated whether a jumper can clear a greater height off two feet and its an interesting concept. I suppose a high height can be achieved if the jumper dives over the bar?

In all honesty, if a jumper gathers a lot of speed and moves it upward along with a strong leap from the jumping muscles, could they go higher? The question is, would the Center-of-Mass (COM) have to go higher than the crossbar?

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To tell the truth, we’ll never know because it’s illegal and not relevant to true high jumping.


The first recorded high jump event took place in Scotland in the 19th century.  Early jumpers used either an elaborate straight-on approach or a scissors technique. In the latter, the bar was approached diagonally, and the jumper threw first the inside leg and then the other over the bar in a scissoring motion.
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The scissors kick requires a one-footed takeoff!

Furthermore, the easter cutoff high jump style became popular at the end of the 19th century and had a one-footed takeoff.

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Moreover, the start of the 20th century introduced the western roll high jump technique which had a one-footed takeoff as well.

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And, that was followed by the very popular straddle high jump style shown here by Valery Brumel.

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Then, the straddle style also incorporated the one-foot takeoff shown here by John Thomas.

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Today, almost all high jumpers use the fosbury flop high jump technique and it also follows the rule by using a one-footed takeoff shown below.

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Technical Aspects.

The takeoff step or ultimate step is complicated but universally agreed upon by most coaches. In agreement, its angles and execution should be the same every time. Here they are.

Foot Position.

The foot plant should be pointed at the back corner of the high jump pit. In fact, it should not be parallel to the crossbar.

High Jump Takeoff J Approach
J Approach

The foot plant should also start with a dorsiflex landing and this is what it looks like.

High Jump Takeoff Foot Illustration
Dorsiflex photo courtesy of

A jumper should plant heel first and toes up and roll through the takeoff.  The athlete should also be leaning at takeoff which means the foot plant also happens on the edge of the foot.

Here’s a YouTube video showing what the edge of the foot and dorsiflex takeoff looks like in real motion.

Knee and Takeoff Leg Position.

The knee and takeoff leg should be as straight as possible WITHOUT locking. CAUTION: locking the knee WILL CAUSE HYPEREXTENSION AND GREAT INJURY! You will have to be carted off the runway in a stretcher!

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The high jumper is not using the takeoff leg to bend and jump with its muscles. Like Bob Myers, University of Arizona Head Coach stated, “the take-off leg is used more like a pole vault pole”.

That means the leg (pole) is planted onto the ground straight, it might bend slightly to handle momentum, and then it recoils to help propel the jumper upward.

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In the high jumpers mind, they’re trying to keep their leg as straight as possible. There’s no pushing off the ground.

Hip and Upper Body Position.

The hip was pushed forward in the penultimate step, which means it’s now straight with no bend in it. It will be in a straight line with the leg and upper body. The straight line, however, is leaning far back and away from the bar in this angle.

High Jump Takeoff
photo courtesy of

Notice the straight line from foot to shoulder? THIS STRAIGHT LINE is the angle needed to move the running speed upward (like a pole vault pole).

In the video below, this angle is called the “hinge moment” and it’s illustrated well by world-class high jumper Stefan Holm.

Arm Position.

There are two ways to use the arms during the takeoff.

One way is to lead with the arm closest to the crossbar and block with the arm lined up with the takeoff leg. Many world-class high jumpers use it like Stefan Holm in the video below.

The other style at takeoff is to hold the opposite arm back and block with both arms together. Here is a great example by Artur Patryka.


The takeoff step in the high jump starts one way and finishes with the movement called blocking. As mentioned above, blocking can happen with one or both arms and the free leg.

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That’s the wrong kind of blocking!

The takeoff also includes blocking. Blocking means sudden stopping of a body part, helping another one to accelerate better. Free arms and legs are used to block, and the more powerfully you block them, the better your take off will be. On takeoff, you need to drive up your free leg as high as possible.

The arms and leg should reach at least a 90° angle. Some say the leg can move higher than 90°. Certainly, the jumper MUST drive them hard and stop them quickly. Watch how Mutaz Essa Barshim does it in the video below.


Here are some different drills to help with the high jump takeoff with the intention of learning the positions and angles needed for correct execution.

First are the drills and then video from Oklahoma Head Coach, Jim VanHootegem.

Here is the progression of takeoff drills:

Rocking Chair Walk
An athlete will lead with his ankle and roll on to the ball of his foot. Next the athlete will push up from his lower position. The goal is for the athlete to feel what he needs to feel in his foot prior to and during takeoff.

Rocking Chair Skip
Motion is the same just with a skip added. Emphasis on feeling the entire surface of the foot in contact with the ground while keeping the ankle stable.

Skip for Height
In this drill the athlete should still feel the rolling action of heel to toe as in the previous drills. The skipping for height will give him the opportunity to feel the complete 100-percent extension of the ankle, knee and hip at takeoff. In addition, he can begin to feel the use of his arms and the motion of the but will begin to feel the proper movement of his free leg. The arms should swing up and the free leg should swing out in front.

Repetitive Takeoff on the Same Leg
Same action as previous drill. The athlete will now jump off same leg each time> Emphasis should be hips high and free low. (free leg should stay low relative to the hips)

Here’s another video with instruction from Igor Paklin.  Additionally, the language is hard to understand but you will see the angles and get the picture.

Another recommendation is to walk the high jumper through the motion slowly and repeatedly.

Finally, explosive plyometrics from box jumps do wonders. Russia always has a number of world-class high jumpers so here’s an old video to stimulate some thought. Practice these at your own risk.


If a high jumper plants their takeoff foot parallel to the crossbar, they will miss and travel down the length of the crossbar, possibly landing on it.

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When a high jumper plants hard without the dorsiflex, they will lose energy and not get high enough to clear the bar.

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If a jumper isn’t leaning and planting on the side of their foot, they won’t rotate the lower body enough to make the jump.

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If the angles are wrong and the jumper tries to leap over the bar, they will not get enough height, have poor rotation, and miss!

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Additionally, Poor blocking will cause momentum loss and you will miss as well.

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Takeoff is time to see if the crossbar stays in-place or falls to the runway. After takeoff, the high jumper will be happy or worse. When a jumper gets the angles and mechanics right, happiness and joy soon follow.

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Please donate to…..

High Jump Video Analysis


…..and email me your high jump video to I will provide the following analysis information:

  1. High jump approach analysis
  2. Running form analysis
  3. Penultimate step analysis
  4. J Approach analysis
  5. Takeoff analysis
  6. Flight analysis
  7. Top three opportunities for improvement
  8. Top three strengths
  9. High jump drill recommendations for you to eliminate your opportunities

Here’s a sample of what you’ll get:

High Jump Life Takeoff Analysis Illustration
Takeoff Analysis from High Jump Life



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