This article was written by Todd Acheson, a two-time NCAA DIV II All-American in the High Jump. If you have any questions about this article, you can email him at [email protected]
I firmly believe that this article will add two or more inches to your high jump next season. The calculations are very straight forward and easy to use.
I could go on and on about how well these methods worked for myself and countless others I’ve heard from. If I only would have had this while I was in school, I could have been a more successful jumper.
My objective is to give you some valuable information regarding High Jump approach techniques that I believe will benefit you or your athletes.
As a high jumper, it is assumed you will be using the flop method of jumping.
The curve portion of the approach that the jumper runs is CIRCULAR.
The high jump standards are fixed points of reference. Once measurements are obtained, these two objects should never be moved during the course of competition or during practice.
The concepts presented here can be considered a common sense approach to high jumping. Like most challenges in sports, you may not be able to teach your body to do what your mind wants it to do, overnight. Practice is the only way to develop these principals. It may take months or years for an athlete to really feel comfortable with their approach. In order for you to see success with this program, you must practice with determination and diligence.
Everything you do up to the point of take-off is very important. Why? Because it is the main factor that will determine how successful your bar clearance will be. 90% of the jump is in the approach! The high jump is difficult to perform, due to the fact that a high jumper must run a curve. This curve makes the high jump much more complex, when compared to the long jump and triple jump approaches. You need to be consistent when you run your curve. It is of my firm belief that you must run the proper approach, so that your body will be in the correct position at the point of take-off. If you can put yourself in the correct position at take-off consistently, you’ll have more attempts, and a better probability of making higher heights. Once you get comfortable with a consistent approach, you can practice and concentrate on other aspects of your jump, such as a knee drive, hip rotation, arch, penultimate step, etc.
What is the correct position at take-off? As a high jumper, you must run your curve with inward lean, that is, your body must be leaning toward the center of the circle you are running. And, MOST IMPORTANTLY, you must maintain that lean as you plant your take-off foot and attempt to make bar clearance. If you don’t do this, you might as well run straight at the bar without a circular approach. The whole idea behind a circular approach is to have inward lean at the point of take-off.
With that in mind, the main purpose of this web site is to help you develop consistency in your approach from start to take-off. Remember, in regards to the physical components of jumping, 90% of your jump lies in your approach!! Read the contents of this web site very carefully, so that you understand the concepts involved.
Your high jump approach can be viewed as similar to a long or triple jump approach. In the long or triple jump, you have a start point and an end point (take-off point). If done correctly, your last step will be on the board, and a successful jump will be obtained. Let’s carry this concept over to the high jump, and take a close look at the four(4) basic components of the approach.
- Take-off point
Most jumpers will find themselves at a point about 1-2 feet from the standard along the crossbar. This distance is called XSTD. From that point on the crossbar, you will be somewhere between 2.5 and 3.5 feet perpendicular measured out, depending upon your speed and jumping ability. This distance is called YSTD. Typically, the higher you jump, the further away from the crossbar (YSTD) you will find yourself when you plant your take-off foot.
- Take-off angle
Next, you will choose your take-off angle. Jumpers will sometimes say that their take-off leg feels like it collapses when they plant and try to jump. One cause of this “collapse” is a take-off angle that is close to degrees, or possibly even parallel. It should NEVER be parallel!!! This is very important!! A good starting point is to be somewhere between 15 and 30 degrees. This is a variable that you will play with until you find one that works well.
- Number of Steps on the Curve
Now you need to decide how many steps you will take on the curve portion of your approach. It is recommended that you use five (5) steps as your starting point. Do not change this, unless advised by your coach. Biomechanists have found that five steps is ideally what a jumper should be using.
- Stride Length
Your stride length makes you unique from every other jumper. This is the main variable that determines your approach. Your stride length on a curve determines how much distance you can cover in 5 steps. You will need to obtain a measurement of your stride length, while running a curve. To accomplish this, you will need someone to assist you. Using a tape measure, mark a circle with radius of about 25 ft. (for high school athletes and above). Then run this circle with the same tempo and rhythm you would normally use for your actual high jump approach. Remember to maintain inward lean while you do this. Have an assistant watch where each step lands on the circle’s perimeter. You will then measure the distance between these steps. Add the distances together and divide by the number of measurements you make. The result is your average stride length. You only need to take about 5-7 steps on a portion of this circle to obtain the measurements.
With these four (4) variable defined, you can now use some applied math to find a very, very good approximation of the intercept point where an athlete should be starting their approach curve. This is the key to achieving consistency!!!!
The Intercept Point
What is the intercept point?
This is the point on the track, unique to each jumper, where the approach curve starts. The location of this point is dependent upon the 4 components of your approach. Changing any of those 4 components, will change the location of your intercept point.
This point is actually located by measuring “X” from the standard closest to your takeoff point, and then measuring “Y” outward and perpendicular from “X”.
Most jumpers do this anyway to find their start point, only now, you will find the point at which your curve begins. Once you locate this point, you will be well on your way to higher heights. You find your intercept point based on the variables you defined in the previous section.
It’s not enough to have a starting point marked on the track. The starting point is only secondary to the intercept point. As long as you hit your intercept point with each approach, your jumping will become more consistent. More consistency means a better probability at clearing higher heights.
After all, that’s what it’s all about, HIGHER HEIGHTS!
(Click on the images below to enlarge)
Calculate your Intercept Point
You need to find 5 variables:
Enter STRIDE length: __ (Inches)
Enter number of STEPS on the curve: __ steps
Enter XSTD (distance along the standard to takeoff): __ (Inches)
Enter YSTD (distance of takeoff foot from standard): __ (Inches)
Enter your takeoff ANGLE: __ (Degrees)
Download the Calculator
Here is the Microsoft Excel spreadsheet for off-line formula calculations: Intercept Point (Windows users: right-click mouse and choose “Save as”. Mac users: hold CMD key while clicking)
Let’s say that we want to find Johnny Jumper’s Intercept Point. First we want to find his stride length. Johnny’s coach draws a circle with some chalk and a tape measure on the ground. Johnny then runs the circle a few times while his coach marks his steps and measures the distance between them. From those 5 or 6 measurements, the coach finds the average stride length of Johnny, which is 6′-4″(76″).
Next, the coach finds his takeoff point, relative to the closest high jump standard. This is done by taking two separate measurements. The first is taken from the base of the post on the standard to the point directly perpendicular from the takeoff point, and the second is taken from that point to the takeoff point. The first measurement is 12″ and the second is 36″.
Next, Johnny’s coach knows that the takeoff angle to start working with will be somewhere between 15 and 40 degrees, depending on the athlete. He decides to start with 30 degrees and make adjustments from there.
Finally, Johnny’s coach knows that Johnny will need to take 5 steps on the curve.
With these five variables, we can plug them into the software and find out where Johnny’s Intercept Point is.
We find the Intercept Point by measuring X distance from the standard closest to the takeoff point. From that point we measure Y distance to find the actual Intercept Point. In this example, we find that Johnny’s Intercept Point has the following measurements:
X = 14′-2″ and Y = 29′-3″ with an actual radius of 30′-3.5″
After finding the Intercept Point, Johnny now ‘hits’ this point with his non-jumping foot each time he runs his approach.
Mar 1st 2010 – Peter Hlavin*, Top 5 World Ranking (2009) – Masters Track & Field (M50-54)
“For ‘Fosbury Flop’ style high jumpers, developing a personalized and repeatable curve is of utmost importance. The Acheson curve calculator takes a lot of the guesswork out of developing a solid approach. Not only has the curve calculator generated immediate results for me, but also for the high school and youth kids that I coach.”
Feb 28th 2010 – Kathy Bergen, W70-74 World Record Holder
“My high jump approach was always an adventure. In the short time that I have been using Todd Acheson’s curve calculator, my approach and speed are much more consistent. At my first meet in 2010 I jumped higher than I have in four years … and set a world age group record.”
*Thanks to Peter Hlavin to spotting some inconsistencies between the calculations calculated on this page vs. the Excel document that you can download and use offline.