Training Tips from Kris

Most of what I'm using is either from the Petrov-Bubka technical model as taught to me by Vitali Petrov and Alan Launder, or the 640 Model engineered by Roman Botcharnikov. Some of the exercises and technique is contrary to what you and I were taught in the American school of vaulting in the 1980's and 90's. The primary theme for everything I incorporate is "active." Every action should create and add energy to the system without any passive phases such as staying down, driving the box, staying back and riding the pole, etc. The best way to think about it is to vault like a straight pole vaulter on steel or bamboo. there is never a stop in motion because if you stop swinging/pulling/turning/pushing, the jump is over. Same thing on the rope vault. you would never swing, then stop and wait, then pull, then pause, then turn, pause, then push. Any stop in action is loss of energy. So in general, coach movement and continuity, and not just hitting positions.

Warmup/workout - is non-negotiable, meaning, everyone must do it. Doesn't matter if they show up 15 minutes early or 30 minutes late, they must complete every exercise listed on the board. Some of them have shown up late intentionally because they think they can get out of it and get straight on the runway. The policy is though, if you show up late, you just get less jumps. If you see kids sitting off to the side not doing the warmup, ask them if they know and understand how to do every exercise on the board. If they don't, pair them up with an older athlete that can teach them. They don't have to do everything in order and can skip things they don't know until last, then have someone show them how. I'm posting a new warmup with some of the same drills, some modified, some deleted, and some added. Each exercise is also meant to be used as a prescriptive correction for whatever error they're making while vaulting, so if they're planting late, have them do a few walkovers between jumps. if they're tucking their trail leg in the swing, have them swing on the rings a few times between jumps.


1. March over mini-hurdles: I want them to use a lightweight pole, like a 6 step pole, gripping near the top. The mini-hurdles are now set on the small pit runway, and 3'0 apart, so they only take one step between each. The first 2 times through I want them to hold the pole in the "flip" position overhead like they do from 2 steps because it forces them to maintain an upright posture. Emphasize dorsiflexion of the feet with heel-first contact since they're marching, neutral hips with no swayback arch and stepping over the opposite knee. The second 2 times through they'll start with a high pole carry and do a very gradual drop throughout the entire set of hurdles. The pole should never stay in any one static angle but should be moving the entire distance. They don't have to plant it high overhead but should finish in the "flip" position.

2. Walkover Plants - same as always, grip height is their reach plus one hand. Left elbow outside the pole pointed out at 9 o'clock, head in the window on the left side of the pole, they MUST straddle or bump the left leg/hip against the pole and not slide around it. Pole should not hit the ground until they're on their toe at full extension. They should try to plant slightly in front of the line of their forehead with their top arm at a 1 o'clock angle and not directly overhead at 12 o'clock. They should keep a hollow body rigid posture and rigid arms so they keep space between their chest and the pole and don't collapse into it. They'll do 3 reps from 2 steps with an overhead carry from the "flip," and 3 reps from 4 steps carrying from the hip emphasizing constant pole drop, left arm extension forward with the right hand rising towards 1 o-clock instead of straight up to 12 o-clock.

3. Swingups on Rings - since there is no takeoff involved, I don't feel they need to have a drive knee on these. I feel they learn a long extended swing better with both legs straight, but if you want them to swing upside down with a split that's ok, however when they reach vertical I want both legs straightened and driven upwards together.

4. Jumpover Plants - everything is the same as the walkovers listed above with one key difference: they must jump and be completely off the ground before the pole can hit the ground. The more advanced kids can grip a hand or 2 higher than reach plus one if they're comfortable doing so. Again, I added a 4-step variation where they carry from the hip.

5. Rope Vaults over bungee - same as always. They should use a very narrow handgrip to allow for a bigger range of motion in the left arm pull. No step forward, but simply reach the drive leg behind them then drive knee to shoulder, rock back, pull and turn. Emphasize looking up the rope and pulling up the rope while turning. Many are going over the bungees on their backs before turning and having the same problem in their vaults.

6. Stride Ladder Runs over rubber noodles. This one is set up in the lane alongside the rings. These should be run fast. One step between noodles now instead of 2, and a gradually increasing stride length. 2 runs without a pole, 2 runs using a heavy pole and drop. If they drop too early they won't get through the entire distance. Same emphasis on mechanics as the mini-hurdle marches with upright posture, dorsiflexion but with contact on ball of foot instead of heels since they're running, no swayback arch. The younger ones will struggle with the wider distance between the last few hurdles. They could try running 2 steps between each even though the first few hurdles would be very tight.

7. Platform vaults off of picnic table. They'll do 1 rep with a straddle/leg bump landing emphasizing alignment the same as on the walkover plants (head on the left side of the pole, left elbow out at 9 o'clock, left leg behind the pole, no twist in the torso or swinging past the pole. The next 2 reps are swingthroughs to extension emphasizing long trail leg, straight top arm until their shins are parallel to the pole, then pulling through the centerline of the body and reaching for the rope with their feet.

8. High Bar Bubkas - they can do these just on the high bar alongside the slanted pole, or on the slant bar. Standard rocking/swiveling in the shoulder, long tap swing with the trail leg and row with the arms until shins are over the bar then shoulder drop and hip extension above the bar. The younger and weaker ones that can't do them can simply do the same rocking swing and try to touch their feet to the bar.

2 Step Drills - the younger kids and weaker kids use a 7 hand 7 shoe setup. The older and faster kids use an 8/8 setup. No one should ever start more than 8 shoes back from their takeoff of they will overstride. Many have been going back 10 shoes when setting up 2 step drills. Cue them to stay upright when stepping back and shift weight to the back foot on their step back. No leaning forward from the waist. Cue them to plant in the middle of the box and jump off the ground before the pole hits the back of the box. No jumping around or past the pole. Must bump left leg against the pole or straddle. 2-5 reps and if they're getting a free takeoff and landing center, raise grip a hand and back half a shoe. Good drills to prescribe in between these are walkovers, jumpovers, and platform vault straddles off the picnic table.

4 Step Drills - most kids will raise grip a hand and move back 10 shoes. Some younger ones 9 shoes only. Most should carry from the hip with pole tip starting at eye/head level and still emphasizing planting in the middle of the box and jumping before the pole hits the back of the box. If doing swingthroughs to their back, I don't want them to hold the split through their landing. I want them to have an aggressive knee drive at takeoff but extend the right leg alongside the left when their shins reach the pole and pull to extension through the end of the pole like in the platform vault off the picnic table. The emphasis is not on getting upside down or rocking back, but on swinging fast and long and moving through the end of the pole without any pauses or delays like in a straight pole vault. Good drills to prescribe in between these are ring swingups, bubkas on high bar, platform vault swing-to-extensions.

6 Step Drills - again, most will go back 10 shoes and up one hand, others may need 11 shoes or just 9 depending on their speed/stride. Pole carry angle starts around 45 degrees with continuous drop. You can do either flyaways or just put up a bungee and do straight pole jumps over a bungee here. Still emphasize free takeoff, solid plant in front of them not collapsing even on straight pole, down pressure with top arm keeping the pole in front of them and aggressive pull on left arm into turn and push. I want them turning in front of the bar and not butt jumping. I cue them that pull and turn are the same move at the same time and not independent of each other, so when you pull you also turn. Your hips should be facing the bar as you cross over it. Good drills to prescribe them to do in between these are rope vault, platform vault over bungee, and sliding box pull-turn-push.

After 6 step bungee vaults, that's your jumping off point to full vaults. Ask the kids if they have any meets coming up and help them decide what run to use. If they've practiced that run recently, they can go straight to it and spike up. If not, you can work them back one stride/two steps at time taking 3-6 jumps per run. If there are no meets coming up for them, you can do more short run stuff but don't overdo it. Try to get them to at least at 8 or 10 regularly if not farther as too much short run makes it harder to do long run and creates boredom. Bungees are fine for most jumps but be careful to make them aware that there's a big difference between snagging their feet over a bungee and actually clearing a hard crossbar. Some of them tell me they're frustrated that they're "clearing" or "hipping" bungees that are like 2'0 higher than the bar they're struggling to make. Try to get them over at least one crossbar every practice so they're not afraid of the bar. Earl Bell told me 15 years ago that he felt we should be using crossbars 95% of the time in practice and bungees 5% of the time. They're a pain to put up, hurt to land on, and are expensive to replace, but they make the athlete work harder to avoid them, give a true sense of accomplishment, and they become less afraid of them.

Make sure they're logging their numbers at the end of practice and if they're changing runs and had good jumps at the previous run before moving back. Grip, pole, starting mark, mid, height cleared, standards.

Anyone running 8 steps and beyond needs to have a mid mark on the runway, and I want the other kids helping out catching each others mids. it promotes teamwork, allows us to watch takeoff and the rest of the jump, and shows consistency. I use the list to set a 4 step mid and will allow up to a foot variance either direction if they can't hit that mid and takeoff without excessive reaching or chopping. For example: Brooke Wieland is an over strider and can't hit the mid without being a foot under at the takeoff, so I allow her to be a foot outside the list mid for whatever grip she's using. Chad Wieland has to reach if he hits the list mid, so I allow him to be inside the list mid by up to a foot so he doesn't have to reach to get to his takeoff. Please protect their backs. the chronically under kids are going to destroy their lower backs and shoulders so put the noodle on the runway for those it helps until they can learn to take off on without it.