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Teaching the Long and Triple Jumps
INTRODUCING THE JUMPS TO BEGINNERS
Teaching the Long and Triple jumps to beginners is really the teaching of rhythmic acceleration and explosion. The Long Jump contains only one explosive moment. The Triple Jump has three explosive moments that are guided by the rhythmic technique of the jump. While horizontal velocity is by far the most important determinant of performance, sprinting and jumping rhythm are the framework through which this velocity is converted into distance. Embedding a fluid sense of rhythm into the speed and explosiveness of young jumpers will give them a foundation for their continued progress.
Developing horizontal jumping rhythm focuses on both the approach sprint and the act of jumping itself. Young jumpers should concentrate on learning sound, relaxed sprinting mechanics and the fluid jumping movements of rhythm plyometrics. Sprint drills and rhythm drills are the fundamentals of early jump training.
In teaching the Long Jump, a coach should emphasize a consistent approach that builds to the greatest speed that an athlete can generate and still manage to jump correctly without decelerating, collapsing at the take-off, or succumbing to forward rotation. The sprint position into the jump transition should be tall upright, and relaxed. The approach run should be a controlled sprint with almost bounding strides.
One of the most difficult tasks in Track & Field is performing the penultimate stride of the Long Jump correctly. Here, the athlete attempts to change body position without losing sprint speed. Executing this maneuver well requires considerable strength and power. The goal of the transition from approach to take-off is to lower the center of mass during the penultimate stride in order to create both upward and outward impulse at take-off. Teaching the jump transition to novices is crone best by stressing the rhythm of the jump. Short approach jumps, or pop-ups, which focus on the flat-flat rhythm of the last two foot-strikes are helpful. The jumper must accelerate through the short approach. The flat-flat rhythm should not be the result of gathering or decelerating into the jump.
In the Triple Jump, rhythm is also emphasized in teaching beginners. Here, the jump transition is deemphasized, while the rhythmic flow from one jump to another is stressed. Young triple jumpers should spend a lot of time doing multiple jumps in the form of rhythm plyometrics. Such drills develop both rhythm and specific jumping strength. Begin by having novices learn to do standing and 3-5 stride triple jumps emphasizing technique and even rhythm. As sound triple jumping fundamentals are learned, you can gradually increase the length and speed of the approach. Forcing the athlete to learn Triple Jump technique with a full speed approach is an invitation to both frustration and injury.
THE APPROACH RUN
The aim of the approach runs for the Long Jump and Triple Jump is to generate the maximum amount of speed which can be converted effectively into a jump. The acceleration of the approach must be gradual, rhythmic, and controlled. An all-out uncontrolled sprint into the take-off results in a poor Jump.
The length of the approach should be 12-18 strides for high school athletes. The exact number depends on the strength and speed of the athlete. Faster and more developed runners will be able to utilize a longer run-up. Your athlete should use a stationary start to achieve consistent foot placement at take-off. Jogging or skipping into the approach is not recommended for high school athletes. Fouling at take-off is a waste of training and preparation time. Most run-up problems originate in the first 3 strides of the acceleration. Continual practice of the approach will ensure consistency and accuracy at the take-off board. A coach's check mark placed four strides from the board can be useful in evaluating the run-up during practice, but should not be used in actual competition.
Developing the approach and its rhythm is often done better on the track than the jump runway. Practicing the approach on the track removes the distraction of the take-off board and landing pit and allows the young jumper to focus on learning rhythmic acceleration and achieving good body position at the take-off. When the athlete has learned these skills sufficiently, transfer the approach onto the jump runway.
The approach itself is a gradual acceleration to the greatest speed the athlete can convert into the jump. Since horizontal velocity is the greatest contributor to distance in the Long and Triple Jumps, much training should focus on increasing the athlete's sprint speed and ability to convert that speed into a well-executed jump. Over the last 4-6 strides, the jumper should be running at nearly full speed with an upright body position and high-knee lift. The athlete should be running tall and relaxed. The stride at this point may even have a bounding quality to it. This approach speed and running posture puts the athlete in position to jump with a minimum loss of speed. When a coach notices a decrease in speed in the final strides of the approach, the run-up is either too long or the athlete has accelerated too quickly and cannot maintain that speed throughout the approach. In the final strides, the athlete should attempt to increase his or her stride turnover and accelerate into the jump while maintaining this tall sprint position.
THE LONG JUMP
The most difficult aspect of the Long Jump is performing the transition into the take-off of the jump. In the penultimate stride, the body's center of mass must be lowered in order to attain optimum position for the take-off. This must be done with an absolute minimum loss of speed. The hips are lowered slightly through a longer stride that is the result of a powerful drive and a full-footed, or flat landing on the foot. Care must be taken to ensure that the longer penultimate stride is not the result of reaching with the foot or gathering in preparation for the jump. It should be the result of drive and accelerated turnover.
The take-off stride is shorter and quicker than the previous stride. Upper body position remains upright and relaxed even though the center of mass has been lowered slightly. Upon contact of the foot ending the penultimate stride, the free leg pulls through quickly, creating a pulling through sensation. The leg should be pulled through fast and lower than previous strides of the approach. This action puts the body in good position for achieving extension and vertical impulse off the board.
As the take-off foot contacts the board, the shoulders should be slightly behind the hips with the leg extended almost fully, about 170 degrees. The contact of the foot is full-footed to transfer horizontal velocity into vertical lift more efficiently. The athlete must not reach for the board with the takeoff foot. This overextends, or blocks, the foot, which may increase vertical impulse, but also reduces horizontal velocity. When coaching young jumpers, it is often helpful to have them envision running off the board and accelerating into the take-off. Doing so helps to eliminate overextension of the take-off leg on the final stride.
Upon contact of the take-off foot, the jump is initiated with the free leg and opposite arm driving forward and upward, fast and forcefully. The foot of the free leg should be pulled through above the knee of the support leg in order to preserve horizontal velocity throughout the jump. The jump, or extension, of the take-off leg should be as fast and explosive as possible. (Actually, a great deal of the jump impulse will result from the powerful eccentric contraction that follows the absorption of the last stride.) The drive leg and opposite arm block (stop abruptly) as the thigh comes parallel to the ground and the hand comes to eye level. When executed properly, most of the vertical lift in the Long Jump results from the drive of the free leg, not a concerted effort to jump up. The feel of the take-off should be both forward and up. The stride off the take-off board should be a continuation of the approach.
As stated earlier, the path of the jumper's center of mass is determined once the athlete leaves the ground. Nonetheless, the athlete can substantially influence the distance of the jump through his or her technique while in the air. The purpose of in-flight arm and leg action is to counteract forward rotation, maintain balance, and put the jumper into the optimum position at landing with the feet extended well beyond the athlete's center of mass. Long jumpers should adopt the in-flight technique which best preserves the speed established during run-up, while enabling them to land efficiently.
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