Maximal Effort Pole Vaulting

What is maximal effort pole vaulting? Well before I introduce this idea I will use an example from another sport to help illustrate what I am trying to discuss.

In the sport of powerlifting maximal effort lifting is the be all end all. What is the most weight you can move for a single rep is the most important thing. And Coach Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell, arguably the greatest powerlifting gym in the world, explains in his book The Westside Barbell Book of Methods that a bench press for example must be completed in 3.5 seconds or it will be a failure. Now for weights that are below your 1 rep max you can have the lift last longer than 3.5 seconds; for example, if you benched the bar, 45lbs, you

can easily make that lift last for 10 seconds or more and complete the lift. Again a max effort can only last 3.5 seconds. So if a lift lasts longer than 3.5 seconds it means that the lift is not a maximal effort.

So what does all this mean for pole vaulting? If we begin to look at how long a vault lasts we might be able to learn something. Roman Botcharnikov claims that a successful vault, from the moment an athlete leaves the ground to the moment they clear a bar, takes roughly 1.4 seconds.

In my previous article I mention David F. Johnston’s (DJ) mid chart. He has grips and bar height clearances that go together. As an example a person gripping 14’6” should be able to clear 16’. Going along with that if we time “efficient vaulting” the jump should last 1.4 seconds. Now that doesn’t mean that an athlete can’t clear a bar when the jump lasts longer than 1.4 seconds, but it does mean it is a sub maximal effort, like the 45lb bench press. An example would be someone gripping 13’ and only clearing 12’. That would be a -4” push off, the amount of clearance you have above or below your grip when the 8” drop of the box is taken into account. According to DJ’s mid chart a 13’ grip should yield about a 13’ jump. So that 12’ jump is most likely too slow.

Now if you measure the speed of your jump and you find it is too slow, what should you do? Look at your jump in full speed, as Jim Bemiller, coach of Tim Mack 2004 Olympic Champ, suggested on episode 2