High Jump Penultimate Step – misunderstood and argued about….

High Jump Penultimate Step And Its Mystery.

What is controversial and misunderstood by high jumpers and coaches?  The high jump penultimate step of course! Coaches see the second-to-last step differently and have different opinions about its purpose.

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High Jump Penultimate Step Definition.

The penultimate step or penultimate stride is the second-to-last step before an athlete takes off! It’s used extensively in the long jump and high jump.

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Many expert coaches believe the penultimate step is part of the jumpers takeoff.  Coaches argue that most people don’t know how to use it properly or coach it properly.

In fact, Bob Myers, former University of Arizona head coach stated:

My feeling is that poor take-off technique is an important factor in bad jumping. Every season I see countless jumpers, from the beginners to sub-elite with poor take-off mechanisms. In my opinion, the second-to-last step is the key to takeoff technique and one of the least understood aspects in the jumping events. I believe that we, as coaches, could do a better job with the talent available by gaining a better understanding of the final two steps in the jumping events.

Purpose Of The Penultimate Step.

What is the purpose of a good second-to-last step? The answer is determined by looking forward to the last step or Ultimate Step!

No matter how you view the mechanics of the second-to-last step, it must set up the body to transition into the takeoff step. The takeoff step and body angles are universally agreed on. Below is a blurry photo of what I consider as one of the best examples of the takeoff body angles. The penultimate step MUST prepare the jumper to fall into these angles!

ultimate step after the high jump penultimate step
Takeoff Step photo courtesy of http://www.nytrackstarz.org

According to John Evans at elitetrack.com, “the penultimate step mainly functions to lower the center of mass prior to takeoff to allow the jumper to move vertically”.

With high jumping, the center-of-mass (COM) lowers in the jumper by taking a lower step at the penultimate step. In this shorter step, the jumper will bend the knees slightly more than the previous steps. Consequently, the jumper’s COM drops here.

From this lower COM position in the penultimate step, it’s easier for the jumper to then lean back and reach the ultimate step foot plant.

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How The High Jump Penultimate Step Works.

Here is a list of movements that happen in the second-to-last step.

  1. Second-to-last step foot plant stays on the curve
  2. Dorsi-flex foot-plant should already be in-place
  3. Arms position start in front of the jumper at the beginning of the step and move to behind the jumper by the end of the step
  4. Hips and knees flex at the plant to drop the COM
  5. Shoulders start over the foot plant and hips in the beginning of the step and move behind the hips, leaning back by the end of the step
  6. The second-to-last step is quick
  7. A shorter stride than previous strides (ultimate step is even shorter)

Please note in the video how the penultimate step matches the above description. Slowing the playback down to quarter speed is beneficial. Pay close attention because the movement happens very quickly, even at slow playback speed.

How To Develop The High Jump Penultimate Step.

Practice, practice, practice! Go through the motions with the jumpers at slow speed with many pauses. Once the comprehension is strong, apply drills.

I like this YouTube video because it describes the second-to-last step development and separates the last two strides from the rest of the approach.

Here’s another great YouTube training video because it shows the jumper landing on the penultimate step. Furthermore, the video shows the jumper flexing the knee and hip, moving the COM over the step, and almost jumping into the last step with correct angles. Additionally, his belly button is forward. I  also like how his arms remain behind his back so he can focus on the steps.

While still controversial, there are many ways to perceive the second-to-last step. In the end, the second-to-last step MUST set a jumper up for the takeoff step.

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Oh, one more thing. Remember what Coach Meyers said about how the takeoff leg is used on the last step.

The takeoff leg is used more like a pole vault pole!

If you can imagine that, then molding the penultimate step is easy!



Please donate to…..

High Jump Video Analysis


…..and email me a video of you high jumping to highjumplife84@yahoo.com. 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