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Breaking in poles

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 6:10 pm
by lmshil
To sum this up so its short, when i jump on a 13' 170 rocket (gripping at the top) i get so much bend that i cant use it (no heighted recently trying to use it in a meet). However when i try to move to a 14' 170 pacer still gripping at 13' i get little to no bend and i often end up stalling in midair. The 13' pole has had dozens of other vaulters before me but the 14' is fairly new, only jumped on a few times. (Also i can grip 13'6 on a 155 carbon rocket pole however i wouldnt beable to use this at meets unless i dropped a good 5 pounds). Does this have to do with the 14' pole not being "broken in" as well as it being a newer model pole? (The 13' was made in 1999 vs the 14' being made in 2015)
I'm a junior in HS, weigh 160, PR is 11', and 100m time is 12.5

Re: Breaking in poles

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:11 pm
by KirkB
Fiberglass poles are inert objects. Their chemistry doesn't change as they get older or get used. They're ELASTIC, meaning that they spring back to their original shape when bent out of shape. So no, there's no such thing as "breaking in" a pole.

Even in hot weather, poles don't bend more. It's just that the vaulter is more warmed up, so his warm muscles allow him to run faster - giving the ILLUSION that the pole bends more in hot weather.

A pole's flexibility has these variables:

Weight (in increments of 5 pounds)
Length (in increments of 6 inches)
Flex (flex is measured differently by each mfr)

The flex is only important to distinguish between poles of the same weight and length. Since pole weights are manufactured and rated in increments of 5 pounds, you could (roughly) think of the various flexes for a pole of a certain weight as being between 1-4 pounds lighter or heavier than a pole with an average flex for that weight rating. The higher the flex, the stiffer the pole. But let's disregard that detail for now.

How much the pole bends has to do with your grip, speed, and technique. I would guess that your technique needs some improvement, but your first step is to understand the RELATIVE differences in weight between the poles you've been trying.

Refer to Jan Johnson's pole chart for this, at:

From that chart, here's some of the poles in the range that you're discussing:

32. 13' 155

34. 13'6" 155
34. 13' 165

35. 13' 170

36. 13'6" 165
36. 14' 155

37. 13'6" 170

38. 14' 165
39. 14' 170

Poles on the same line bend about the same amount (within 5 pounds of each other, depending on their flexes). Poles one line apart are about 5 pounds different (despite the weight marked on the pole).

So a 13'6" 155 is about the same weight as a 13' 165. And a 13'6" 165 is about the same weight as a 14' 155.

You say that on a 13'6" 155 (which is on line 34) you say you bend it OK (raising your grip to 13'6"), but it breaks the HS weight rule. For a better comparison, you might want to try this pole with a 13' grip, and see how it feels. But be careful - it's even lighter than the 13' 170 which you say is already getting too much bend. If you had identical technique and grip on these two poles, you should be over-bending this one even more than the 13' 170! I question whether you actually cleared a reasonable bar with the 13'6 155 (with full inversion), or did you just bend it and then bail?

And you get too much bend on the 13' 170 (which is on line 35) when you grip at 13'.

On a 14' 170 (which is on line 39) you don't get any bend when you grip at 13'.

If you compare these 3 poles, you'll see that there's something strange going on. It's probably your technique. Maybe you panic and vault differently with a stiffer pole?

Assuming that you can handle a grip of 13'6", and you need at least a 165 to pass the HS weight rule, the softest pole you could choose would be a 13'6" 165. That's on line 36. That would be only 5 pounds heavier than the 13' 170 that you're over-bending, but 15 pounds lighter than the 14' 170 that you can't bend. So that would be a good choice.

After the 13'6" 165, the next pole up would be from the ones on line 37. But on that line, only the 13'6" 170 matches your minimum length and weight.

Next up after that would be on line 38 - either the 13'6" 175 or the 14' 165.

Conclusion: Don't jump up so many pounds in relative weight. Instead, go up in as small of increments as you can (assuming there's no pole availability or cost barriers).

But read my next post too.


Re: Breaking in poles

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 8:15 pm
by KirkB
With a PR of only 11', it's usually quite academic which pole you need to use to clear the bar.

It actually wouldn't be so bad if you learned proper swinging technique without much bend. Don't worry, the bend will come later.

I wouldn't actually recommend that you raise your grip 13'6" until your technique improves with a 13' grip - unless you're quite tall. How tall are you?


Re: Breaking in poles

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 9:41 pm
by lmshil
Thanks for all the info and I'm about 5'10. Here is a link to my PR jump of 11' Im gripping at about 13'3 on a 14' 155 carbon rocket. Note that I'm pretty sure the scale they used at this meet weighed us light so i was able to use a 155

Re: Breaking in poles

Posted: Sat Apr 09, 2016 10:40 pm
by KirkB
You're getting plenty of bend on that 11' jump. In fact, maybe a bit too much. You'd be better off with a stiffer pole with a better swing.

You have good speed potential, so I think your current 13'3" grip is OK.

Technique first - bigger poles and higher grips later! :idea:

Focus on your technique, and you'll be clearing bars over your grip in no time flat. :yes:


Re: Breaking in poles

Posted: Sun Apr 17, 2016 11:17 pm
by GasPasser
I agree with everything Kirk has said and the advice he has given you. Allow me try to add to it a bit.

A 14-170, held at 13' is equivalent to holding at 13' on a 13-190. So moving from the 13-170 Rocket to the 14-170 Pacer is like going up 4 poles at once. Not a good idea at the same grip and run. The 13'6"-155 being held at 13' is like using a 13-165 holding at 13' - that's going down a pole from the 13-170 Rocket.

You are focusing too much on bending the pole. It's been said a million times, but it's pole vaulting, not pole bending. The objective is to get your body over the highest bar possible - not getting the biggest bend possible. Many vaulters that get high bars also have big bends, but that is the wrong focus at this point for you. Take a look at this PV great - no bend at all, but look how high he gets his body. FYI - he holding higher than you AND getting his hips way above his grip - you are not. How is he doing it - he's swinging vigorously with a straight trail leg. Think about trying to kick a ball out of the box on take off.

Here's another excellent example of the swing leading to the body getting very high. Very little bend of the pole.

You are "blocking" with your bottom arm to bend the pole and it is preventing you from swinging properly - therefore your hips don't get very high. Try this drill and see if you can master it.

Here's a really good comprehensive video for you to get a better idea of what you should be doing to improve.