We break down the fundamental elements required for the first section of your long or triple jump

The run-up is the must-do sprint for the horizontal jumper. The ability to accelerate then hit and hold maximum velocity must be married to rhythm and accuracy. 

Not training the run-up systematically is a common mistake. It has to be a deliberate “phasing” of acceleration and optimised speed usage if the jumper is to produce a step pattern which enables the  take-off board to be hit time after time.

Acceleration phase

The first steps are crucial – push too hard and the run-up will not build as it should. The same applies if you don’t push enough or push untidily.

I believe it’s best to use a standing start as this enables the athlete to be more deliberate and therefore accurate. The pressure sent through the track on the first six to eight steps must be controlled. Similar mechanics to a sprint start should be used, although torso inclination angles will not be so great.

Alignment phase 

The next six to eight steps are all about smoothly coming into an upright position, usually high knee sprinting. Hips and chest should also be elevated, but the direction of effort must be forward – this might sound obvious but many jumpers don’t transfer their momentum toward the board sufficiently.

The real and imagined sensation of going forwards down the run-up will facilitate setting up the take-off and getting the right combination of horizontal and vertical take-off velocity. 

The hips must therefore travel in the direction of the take-off. From a coaching perspective this is all to do with heel recovery and the dynamic movement of the foot from the back of the body to the front near to/over knee height. Above all, there must be relaxation.

Yulimar Rojas (Diamond League AG)

Attack phase

As the jumper approaches the last six or so steps of their run-up, they need to be nearing optimum take-off speed. Additionally, specific positioning of the last three steps for both long and triple jumps is required. It is not enough to just sprint through those steps to hit the board and make the take-off. 

Let’s look at the two horizontal jumps and their attack phases.

Long jump

The last three steps are a bit of a long jump dark art. Very basically these steps are active, the jumper should push from the first step out into the penultimate which should be instructed to be flat footed (in reality the heel will lead into the contact) and transition equally quickly into the take-off step. The three steps should have a “da da-da” rhythm. 

The specific set-up will encourage the hips to move through the take-off better and enable the free (swing) leg to move forward of the hip at take-off to achieve the crucial held post-board take-off drive.

Ivana Vuleta (Mark Shearman)

Triple jump

The triple jumper needs to impart less vertical velocity at take-off compared to the long jumper. They need to preserve speed for their following phases. 

Most triple jumpers run through the take-off with less setting on the penultimate step, however some do lower their centre of mass more akin to the long jumper. Pablo Pichardo uses greater hop vertical velocity compared to other jumpers and thus the set on the penultimate step enables that trajectory. 

Pedro Pablo Pichardo (Getty)

Training methods

Do run-ups to the pit with take-off. There are numerous vital reasons for this:

 1  Spatial awareness. Judging distance at speed is a skill and therefore doing it with a pit in view makes this very, very specific. I’d recommend that jumpers sight the board early on and only lift their eyes during the attack phase.

 2  The need to make a take-off will introduce correct step mechanics for the last three steps.

• Make sure to use boards (real or marked with tape) that are at the correct distance from the pit. For the long jump, some tracks use 2m and even 3m boards from the sandpit. If you are used to the more common 1m board then going to a pit with a greater board to pit distance can create issues. Practise and therefore be specifically ready.

• Break the run-up down into its phases and repeat those. Practise the acceleration phase on its own, then the acceleration and alignment phase and then the complete run-up. 

• Do 3-4 of each. Doing this will create rhythm, accuracy and replicability.

• Time the phases/run-up where possible. Knowing the optimum speeds generated can help develop consistency and correct distribution of effort. You want optimum speed to be two to three steps out. What you don’t want is max run-up velocity 10m or so from the board, it needs to be around 6m out at least. You will need a specific timing system to identify this. 

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