The high jump is a track and field athletics event in which participants jump over a horizontal bar placed at designated heights without any assistance. Since its inception, the high jump technique has evolved over the years to its current state, which is determined to be most effective thus far.
The current men's record is currently held by Javier Sotomayor of Cuba, with a jump of 2.45 metres set in 1993. The current women's record is held by Stefka Kostadinova of Bulgaria, with a jump of 2.09 metres set in 1987.
The main rules of the sport can be summed up as follows:
- The jumper must leave the ground from one foot, not two.
- The objective is to clear a thin bar perched on top of two standards.
- The jumper remains in the competition to attempt increasing heights as long as he does not have three consecutive misses.
- Jumpers may enter the competition at any height above the minimum required height (of the competition) and are allowed to pass any height as the bar is raised to next level.
1. Take-off foot
Determine which foot is your natural take-off foot. To find out, take several jumps over a hurdle or take a short run and see how high you can jump into the air. After a few tries, you will be able to see which your natural take-off foot is.
2. High jump techniques
If you only have grass or sand to land on, the usual style is the scissors jump or straddle technique. Using this technique, the right-foot athlete
- runs in from the left until he is almost parallel with the bar
- lifts his left leg first, and then his right leg over the bar.
The athlete clears the bar almost in a straddling position. The key is to lift the athlete's centre of gravity high enough so that he can clear the bar in a more horizontal plane.
If it is a more professional setting with foam rubber landing pits, the usual technique used nowadays is the Fosbury flop. This was introduced by Dick Fosbury of the United States, who won a gold in the 1968 Olympics with a record height. (During the Olympics, Fosbury did not do the high-jump in the traditional sideways style, with the straddle or scissors jump techniques. Instead, he would approach the bar diagonally, before pivoting 180 degrees and launching his body backwards over the bar. The experts initially said he would never succeed and that he would break his back, but he proved them wrong by winning the gold medal and setting a world record.)
Since Fosbury's record jump in the 1968 Olympics, the Forsbury flop has become the dominant technique in high jump events to this day, as it is easier to master and gives the athlete the option of adjusting his power or speed in the run-up to the bar. While athletes now make some personal adjustments to the jumping technique, the basic form is still the Forsbury flop.
The key to a successful high jump is a good approach. It is recommended that the athlete begin the run-up in a straight approach of about seven strides. With about three strides to go before take off, the athlete begins a curved run (about a quarter of a circle). The objective of the first few strides is to build up speed, and it is important that the athlete makes a smooth transition into the curve phase. With practice, the athlete is able to maintain a consistent rhythm to take off from the same spot.
4. Curved run
During the curved part of the run-up, the athlete should be leaning away from the bar. The athlete should approach the bar at about 45 degrees. The body is not bent at the waist but from the ankle level. The purpose of the curved run is to allow the athlete to be able to jump over the bar later without having to lean in. The athlete should always maintain their leaning away position even on the take-off stride.
When the athlete reached the take-off point, the heel of the take-off foot strikes the ground ahead of him. The heel spikes of the high jump shoes usually serve as the brake. The body will then rise up to the vertical, while the athlete focuses on running off his toe. Things to note at this point are:
- The heel serves as the brake, while the ankle and toe help to lift the body
- The ankle should be fully extended at take-off
- The lead knee (the one nearest the bar at take-off) shold be directed towards the centre of the body to help with the rotation.
- The lower leg remain perpendicular to the ground.
- The arms are brought forcefully up, close to the body, to the mid-chest level. This increases the lift force. (Neither arm should be higher than than the body during take-off.)
6. Ascent and clearance
During the ascent, the athlete should turn his head and eyes slightly to look towards the bar, as the body will naturally follow the head. To clear the bar, the hips are thrust forward to produce a back arch. Once the hips have cleared the bar, the athlete lifts his arms and extends his lower legs. This is to move into a sitting position so that his feet can clear the bar.
The athlete should land on his middle to lower back, and not his shoulders. Maintaining a good hip and back flexibility will also help to prevent landing injury.
8. Key practice points
- For a beginner, it is important that you get used to landing on your back properly, as it is a key feature of the entire high jump procedure.
- High jump practice should be done at an appropriate height first so that the athlete can focus on improving his technique.
- The number of strides required varies from athlete to athlete. Faster runners tend to use less strides, while taller or slower ones may need more.
- Warm up by running around the track or do some light sprints. Limit your warm-up jumps as they take up a lot of your energy.