Pole Vault Terms (I Don’t Use)

After coaching pole vault for a full forty years – I’ve seen an evolution of terminology in the event.  In the mid-1990’s, USATF tried to “standardized” how we talked about pole vault, because so many of the terms were “regional”.  Here in Ohio, there was a whole “school” of pole vault from Eastern Ohio coaches.  They had tremendous success, with state championships and records.  But there was an entire “language of vault” that was unique to them, a “code” to break if you were an “outsider” listening in.

Pole vault is still like that.  In a “virtual” clinic last year, a coach from Michigan asked me a question.  I didn’t understand his terminology and just had to tell him to describe what he was trying to ask.  It took a while.  There’s plenty of stuff on the “ohiopolevaultsafety.org” webpage that describes what I hope is “standardized” pole vault language, and is certainly “my” language (check out The Physics of Pole Vault ).  Here are some terms I understand (now) but don’t use.  (I’ll add to this list as terms come up).


Chord – the “chord line” is the straight line from the box to the top of the pole as the top of the pole passes through 45 degrees relative to the box and the crossbar.  The vaulter’s body should be at maximum extension (pressed and dragged) at the chord line – is when the vaulter’s momentum goes from generally horizontal to generally vertical  and when the pole begins to swing to the side

Active Hands – Term some used to describe the action of the top hand during the swing-up to close-off phase of the vault.  Encourages an active “press down” that activates core muscles in the action.  Can cause the athlete to “pull” rather than “press” causing premature end to swing-up at horizontal rather than vertical.

Rock back – completing the swing up (but usually to a tuck and shoot position).

Tuck and Shoot – When a vaulter pulls both knees to his chest, aims  above the crossbar and “shoots” his legs to inversion (a variation of the French or 80’s American technique).

Steering – Teaching a vaulter to “sense” when they are going to hit the proper takeoff mark during their run, (by visually triangulating the box, the pit, and the takeoff mark) rather than a systematic counting system

Curl and Press –Term some use to describe the motion of the top hand from above the hip to overhead in the plant action.  Encourages elbow rotation causing the “round housing” effect and therefore is inaccurate.

Bucket – to swing up to the horizontal position but be unable to continue to vertical (stuck in the bucket – usually caused by pulling the top hand). 

Row – the close off – when the top hand reaches the shin – the problem is a “rowing” action is by definition to the  side, while the pole vault swing up action should be as centered as possible to the vaulter’s body

Drop Shoulders – dropping shoulders is inverting to a vertical position (flexing-in, invert). Looks like dropping, when actually it is a result (not a cause) of flexing-in and extending. The shoulders don’t “go down”, the body goes up.

Come to Attention – Hips to the Pole – “Hump” the Pole – all terms for getting as close to the Pole as possible as you line up to extend vertically (hopefully as the Pole unbends to thrust you vertically)

Fly In – Another term for the Drive Phase (the phase from the plant until the swing-up begins). Often used in conjunction with pre-jumping – jumping before the pole tip strikes the back of the box – thus literally “flying into” the plant and pole bend.

Published by dahlman2017

Retired teacher and coach

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