In the 1960s, an Olympic athlete named Dick Fosbury made history with the "Fosbury Flop." Fosbury sprinted to the bar, turned his back and was the first to perform the high jump headfirst. Fosbury won the gold medal in the 1968 Olympics and forever changed the high jump. As the bar was raised higher, literally, perfecting the arch became as important to the sport as speed and vertical jumping ability.
Clearing the Bar
A basic beginner drill is simply learning to clear the bar. Stand with your back to the bar and place it at a low height. Practice jumping over the bar and landing in the pit. Once you get the feel of getting up and over the bar, begin jogging into the bar. Get some distance between you and the bar and practice jogging toward the center of the pit. As your feet approach the bar, turn or jump with your feet landing close to the bar and jump over the bar into the pit.
You can practice these drills in the pit or on a mat. On a mat, lie on your back and place your hands behind your head close to your ears. Your palms should be lying flat with your fingers pointing toward your feet. Push up to create a bridge in your spine. As you get stronger at maintaining a bridge up, practice pushing your body off the ground in the bridge position. As you attempt to push yourself off the ground, press your back into a deeper arch by quickly reaching for your ankles and releasing. Perform this drill in the pit for safety.
Takeoff drills are important as the approach of the body and the assistance of the arms play an important role in positioning the body for maximum arch in the back. Start by performing running drills to practice your approach. Straight-line running focuses on the first six steps of the approach. Keep your body tall and run with a bounce, keeping your arms pumping with a smooth, controlled motion. Circle runs assist you in learning how to approach the bar on a curve before takeoff. This drill is simply running a circle of any size. Lay the circle out on the ground and practice staying on the line while running.
To increase the arch of the jump, it is important to improve and maintain your flexibility. Yoga is not only effective for back flexibility, but it also is a cross-training exercise. If yoga is not your thing, you can incorporate a few poses into your drill training to increase back flexibility. Lie face down on the ground and push your chest up off the ground, straightening your arms. While lifting your upper body off the ground, concentrate on pushing your hips into the ground. Incorporate flexibility exercises into your drill training for effective high jump workouts.