How to Optimize Technique in the High Jump Approach Phase?

March 11, 2024

In the world of athletics, there is an art and science to jumping high. The high jump, in particular, requires a combination of speed, strength, and technique. The approach phase, or the run-up to the bar, is a critical element in achieving the maximum jump height. This article will provide you with essential guidance on how to optimize your technique in the high jump approach phase.

Understanding the High Jump

Before delving into the specifics of the approach phase technique, it’s crucial first to comprehend the high jump as an overall track and field event. The high jump demands a significant amount of skill and athleticism, with athletes vying to leap unaided over a horizontal bar set at measured heights.

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The high jump event comprises distinct phases: the approach, the takeoff, and the actual jump or flight. Each of these phases requires a unique set of skills and techniques. However, it’s often said that the success of a high jump begins with the approach.

The Importance of The Approach Phase

An effective approach is vital for a successful high jump. It sets up the jumpers for the curve and takeoff, generating the necessary speed and power to propel them over the bar. The approach phase is all about optimizing the velocity and angle of approach, which translates into the vertical lift needed to clear the bar.

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This phase typically consists of a straight-line run-up followed by a curved path leading to the bar. The straight-line part of the approach allows jumpers to build up speed, while the curve creates the body lean necessary for the takeoff and subsequent jumping action.

Optimizing The Approach Run-up

The approach run-up is where athletes generate the speed that will carry them over the bar. However, it’s not just about running fast. Athletes must also maintain controlled acceleration and proper running form.

The run-up begins with the athlete standing at a measured distance from the bar. This distance varies between athletes and is typically between 12 and 20 steps. The athlete then sprints towards the bar, gradually accelerating to reach maximum speed just before the curve.

To optimize the run-up, athletes should focus on maintaining a tall posture and using their arms effectively to generate momentum. It’s crucial to stay relaxed and execute each step with precision and purpose. The transition from the straight run-up to the curve should also be smooth and fluid, ensuring the athlete’s momentum is not disrupted.

Mastering The Curve

The curve phase of the approach is critical in setting up the takeoff. It involves a change in direction, with athletes curving in towards the bar. This curve creates the necessary body lean and angular momentum for the takeoff.

To optimize the curve, athletes should begin the turn gradually, maintaining their speed and rhythm. The body lean should increase as the athlete moves closer to the bar, with the inside foot (the one closest to the bar) always leading. It’s essential for athletes to keep their eyes on the bar as they curve, which helps maintain balance and focus.

Perfecting The Takeoff

The transition from the curve to the takeoff is a crucial moment in the high jump. The final two steps of the approach, known as the penultimate and takeoff steps, determine the success of the jump.

The penultimate step should be slightly longer and lower than the others, creating a downward motion that will be converted into upward momentum in the final step. The last step, or takeoff step, is the most aggressive and powerful. This is where athletes spring upwards, driving their arms and lead leg towards the sky as they prepare to clear the bar.

To optimize the takeoff, athletes need to focus on exploding upwards, rather than forwards. This requires a strong push-off from the takeoff foot and a vigorous upward drive of the arms and lead leg.

Remember, the high jump is a complex event, and each phase requires meticulous training and practice. By understanding and optimizing each step of the approach phase, athletes can significantly improve their performance and achieve new heights in this exhilarating track and field event.

Incorporating Strength Conditioning into Your Training Regime

To excel in the high jump, athletes don’t just rely on technique alone. Incorporating strength conditioning into your training routine is an essential component of optimizing your high jump approach. The focus on strength conditioning should be on the lower body and the core, as these are critical for both the approach and the jump phases of the event.

For the lower body, exercises such as squats, lunges, and calf raises can help develop the strength and power you’ll need for the approach and the explosive takeoff. It’s equally essential to work on your core strength, as this helps maintain balance and control during the high jump approach and the jump itself.

Moreover, plyometric training, which involves exercises that exert maximum force in short intervals, can help improve your speed and power. This type of training can be particularly beneficial in the run-up phase of the approach, where high jumpers need to generate the maximum speed possible.

Plyometric exercises like box jumps and bounding drills can help enhance your explosive power and takeoff. It’s worth noting that these exercises must be done under proper supervision to reduce the risk of injury.

Integrating strength conditioning into your training routine, alongside mastering the necessary jump techniques, is crucial in setting you up for success in the high jump.

Practicing the Fosbury Flop

An important technique in high jumping is the Fosbury Flop, named after American high jumper Dick Fosbury, who revolutionized the sport in the 1960s. This technique, which involves the athlete going over the bar head and back first, has become the standard technique used by most high jumpers today.

To practice the Fosbury Flop, start by standing next to the bar with your back towards it. Take a step back with your outside foot, then swing your inside foot around in a curve towards the bar. As you approach the bar, drive your knee up and throw your head back, allowing your body to follow in an arched position over the bar.

As with all techniques in the high jump, practicing the Fosbury Flop requires time, patience, and consistency. Combining this with the tips on optimizing the approach phase discussed throughout the rest of the article will help you maximize your high jump performance.


The high jump is a challenging yet rewarding track and field event. The approach phase is just as important as the final jump, with each step contributing to the overall success of clearing the bar. Understanding the nuances of the approach, from the run-up to the curve and the takeoff, is essential for any high jumper to improve their performance.

Incorporating strength conditioning and plyometric training into your regimen is crucial to develop the power and speed necessary for an effective approach. Perfecting important techniques such as the Fosbury Flop also plays a key role in enhancing performance in the high jump.

Remember, mastering the high jump is not just about the physical training. It requires mental preparation and focus. Whether you’re a beginner in high school or a seasoned athlete, consistent training and a dedication to refining your technique will help you achieve new heights in the high jump. So keep practicing, stay focused, and most importantly, enjoy the thrill of the jump!