How do I get on a longer pole?
Many vaulters start off a new year trying to get on a longer pole. Most people believe that the only way they can get that next pr is by getting to that next pole and raising his or her grip. Now, never mind the fact that you could increase your push and that too could raise your pr, lets instead figure out how one goes about getting on that longer pole.
Let’s say last year you jumped 14’ gripping 13’6” on a 14’ pole, and you would really like to get yourself on a 14’7”, or even better 15’. So how does one transition from a 14’ pole to a 14’7” or a 15’ pole?
"There is a technical flaw or a physical flaw that is preventing you from getting on a bigger pole"
I have heard plenty of horror stories about coaches tapping kids in and athletes just getting stood up and trying to ride some pole into the pit for weeks and weeks worth of practice. This is a recipe for disaster and can often lead to frustration at best, and injury at worst. If you considered other sporting events, you would not waste entire practices failing. You must give athletes accomplishable goals. If an athlete attempts a jump or two with higher grip, on a longer pole and they are having trouble getting into the pit the athlete is showing you that they either have a technical flaw holding them back, or are not physically talented enough to jump with the higher grip. Grip and pole stiffness are really just forms of resistance, and when an athlete cannot get the pole past vertical, they are showing you, the coach, that they cannot handle the added resistance, and therefore, you must give them less resistance, in this case less grip.
I know what you must be asking, ok, but how does someone get on a longer pole then? Well you must first identify whether the athlete has a technical flaw that is holding them back or a physical flaw. In most cases it will be a combination of both, but to simplify things lets look at one aspect and then the other. Lets say an athlete’s runway speed looks good and they have the physical abilities to handle the longer pole. You should then focus on the particular technical flaw that is holding them back. This could be a late plant, a flat take off, or even their posture in the last 10 meters of the approach. If this is the case instead of making an athlete jump on a longer pole that they cannot handle, and will not allow them to jump relaxed and develop the improved technique, you instead must have them do drills from a shorter approach to develop the desired technique. As the athlete becomes more proficient, the approach can be lengthened until you reach the athlete’s full approach. If the technique is improved, the transition to the longer pole should be easy.
Now, if on the other hand you feel your athlete’s technique is stable: early plant, tall posture, good jump up at take off, then they athlete might be too slow for the added grip. This means you must work on improving your athlete’s physical performance.
If you are just pole vaulting, there is a limit to how much you can increase an athlete’s physical parameters. You must incorporate a good strength and conditioning program to develop an athlete’s speed and explosiveness.
Look at your particular athlete and come up with a plan on how to get faster. Test the athlete in the beginning of a season and then at the end. Some people use a 30 meter fly test. I prefer to look at midmarks. If an athlete started the season hitting a 45’ mid, then his or her mid should move back further if they are getting faster. Data is very important. You can also use training numbers like an athlete’s squat or deadlift number as well to see how training is going, and if it is correlating on the runway.
There is one final consideration when attempting to get on longer poles. Many people might try to transition from a 14’ 160lbs pole to a 14’7” 160lbs pole and do not realize that not only are they attempting to raise grip but they are also adding 10lbs of resistance. Every 6” of pole is equal to a 10lbs of pole. So what we often do at Apex is match the grip from the shorter pole and go on the same equivalent stiffness on the next length pole.