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The Continuous Chain Model
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Note here that because they have not exploited the potential of the long whipping swing to put energy into the pole during this phase, the vaulter/pole system of athletes using traditional methods begins to run out of energy. As a result they have to shorten the axis of rotation and execute a tight tuck in which the legs are bent at the hips and the knees. Photo 1. They cannot put energy into the pole while they are doing this, and can only wait passively for the pole to shoot them forwards and upwards towards the bar.
Photo 1

Photo 2
‘Petrovites’ on the other hand have sufficient energy in the system to swing back to cover the pole with almost straight legs and only a slight flexion in the hips. Photo 2. The difference between the two methods is clearly shown in these photographs.
Then the magic! From the position ‘covering the pole’, Bubka punched the hips upwards as the his back drives back and down towards the pad. Figures 3a and b. This action puts even more energy into the pole so that it remains flexed for milliseconds longer and, most importantly, positions the athlete tight with the pole so they can be projected in a vertical upwards spiral along its axis as it straightens.

Finally, because they have stayed tight with the pole as it recoiled, athletes using this approach are in an excellent position to finish the vault with a powerful pull push action, which culminates in a complete and powerful extension of the top arm. Figures 4a,b and c. At the present time Yelena Isinbayeva is a perfect example of this approach. Figures 5 a b c.
Complex as all of this may seem, our experience suggests that young athletes of average ability can start to master these elements of technique and so begin to vault like Bubka. This is the most important thesis of this paper because for too long, many coaches have argued that Bubka was unique, a one off a kind who achieved great performances because of his personal attributes. We believe that this is a myth and that once coaches have a clear understanding of the key elements of his technical model it is possible for them to teach many athletes ‘to jump like Bubka’. Figure 6 shows Lauren Eley ‘jumping like Bubka’ after two years of training.

If we accept the notion of a continuous chain of energy input achieved through the sequential ‘firing’ of four ‘stages’ as outlined above, it becomes much easier to help young athletes master each stage as suggested below.

1. We can begin to introduce the elements of an effective run up and an upspringing take off combined with a strong body in the very first session in a sand pit. Here the simple activity of long jumping along with very basic running drills can help the young athlete improve this first stage.

2. The long whipping swing of a long body around the top arm immediately after take off can be introduced as soon as youngsters begin to run from eight steps and swing up to vault over a soft bar using a stiff pole. Naturally the learning process will be speeded up by practice of this movement on a high bar.

Figure 6
3. The movement into inversion, in which the vaulter continues to put energy into the pole, even while moving into position to exploit the energy of recoil is more difficult to teach. This is because it depends on the effective performance of the two preceding elements on a flexible pole. This means that it will take up to two years for the athlete to get into good enough positions covering the pole before they can begin to develop the shoulder drop/hip drive on the pole. However when they are ready, the execution of this movement on a low bar will speed up progress. The figures of Lauren Eley Figures 6a -f confirm that it is possible for young athletes to master even this, perhaps the most difficult of the four stages, within a relatively short period of training and so begin to jump like Bubka.

4. The push off from the top of the pole. While this is the culminating energy stage it can in fact be introduced as soon as young athletes begin to swing close to the vertical when they jump over a bar using a stiff pole – while there is no energy from a recoiling pole at this point they can still begin to get a feeling for the push off.

Clearly this will take time and the process is one of patiently ‘shaping the movement pattern’ from the very rough attempts in the early days to a gradually more refined approximation over time. We believe that coaches who accept the ideas put forward here are likely to see their athletes progress more rapidly.

There may be some who will continue to argue that it is far more complex than this or that there is no one best way to vault or to teach the vault. We would happy to see their opinions in print so that, like the ideas expressed above, they can add to the dialogue needed if we are to move forward.

Launder A. “From Beginner to Bubka”, an Australian approach to developing pole vaulters.” Altius Sports, Adelaide, Australia 2005.
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