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This tutorial is guest blogged by Mike Goss, CSCS, and Level II USATF, jumps, throws, and combined events. Mike is also in the Coaches Advisory for USATF-GA.
The triple jump received a tremendous boost in the 96’ Atlanta Olympics. Kenny Harrison (Olympic record holder) and Jonathan Edwards (world record holder) had an epic battle and the first ever women’s Olympic champion was crowned (World Record holder, Inessa Kravetz).Willie Banks, Mike Conley, Harrison and Edwards are considered among the best in contemporary track history. One might wonder where is Christian Olsson among the elite. Considering the stresses placed on the body while jumping, be mindful of his three surgeries following the 04’ games in Athens. Olsson is a World champion, Olympic gold medalist and former indoor world record holder. Due to a series of injuries, he also had a short-lived career. The current rise of Christian Taylor, Will Claye, and Teddy Tamgho assures the track enthusiasts with years of exciting jumpers.
Photo Credits: Ian Walton/Getty Images Europe
My purpose is not to recount the modern history of the event. Rather, I wish to refer to training principles and a philosophy to make the triple jump a safer and more participatory event. The rationale as to how must be clear and it must also be programmed / periodized into a scheme compatible to the American athlete. Coaching intercollegiate athletes allows a coach/athlete to develop a yearly plan (macrocycle). The program can be modified without immense time constraints; a high school season presents a significant challenge. High school programs may be designed with a chain of weekly plans (microcycle). Too often, with the triple jump, minimal time is spent on kinesthetic awareness and an adequate base period, i.e. development of speed, strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination. The purpose of this article is to provide a beginning foundation for any program – from youth to collegiate level athletes.
Scholastic track and field often introduces the triple jump as an event to “pick up points” or exploit the talents of a few gifted and resilient athletes. The event often becomes one of survival of the fittest rather than a skilled craft or power ballet. Too much too soon or a poorly planned practice regimen are common mistakes in high school programs. The attrition rate is high; heel bruises and hip flexor injuries are common and debilitating. Poor training and a rush for a big jump often disrupts the beginning jumper. Lack of knowledge in fundamentals, runway mechanics, postural defects, rhythmic parameters and lack of power training are root causes of poor performance. Speed is an essential quality for successful performance; but rhythm, posture, mechanics and conditioning must be priorities. Whereas coaches must meet strict guidelines in the pole vault, since the triple jump would not require a helmet…..could it be that much of a problem? Patience, planning and progression can alleviate problems associated with jumping.
Photo Credits: www.spokeo.com
Prior to training, athletes should view film and images of the event. Commonalities revealed in the phases should be identified (and explained). Body alignment, foot placement and symmetry of the limbs can be viewed and analyzed by the coach and athlete.
Most beginning jumpers will have a tendency to reach for distance. It is vital that the coach explain how a jump must feel; even above the cognition of how the jump visually appears. Where does this begin? Observation of starting, acceleration and sprint mechanics reveal much about an athlete’s ability to perform successfully. Jump testing is simple. Standing long jumps, standing triple jumps and multiple bounds for distance (from a standing start) can easily reveal jumping ability. The standing vertical jump is not always a significant indicator for success. Standing starts require the athlete to “create” velocity through multiple take-offs. Coaches should be reluctant to rush athletes to execute full jumps or unsupervised drills. Correct habits must be established immediately to assure proper neurological development and prevent injury. Often, a motivated athlete must digress before he/she can progress to efficient and skillful performance. Although speed is necessary for success, if an athlete has poor mechanics or rhythm – the success will be short lived. The athlete needs to be confident that, if executed properly, the triple jump is not going to “beat them up”.
Athletes often exhibit an extended reach while grabbing and pulling back upon ground contact. Misalignment of posture – butt out, forward pitching of the torso, and high impact of the lower leg complex increases risk of injury and braking action during the jump. These issues should be corrected prior to any full jumps! Successful completion of a jump is always determined by preceding actions. The start, drive, acceleration, transition, penultimate and take-off step must be a coordinated and sequential process.
Another culprit of poor mechanics is the rushing of the cyclical motion of the take-off leg and free leg mechanics. An emphasis of “driving the free knee” will often cause a too vertical take-off and misalign the hip. The jumper must emphasize ground contact and position of the head/shoulders over hips; also, the foot should be slightly ahead of the hip on contact. Athletes should feel the contact foot beneath them. Here, film analysis can reveal a volume of information to the developing athlete. The extended limbs in flight tend to mislead athletes with an illusion of reaching out for landing. Proper technique reveals a foot placement just in front of the hip. The observer (of adequate film) can take a ruler and draw a vertical line from head, shoulder, hip and foot plant. Each phase has a consistent alignment at take-off. Symmetry of the levers (arms and legs) need be equally balanced from anterior to posterior. This is extension for balance, alignment, and swinging of the free leg – not reaching. Again, teaching the feel of triple jumping should be the emphasis.
Following are several drills, exercises, and cues to enhance an athlete’s progression to safe and successful jumping. This program may be used throughout the preseason and competitive year to reinforce a jumpers understanding of the kinesthetic awareness in triple jumping. These drills are compatible for runners and jumpers; efficiency is a prerequisite for proficiency!
The best method is to examine jumpers through a series of basic drills. These drills reveal body alignment, force application/dorsiflexion, rolling (plantar flexion) extension of the take-off foot, and tempo. These drills are similar to a “baby bounds” vertical bound series. Each of these drills provides an opportunity for simple analysis and teaching of proper mechanics. This ideology is keen to “cause and effect” analysis of basic biomotor and rhythmic patterns. Training is based upon postural alignment; in most cases, the athlete will remain upright with the head and hip in vertical alignment. The athlete executes rolling foot contacts, placing the takeoff foot just ahead of the hip as he/she performs multiple hops and bounds. Close attention must be paid to dorsiflexion of the takeoff foot (either double or single leg) and active rolling and plantar flexion of the ankle. Movements begin with emphasis of the lower leg and very little flexion from the knee. The movements should be repeated going forward, backward, medially and laterally – the coach should see a straight alignment of the body over the center of mass and point of contact (of the feet). The movements are somewhat like a pogo stick with balance between vertical and horizontal forces.
“Baby bounds” are modifications of a more dynamic and event specific nature. Each of these series involves a symmetrical swinging of the free leg. Emphasis of proper body alignment and hip angle must be maintained throughout these drills. The idea is to “push down” rather than drive forward; the impetus should be more vertical than horizontal. Concentration is on the foot applying force to the ground and symmetrical swinging of the free leg – avoid driving the knee forward.
The majority of success and error is predetermined by actions on the ground. I find that the aforementioned exercises are excellent for teaching beginners, correcting poor mechanics, kinesthetic awareness and conditioning the lower leg for all jumping events. Following are cues and ideas to promote safe and effective development for young jumpers:
“Keep the head on top of your hips” – assists balance, conservation of horizontal velocity, and may prevent impact injuries; over rotation is a major obstacle for jumpers (the drill series combats this flaw).
“Load the ankle” – pre-tension of the lower leg helps with stability and execution of the stretch reflex; understanding pre-stretch and overcoming muscle “slack” is another key to better performance. I recommend the studies of Frans Bosch in relation to the elastic components of muscle during sprinting and jumping.
“Contact the ground with a flat to rolling motion” – conserves horizontal velocity, makes full use of force application and sets the leg up for another take-off.
“Roll and push the ground back” – encourages full extension improving force application; Newton’s Law of “equal and opposite reaction”.
“Keep the take-off foot flat and active on contact” – as above, this emphasizes active take-offs. Landing is completing the jump in the pit! The concept of three take-offs should be emphasized.
“Use triple extension” – Many of the drills and exercises (see photo 237) for jumpers must emphasize a sequence of hip, knee, and ankle extension! The weight room, warm-up session, and drills should concentrate on proper mechanics.
“Toes up” (observed in photo sequence) – dorsiflexion of the foot when completing sprint drills, plyometrics, dynamic warm-ups and weight training is essential for all jumpers. Coaches should carefully observe posture and limb positions when athletes perform lunges, skips, hops, hurdle mobility and running drills.
“Paw the ground” – misunderstood as slamming, grabbing or driving the leg down to the ground.
“Reach for the pit” – over striding, misalignment and a grabbing/pulling action of the lower limbs increases the risk of injury as well as loss of horizontal velocity.
“Drive the free knee” – another issue of body alignment; a loss of fluidity and straining when emphasis should be on efficient use of body leverage; keeping the free knee below (belt level) and parallel to the ground are keys to success.
Prepare a feast but serve very light meals, especially in the beginning stages of training. By this, I mean that a yearly plan should have great variety with the goal always being to improve jump performance. Variety does not have to mean complexity; the simplest drills tend to be the safest and most efficient means to success.
Although the physical training takes precedent, athletes should routinely be exposed to film analysis, performance comparisons, and contrast training. Spending a week on sprint mechanics and speed work will often be beneficial after poor performances (especially if you feel that the training has been sufficient).
Do not perform needless exercises in the weight room. Rest between exercises; the nervous system requires 3-5 minutes of rest between sets. If you sense a loss of concentration from the athlete, this (rest between sets) is a good time to include photo sequences or film clips of jump technique or lifting skills. Many of us face time constraints; the time between sets may involve auxiliary lifts (dumbbell shoulder curls, back hyperextensions, etc.). Rest between intervals and workouts are a part of the art and science of successful training.
Oversimplify! If an athlete cannot perform a full clean or hang clean, work on triple extension with high pulls or pull shrug movements. The most important part of the lift for a jumper is extension of the hip/knee/ankle. Think of the lift as a vertical jump while holding onto the bar!
starting position for hang clean, overhead press
Javorek Complex Exercises
Following is a series of exercises developed by Itsvan Javorek (former instructor at Johnson City Community College, Kansas). Javorek’s routines are valuable training tools; these can be executed with dumbbells or barbells and are fast as well as effective exercises. Determine the RM (maximum resistance) by the most difficult exercise performed in a series:
3 sets of 6 repetitions; alternated with abdominal/core exercises
“Javorek Complex Exercises”
below is a sample of Javorek’s myriad of complex training routines. Consideration of the specific event and maturity level of the athlete is necessary to ensure safety and success with these movements.
1. Press / then Squat
Left: Execute overhead press. Right: Follow with an overhead Squat
“Yielding” and “bracing” are vital to kinesthetic awareness in jumping events; this is a good example of “yielding” (from a modified snatch exercise) as well as movement into an overhead squat.
2. High pull snatch / from hip
Left: Begin lift. Right: extend hips and drive bar overhead
Left: stabilize posture.
4. Squat / push press
Left: Execute a back squat Right: Finish the squat extension with a push press
5. Bent rows
6. Clean / split jerk
Left: Clean from hang position Right: Execute a split jerk
7. High box step up
Left: start position for the high box step up. Right: control the lowering specific to unilateral loading & less stress to lumbar- very demanding!
We alternate the above routine with Olympic lifts and a high box step-up with barbells. The high box step-up (above) is a primary lift and works the hips, core, and legs. The exercise requires great balance and strict postural control; though intense, the load on the spine is less than conventional squats. Variation of exercises reduces the risk of staleness or boredom, but the focus must be on your competitive calendar. For safety, dowels, dumbbells, or sand bags may substitute long bars. Training cycles should balance workloads and recuperative processes.
Pre-habilitation – I use this term as a caveat for training. Hip flexors, lower lumbar, and the lower compartment of the legs are vulnerable areas for the triple jump competitor. Below are some suggested drills and exercises that should be utilized in early preparation periods. These programs can be continued throughout the season as a series of warm-ups.
Drills / Exercises
Drills/exercises – ankle flips, baby bounds, lateral or zigzag hops, multi-jumps. Sand pit drills are conducive for general strength and endurance. Conditioning for elastic strength should be on a firm surface (gym floor, track, or field space):
Ankle flips are (as the “pogo” jump/see photos above) straight leg hops and right left combinations with focus on the toe up and full foot contact combined with ankle flexion/extension. As your athletes gain strength, these can be executed with barbells, weighted vests, or sand bags.
Baby bounds (photos above) are less dynamic than full bounds or hops; emphasize symmetrical but short swings of the free limbs and concentrate on body alignment and foot contact patterns. These exercises also develop connective tissue and strength endurance (multiple sets and repetitions).
I find the triple jump to be one of the most challenging and beautiful events in athletics. Sound principles of training, mechanics, and periodization will assist the athlete and coach in the endeavor to jump far! Coaches must understand, and teach the athlete, that any unsuccessful phase in the jump was preceded by an error. These faults often begin with the habits developed while training. Most often these miscues are mechanical and rhythmical. Proper techniques in lifting, jumping drills and running will assist the jumper in his/her quest for a big jump. I encourage any coach (unfamiliar with Dan Pfaff, Boo Schexnayder, and Frans Bosch) to study training principles and the biomechanics of jumping. A back to basics approach (rudimentary drills, vertical bounds, proper execution in the weight room) will be major factors for success in the triple jump. I encourage my colleagues to utilize the NSCA, USA Weightlifting, USATF, USTFCCCA, and the IAAF as valuable resources in coaching track and field.
Level II USATF, jumps, throws, and combined events
Coaches Advisory USATF-GA
“baby bound” drill; note the body position and ground contact; the free-swinging leg should also exhibit a dorsiflexed foot.
Emphasize balance, symmetry and consistent rhythm.
Position yourself at an angle to observe group drills. Correction of errors can be made while reinforcing proper techniques – harmony is a combination of correct posture, mechanics and rhythm.
I would like to acknowledge the following for assisting me with the information related to this article. This information is “gleaned” from Level II USATF, Level III seminars, Championship video, conversation and notes.
- DIck Booth, University of Alabama
- Ian Dube, President USATFGA affiliate
- Itsvan Javorek, Johnson City Community College, Kansas
- Petros Kyprianou, University of Georgia
- Dennis Nobles, Florida State University
- Dan Pfaff, Director Lee Valley Performance Centre, UK
- Joe Pitts,former Head Strength and Conditioning Coach, Kennesaw State U.
- Michael Pullins, USC – Trojans
- Cliff Rovelto, Kansas State U.
- Boo Schexnayder, Performance Chair – Jumps, USATF
- Dr. Mike Stone/Meg Stone, East Tennessee State University
- National Strength and Conditioning Association
- USATF Level II & III coaches education
- USA Weightlifting