Strategies for Minimizing Fouling during the Horizontal Jumps (Part 2)

This article is guest blogged by Nick Newman, M.S., a top 5 ranked British Long Jumper and has a graduate degree in Human Performance and Sport Psychology from California State University Fullerton.  He is also the author of The Horizontal Jumps: Planning for Long Term Development (Volume 1)

His previous article on this Blog was The Approach Run: The Technical Series.

This is Part 2.  Click here for Part 1.

Skill Development Related to Board Accuracy

An accurate approach can be largely attributed to the perceptual abilities of the athlete. It is during the final 10 meters of the approach where the athlete uses his eyes to perceive the board and make slight adjustments to strike the board accurately. While it is true that certain people possess greater perceptual abilities than others, there is no doubt that this skill can be enhanced through systematic practice. The practice I recommend is called Contextual Interference (CI) used through methods of Variable Practice (PV).

A couple of years ago myself and Dr. Will WU of California State University, Long Beach issued a comprehensive survey to a number of the most experienced and successful horizontal jumps coaches in the world. Among the coaches questioned were those of current World and Olympic long/ triple champions as well as current world record holders. The survey was issued to discover if variable practice related to runway development was being used by the world’s best jumpers of today. We concluded that the majority of coaches questioned had previously used the learning method (PV) but were either not aware of the implications of it, discontinued using it and/or used it sporadically at best.

The foremost reason an athlete practices a skill is to enable him/her to re-create it during a competition setting. It is therefore wise for coaches and athletes to learn skills using methods which are going to accelerate the learning and retention process. PV offers this ability and can be incorporated into a training program focused on improving board accuracy among horizontal jumpers.

PV refers to the variety of movement context characteristics a person experiences while practicing a skill. This basically means that by practicing variations of a specific skill a person is performing variable practice. For example, practice variability is seen by having an athlete practice a skill under conditions, restraints and guidelines not usually with that particular skill in a competition setting.

There are many ways to incorporate variable practice into a horizontal jumpers training plan. One example can be to alternate the number of strides an athlete jumps from during a technical session. For example, by jumping from 10, 14, 12, 14, 10, and 12 strides and aiming to hit the take off board every time, the athlete is partaking in random VP. This same session could be made easier if the athlete was to jump from 10, 10, 10, 12, 12, and 12 strides. The level of variability placed on a particular training session is closely related to the concept called Contextual Inference (CI). CI is the memory and performance disruption which occurs from performing multiple skills and skill variations within a practice session. The level of CI can be high or low depending on how much variability is used within the session. Much research has proven that high levels of CI will significantly improve the ability to reproduce the standard skill in retention tests or competitions. Ironically however, performance during practice sessions with high CI will often decrease.

As there are many ways PV can be used to develop board accuracy it is important to create a system to follow. As previously mentioned alternating the number of strides used in a technical session is a way of including PV. Other methods include the following:

  • Changing starting positions throughout a session by 30-60cm forward or backwards
  • Changing the board focus or aim. For example, aiming to strike before the takeoff board followed by a striking aim of past the takeoff board all the while keeping the starting position the same
  • Random starting positions will test visual control and the ability to adjust stride length when closing in on the board.

Below is a table of how CI and PV can be included in approach training throughout the year.

General Prep

  • Build up to 3 variations of approach stride number during a session
  • Use consistent starting position for all jumps / approaches
  • Target short, long, and perfect aim of the board during sessions

Specific Prep


Technical Prep


  • Build up to 3 variations of approach stride number during a session
  • Use consistent starting position for all jumps/ approaches
  • Target short, long, and perfect aim of the board during sessions


  • Vary starting method during jumps/ approaches
  • Vary starting position by 30-60cm in alternating fashion
  • Keep board strike target constant either short, long or perfect


  • Use constant start position
  • Target specific points on board (2-8 inch specific)


  • Short and full approach runs with a very specific focus point using constant starting position

About the Author

Nick Newman, M.S. is a jumps coach, athletic performance coach, and top 5 ranked British Long Jumper with a current best of 7.80m (25’7). He was born and raised in Great Britain, where he graduated in 2001 with a two year A-level in Sport Science from Durham Community College. His bachelor’s degree is in Exercise Science from Manhattan College in New York in 2006 and in 2009 he earned a graduate degree in Human Performance and Sport Psychology from California State University Fullerton. Nick has been a lifelong researcher and contributor to sport science, specializing in the jumps. His most recent work has been authoring: The Horizontal Jumps: Planning for Long Term Development (Volume 1) which was published in June of 2012. The book is available for purchase at or Visit his website at website

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • Thank you for the very useful article!
    To add what Mike Powell advised:
    “When you run to the board, don’t look at it. If you look at it, you’ll foul. Look at the far end of the sandpit”.
    Of course, he also mentioned the need for consistency in the approach runs, etc.