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Gymnastics is overrated for Pole Vaulters

I can already hear the haters, gymnastics drills translate to the pole vault so well, many great pole vaulters were former gymnasts, gymnastics develop “body awareness”, and lastly gymnastics develops strength. I will address all of these areas and explain how at best, gymnastics exercises can have some carry over in movement and similar muscle groups being used in pole vault, and at worst little to no similarity to pole vault and complete waste of time.

Let’s talk about the idea that many pole vaulters come from gymnastics. Yes this has now become a standard and many people often ask me why that is true. What most people talk about is body awareness, but I think there is a better answer. In Track and Field, especially at the high school level, lifting weights, and especially upper body lifts are not addressed. Gymnasts develop upper body strength and upper body strength is a huge requirement in the pole vault. I don’t care how fast someone is if they don’t have upper body strength it will be very difficult. So gymnast come to pole vault with the prerequisite strength required for our event.

Now as far as gymnastics exercises, some of them have good carry over to the pole vault, swings on a high bar, pull overs, heck even giants. Front rolls and tumbling drills have little to no carry over. We do not do those movement in the pole vault at all, why do people do them? I think due to tradition. They saw someone else do it so they did it too. Here's the thing time is always an issue. Instead of front rolls or tumbling you can be doing running drills, planting drills, 0's, or working out. Now if time is no issue to you, and you enjoy tumbling and front rolls, go ahead, but as far as time during a Pole Vault practice, not the best idea.

The other thing to understand with an exercise like pull overs, is that it does not build strength. You must already be strong enough to do the exercise. In fact the stronger you get the better you get at pull overs. The lat muscle is a very critical, if you can get better at pull ups, work up to hitting 50% of your body weight for 1 rep (ex: athlete weight 150lbs and doing a pull up with 75lbs around your waist), your pull overs will get dramatically better, and your push off will increase in the pole vault. So gymnastic exercises don’t get you strong they are testers. Are you strong enough to do the pull over, swing up, bubka?

And gymnastic gyms have many exercises that they use to build strength.

So what should pole vaulters do instead of gymnastics? Well especially in preseason portions athletes must build up their GPP, do general strength building exercises like, push ups, pull ups, squats, and deadlift variations. Do high volumes of low intensity, for many beginners this can be body weight. Then you can start a lifting program and progress your athletes through those exercises so they can build the strength needed to run fast and jump high. Also all those exercises have regressions and progression that will allow athletes to feel success and they continue to make progress, instead of failing at a gymnastics exercise that they aren’t strong enough to do.

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