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TAKE FLIGHT IN THE LONG JUMP

by Ron Parker

The most important long jump skill to learn is to elevate off the takeoff board. In other words "Get
Height". For some athletes, getting good vertical lift during a long jump comes naturally. For others, it is
a skill that has to be learned and practiced. Getting height is not the only important factor in gaining
distance in the long jump as the other two important factors are being able to generate tremendous runup
speed and having good landing technique.

The key to getting good vertical lift from the takeoff board is the execution of a long penultimate stride.
Some athletes will execute a long penultimate stride just by trying to get height during their long jump. For
most athletes, it does not come naturally and must be taught. There are a couple of methods that can be
used to teach the long penultimate.

FIRST. The easiest way to produce a long penultimate stride is to place a high jump landing mat in the
sand pit where the long jumper will land. With this visible higher landing level, the jumper will
automatically take a longer penultimate and also lower their hips when landing the penultimate before
executing the faster (and shorter) final takeoff stride. The jumper uses a shorter runup of less than 20
metres and is instructed to land with the hips and feet at the same level with the torso above the thighs and
arms reaching forward. There is a tendency for the jumpers to reach down with their hands and bring their
torso erect when landing on the high jump mat. This must be avoided by instructing them to reach
forward upon landing.

Using a high jump mat is a natural and unconscious method of producing a longer penultimate stride and
greater vertical height for the long jumper. It works, but, most of the time is only partially successful. It
works best when used during the jumpers workout after 3 or 4 jumps are taken before placing the mat.
Then place the mat where the jumper lands and take 3 or 4 jumps onto the mat before removing the mat
and finishing the jump session with 2 to 4 more jumps. These last jumps will invariably be longer than the
first jumps in the workout. This high jump mat session should be repeated for a couple of months, once or
twice each week so that the skill will become automatic.

SECOND. Often, using verbal instruction to the athlete to make the penultimate stride longer is necessary.
With the jumper using a runup about 16-20m long, instruct them to lower their body when landing the
second last stride. You can key this by placing a cone 2 metres from the takeoff board beside the runup at
the location of the landing of the penultimate stride. Have them take 4 or 5 jumps focussing on this
dipping action, lowering the
centre of gravity over the
penultimate stride. This action
requires an increased leg flexion
and lowering of the hips
preceding the final stride.

In practice, I will have the
athlete first lower their hips
when landing the penultimate
stride for a few jumps, then
lengthen the penultimate stride
to finish the jump session. This
sequence usually gets good
results. Usually, the lowering of
the centre of gravity occurs
naturally, but not always. The result will be higher jumps off the board. Then, move the cone to 4.5m
from the takeoff board and instruct the jumper to take a long penultimate stride for the next 4-5 jumps.
You will then see much higher and longer jumps, particularly if the jumper carries their speed over the last
three strides without slowing down. Repeat this workout often to reinforce the skills learned (4 to 5
weeks).

The last three strides in the long jump vary quite a bit in their lengths. The third last stride (setup stride) is
usually shorter than the runup strides preceding and happens as the athlete prepares to take the long
penultimate stride. The penultimate stride is much longer than the setup stride and the final stride is a
much shorter and faster stride than the penultimate.

The photo below of the last three strides in which Sabrina Nettey jumped 6.25m illustrates this well.

THIRD. Once the skills are learned it is now time to adapt the skills to a longer, faster runup. Add 2
running strides (about 4m) to the practice jumps after the warmup is complete (which includes 2 or 3
shorter 16-20m runup jumps). Use this longer runup for a couple of workouts and then increase the runup
length again until the jumper is practicing at the full runup length for at least 6 jumps per skill session
(Preferably twice per week). The full length of the runup will vary depending upon the athlete from 20m
for young athletes to as long as 40m for elite male jumpers. Most athletes at the Club level use runups
from 25 to 30m in length.

The key element in the penultimate stride is a very fast pull of the free leg forward so that, when the foot
of the support leg contacts the runway, the free leg is already accelerated ahead of the torso enabling a
very fast final stride.

The photo below, showing three of the all-time world's best jumpers Carl Lewis, Dwight Phillips and Jackie
Joyner-Kersee shows the position of the thigh of the free leg at the time of contact at the end of the
penultimate stride with a yellow line.

The following photo sequence of Sabrina Nettey executing the last three strides in the long jump show very
clearly the leg movements and accelerations needed to accomplish the actions of the long jumper prior to
takeoff.

They are:
1. Thrust forward long on the penultimate stride. (3)
2. During the penultimate stride, extend the front leg forward more than in a sprint stride. (4)
3. Pull the thrust leg forward very fast so that it is ahead of the torso when the front leg makes contact
with the runway. (4)
4. Make a flat footed contact with the runway so that speed is undiminished. (5)
5. Drive the thigh of the takeoff leg forward high into the final stride. (6)
6. Plant the takeoff foot down onto the takeoff board (8) to enable a fast heel-toe action in the takeoff. (9)


Training for long jumpers will need to include speed work (sprinting), plyometric drills (jumping), strength
training (weights) and skill (technique) training. The landing in the long jump requires special focus and will
be part of a future article. The long jump landing is poorly done by most athletes, even at the international
level, and therefore requires biomechanical explanations and illustrations.