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Pole Vault Coaching Curriculum

The Pole Vault Approach Run with Bill Falk and Mark Strawderman

Bill Falk and Mark Strawderman explain the pole vault approach run. Without a good pole vault approach run, there is not enough energy or power at take-off to move the pole, with a good grip, to vertical. From the Come to Pole Vault Practice Video available at Everything Track & Field.

3. Basic Technique Figure D, See Drill #1 


The Approach Run must produce enough speed and power to help the athlete successfully complete the phases of the pole vault that follow. Develop a consistent stride pattern. Do not slow down, over stride or press too hard for greater speed at the end of the run. Maximum controllable speed produces the most efficient speed and power, and should occur at the end of the run.


          Figure D, See Drill #1  

Technical Model

Start beginners with an Approach Run no longer than five (5) take-off steps. Have the right-handed vaulter count each left step as it hits the runway. This builds a consistent running rhythm and will make it easier to teach the planting action that follows the Approach Run.  When the beginner shows improvement you can increase the number of steps, but keep the Approach Run between 60’ and 90’ (5 – 7 take-off steps) until the vaulter becomes more proficient.

Figure E, See Drill #2

The vaulter must run “tall”. Maintain good posture - chest up, shoulders back. Each foot lands underneath the knee to produce maximum power as the toes contact the runway in a clawing action.

Begin the Approach Run slowly, then increase rhythm and intensity to reach maximum controllable speed just before Take-Off.

Use two checkmarks, one at the start of the Approach Run and the other at the vaulter’s Take-Off mark.
             Figure E, See Drill #2 

Hold the pole tip high during the early part of the Approach Run, and gradually lower the tip until the pole is parallel to the runway when the vaulter reaches the next-to-last take-off step. At that point, the vaulter is ready to plant the pole.



  1. Stand erect - feet together, chest up, shoulders back. (without the pole)  Then rise up onto the toes and begin to walk in place. Emphasize good posture with each foot landing powerfully on the ground under the knee. Swing the arms in a natural sprinting action. Walk forward for about ten yards. Next, begin to stride slowly. Accelerate gradually for forty (40) yards, building up to 75% of full speed while maintaining correct posture and rhythm. Repeat daily 7 – 10 times. Count each take-off foot as it strikes the ground, so the vaulter will get into the habit of doing so. (See Figure D)
  2. Pick up a pole, raise the tip and prepare to start the Approach Run. Run slowly and rhythmically for forty (40) yards. Count each take-off step. Running slowly makes it more difficult to maintain form and rhythm. Repeat 5 times.  (See Figure E)
  3. Have the athlete use his or her regular length Approach Run. Simulate the Approach Run by starting slowly then building speed and rhythm gradually and exploding through the Take-Off Mark. Vary the number of take-off steps to help the athlete become more proficient at counting steps and building rhythm.     

Coaching Points

  • Many athletes don’t realize how important the Approach Run is to success.  We suggest devoting full practices to working on it with beginners.
  • Make sure the vaulter does not begin the Approach Run too fast. This leads to a big slow down at Take-Off with subsequent injuries.
  • Check the vaulter’s stride length throughout the Approach Run. It should be consistent. There is a tendency to over stride as the vaulter nears the Take-Off. This must be curbed, since it destroys speed. 
  • Don’t let vaulters swing the pole forward and backward during the Approach Run.  Instead, a gentle up and down movement is recommended, since it will help with the planting action that follows.

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