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19 August 2004

How can I learn to take part in jumping sports?

Trying to teach yourself high jump is difficult and risky; you need to find an accredited coach to instruct you in this highly specialised event – and help you decide if it’s for you.

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High jumping
Trying to teach yourself high jump is difficult and risky; you need to find an accredited coach to instruct you in this highly specialised event – and help you decide if it’s for you. You will learn to jump very low heights at first without a bar, after which the bar will be introduced and its height gradually raised as you improve. For the initial learning sessions, many coaches use a tape-type bar substitute, to avoid beginners hurting themselves on a hard bar.

How fit must you be?
You need to be in good physical shape for high jump, with fairly high levels of strength and flexibility. Aerobic fitness is not as important.

Who should opt for another sport?
Some people, even those who are otherwise good athletes, will never be able to master the high jump. It should soon become apparent to you and your coach whether you have the knack or not. You also need a high degree of patience and persistence to improve. This is not a suitable event for older adults; most high jumpers begin the sport in adolescence or young adulthood. Some people acquire the sport at a later age, but they are generally those already proficient at other athletics disciplines.

Type of exercise needed
Repetition of each element of the jump: run-up appoach, lift-off and clearing the bar, as well as complementary exercises like squats and lower-body weight-training.

More about the basics
Learning to land on your back can take some getting used to. Before beginner high-jumpers try jumping vertically, they practise landing by taking low two-legged jumps from a standing position and landing backwards in the pit (the landing mattress). The aim is to land on the upper portion of the back rather than on the neck or the buttocks, as this can damage the spine.

Pole vaulting
The risks involved in pole vaulting are considerable, and you need to find an accredited coach to instruct you in this highly specialised event – and help decide if it’s for you.

How fit must you be?
You need to be in excellent overall physical shape for the pole vault, with strong arm and leg muscles and good flexibility. You should also be able to sprint. Aerobic fitness is not quite as important.

Who should opt for another sport?
If you are short, with poor muscular strength or flexibility, it will be difficult to progress in this sport. You also need a high degree of patience and persistence to improve, as training involves a lot of repetition.

Type of exercise needed
Repetition of each element of the vault, as well as complementary strength exercises like lower-body and upper-body weight-training, and running.

More about the basics
Safety is a very important consideration in pole vaulting; deaths and disabilities, mostly in inexperienced sportspeople, have resulted from this event. For safety before every vault, a vaulter should be rested, alert and calm, ready to concentrate and focus. The vault should not be attempted if the vaulter is feeling hesitant or distracted. A thorough warm-up should be done prior to vaulting, and should preferably include some basic pole carries, plants and take-off actions. Release from the pole should only occur when the athlete is safely over the pit (mat). The objective is to land safely in the middle of the pit on the hips and back; landing on the feet can be extremely dangerous – it can injure the ankles or knees, and sometimes cause the vaulter to fall out of the pit.

Long jump and triple jump
Horizontal jumping carries a low risk of injury, and does not require very specialised equipment, so you could try some jumps out yourself first to see if it’s the sport for you. Remember to warm up properly, and increase your jump length gradually as you get stronger and more skilled. You’ll need to find an accredited coach, however, to help you progress and ensure any faulty techniques don’t become ingrained.

Who should opt for another sport?
If you are small and slight, with poor muscular strength, it will be difficult to progress in this sport. You also need a high degree of patience and persistence to improve, as training involves a lot of repetition.

Type of exercise needed
Repetition of each element of the jump, particularly the run-up approach and take-off, as well as complementary strength exercises like lower-body weight-training.

More about the basics
A unique feature of the triple jump is the action of the landing foot at the end of the hop and the skip. The foot must strike the runway in a 'pawing' motion, similar to that of a person trying to propel themselves forward on a skateboard. This gives backward velocity to the landing leg, helping maintain the body’s forward horizontal velocity.

 
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