High Jump Curve: dangerous, exciting, and under-rated….

High Jump Curve

The High Jump Curve: How To Run.


After a high jumper runs the straightaway and hits the half-way mark, they have to run the high jump curve. “Big deal,” says the novice observer who thinks the high jumper just runs around a semi-circle?

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The high jump curve is critical to the success of the high jump. Curve running is much more than “running around a semi-circle”.


You Can Crash!


Running the curve is a “big deal” and running the curve correctly is hard to accomplish. This is because you have to lean while running. The lean causes heavy pressure where the feet meet the ground. Furthermore, if the point where the feet meet the ground breaks, there’s a crash.

High Jump Curve Crash Analogy
Gellinger / Pixabay

Jumpers who do it well often think “don’t bounce off the runway“! The speed is high, the angles are steep, the steps are specific, and there’s high pressure. If executed poorly a jumper will bounce themselves right off the runway like Blanka Vlasic below.

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Why Is Running The High Jump Curve Hard?


Running the curve is hard to accomplish and these are the reasons why.

  • The high jumper follows the imaginary line of the curve
  • An athlete uses crossover steps while running fast
  • The high jumper must not get their feet crossed or lean too much and fall down
  • The athlete runs on the edges of their feet
  • The high jumper maintains rhythm while increasing speed
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What Can Go Wrong When Running The High Jump Curve?


The reasons listed above are crucial for the jumper to perform in order to generate correct speed and body angles at takeoff. Here’s what happens when a jumper fails to run the curve correctly.

The high jumper has to follow the imaginary line of the curve.

  • When a high jumper runs a larger imaginary line or flat straight line, they will stand upright while running and lose the free-energy the lean provided
  • not rotate their lower body over the bar naturally during the backflip
  • sit over the crossbar
  • land too close to the crossbar
  • not twist in the air enough to comfortably clear the crossbar with their backside
  • jump into the crossbar

The high jumper must use crossover steps while running fast.

  • When a high jumper runs with natural side-by-side steps around the curve, they will run an incorrect line
  • tilt their shoulders and not their body causing a flat curve
  • lower their center-of-gravity making the jump harder
  • jump into the crossbar

The high jumper must not fall down.

  • When a high jumper falls down during the curve, they will feel immense pain, embarrassment, and discomfort

The high jumper must run on the edges of their feet.

  • When a high jumper runs on the flat part of their foot, they will stand upright while running and lose the free-energy the lean provided
  • not rotate their lower body over the bar naturally during the backflip
  • not twist in the air enough to comfortably clear the crossbar with their backside
  • jump in to the crossbar

The high jumper must maintain rhythm while increasing speed.

  • When a high jumper loses rhythm while running the curve, they will lose control of their body angles at takeoff causing them to lose all upward momentum
  • jump into the crossbar
  • come down on the crossbar
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Running The Curve Right!


Here are more notes about how to run the curve correctly.

  • Running the curve also means that the arm swing on the inside of your curve is straight up and down and close to the body; the arm swing on the outside of the curve and closest to the crossbar cuts across the body.
  • When you’re running the curve you are landing on the outside of your outside foot and the inside of your inside foot, that means when the foot hits the ground it starts on the edge but then it flattens out and that’s what creates the lean from the ankles.
  • It’s recommended to start the curve by turning your foot into the curve slightly.
  • The last two steps of the curve which are the penultimate step and the ultimate step will change slightly only because it’s difficult to make a penultimate stride in a crossover step. This means that the penultimate step is a regular type of step and it falls slightly outside the curve closest to the bar and the ultimate step lands back on the curve. There’s no particular reason for this other than it’s difficult to consciously or unconsciously drop the weight slightly in a crossover stepping motion.
  • Ironically performing the penultimate step and it naturally landing outside the curve and the angle coming back to the curve with the ultimate step creates a smidge more torque for the takeoff and it’s unintentional.
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What Does Not Work!


When you don’t follow the curve, all kinds of bad things happen.

  1. You won’t lean which takes away a lot of vertical momentum and we may try to leap which again might get your hand to a high point but your body will not follow because there’s not enough momentum.
  2. If you run a straight line you will also not twist in the air and clear the bar with your back.
  3. If you run the curve roughly, in other words you may have steps that land on the curve but you have all kinds of body movements everywhere else like a jerky torso of flailing arms, you will have difficulty at that speed getting your body lined up correctly for the penultimate in Ultimate steps; you won’t be leaning the proper way either into the curve or back away from the crossbar and you will not transfer the horizontal momentum vertically.
  4. Watch out where the lean happens because some athletes will try to lean at the hip or just tilt the shoulders. These moves ensure the jumper stands upright again before takeoff and will lose lift and rotation.
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Conclusion.


As noted, running the curve is crucial for the high jumper to generate speed, angles, and lift in order to jump high, twist, and back-flip (rotate) over the crossbar. In short, running the curve is designed to transfer momentum smoothly, quickly, and efficiently upward with no deviations (kinks, wrong angles, etc.) in the flow of energy.

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Finally, email me a video of you high jumping and I will provide the following 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



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