How to High Jump

When done at its best, the high jump looks effortless, easy and graceful. And despite the complicated physics of the jump, the best jumps feel just like that too. These details are specific to my jumping style and coaching.

  1. Visualisation and mental preparation I fill my mind with light and positive, relaxing thoughts. All the time, I maintain an inner tension so I can attack and execute the jump.
  2. The start My body lets me know when it’s ready to run with what feels almost like an invisible push from behind. My start is as important as my finish.
  3. The approach My first step is my slowest step and my last step my fastest. My approach is a gradual build up with controlled speed, always concentrating on hitting my marks and reference points.
  4. The bend My bend, or my curve approach, is like running round a cycling aerodrome. I lean away in the bend and my feet are fixed in the bend.
  5. The set upAt this point I can already tell a clearance from a failure, hence the first step being as important as the last. Each step is a set up for the next. If everything is going to plan, my last three to four steps are my quickest. My body is straight, my inside arm is pumping and I’m ready to take off.
  6. The take off Contrary to what people think, I don’t throw my back at the high jump bar. Instead, I run in a curve because that creates all the rotation needed when I reach the top of my jump. In fact I use my body to restrain those forces until I reach the top of my jump – if I didn’t I would spin round five times at take off.
  7. Once I leave the ground, my foot points towards the back of the left corner of the bed (crash mat). Little flexion a the knee, I lean away from the bar and I bring a fast right hand knee that is parallel to the bar.
  8. The Flight As my legs and torso try to spin round from the launch, my upper body and arms stick rigidly to their trajectory. This point is crucial to big jumps. All of this is what creates the illusion of taking off backwards. We don’t actually jump backwards.
  9. The Arch My hips are open and my legs are slightly split, but not too much to prevent me pivoting and pushing my bottom through. Timing is crucial here, but feels completely natural with the best jumps. Once I’m satisfied I’ve reached the top of my jump, I fling my head backwards which in turn brings my feet with me.
  10. The landing On some of my big jumps I do a full rotation onto my knees at landing. (Which, if you think of the trajectory from take off to landing, is perhaps the biggest backwards somersault on the planet.) The higher you jump, the bigger the forces, and the more rotation you will experience. I generally land on my shoulders or, on the few lucky days each year, my knees and shins. This gives me a nice view of the bar I have just cleared.
  11. The celebration If each of these steps has fallen into place and I cleared the bar, I then will uncontrollably feel a sense of aggression, achievement, invincibility and confidence to go on. My whole being will show my competitors I mean business. Yet again this is all natural. Celebrations include backwards somersaults, punching the air, thumping my chest and general animal-like antics!

Top tips

  • Your last three steps before take off need to be fast.
  • Hips need to be high and tall.
  • You need to have good rhythm and build up your run up.
  • Knee drive should not go past your hips at take off but punch fast and hard.
  • Keep your eyes on the bar when going over for added adjustment.

More about the high jump