How do I execute a high jump?

high jump athletics
File photo credit: wikimedia


By Benedict Yeo

The dominant high jump technique has evolved very much through the history of the sport. When you think of high jump, the image you get is an athlete flopping over the bar with his back arched. It was not always this way. Athletes used to jump over the bar more or less how you imagine people would jump. Sort of like how you did it for the childhood game zero-point. 

That all changed when American athlete Dick Fosbery revolutionised the sport with the Fosbery flop in 1965. That’s the back-flop that every champion high jumper executes today. Here’s a guide to clearing the bar, Fosbery style.

How to perform a high jump


 Step 1 : J Run up

Long jumpers approach the bar with a run up that curves like a “J”. If your takeoff foot is the left leg, approach from the right side of the pit and vice versa (see step 2 for determining your takeoff foot). Run the first five steps in a straight line. For the sixth to eighth step, run quickly in a curve very much like a quarter circle, bringing you very close or at the front edge of the pit. Make sure your feet land flat on the last two steps for stability.

 Step  2 : Takeoff

The takeoff from the last step is performed by making a quick step as if you were doing a lay-up in basketball. Usually, if you are right-handed, your takeoff leg will be your left leg. If unsure, try a few run ups and take offs to decide for yourself. 

Point your non-takeoff foot toward the back-left corner of the pit (for right handers) or back-right hand corner of the pit (for left handers). The short step will allow the speed you have acquired to be transferred into height. 

Using all your strength, drive your hands forward and upwards, jumping straight up as high as you can. When jumping, you should drive your take-off knee hard into the air to give you more height.

 Step 3 : Flight

While in the air, after your head crosses the bar, tip your head back so that your body arches. The backwards arch raises your hips so your buttocks will not knock the bar off. When your hip clears the bar, tuck in your chin and kick your legs out, effectively straightening them so your calves and heels clear the bar. The chin-tuck is important to prevent neck injuries while landing.  

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