The Bryde Bend (Jump to the Split)

This is a forum to discuss advanced pole vaulting techniques. If you are in high school you should probably not be posting or replying to topics here, but do read and learn.
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KirkB
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Post #8 - Pre-Vault Preparation (Mental Preparation)

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:13 pm

Post #8 - Pre-Vault Preparation (Mental Preparation)

This part of the vault is often left out in descriptions of pole vaulting technique. However, certainly in my case, it played a major role in whether or not I would clear the bar on my next turn. This prep started several minutes before my turn, and culminated with the start of my run. I usually approached the imminent vault as an attempt to iteratively improve my last clearance or attempt. But if I was “completely off” on my previous attempt, I discarded it from my mind entirely and instead focused on my most recent good vault. No revelations here – just basic mental prep stuff.

What might have been a little better than the typical vaulter of my era was my power of positive thinking; my visualization of clearing the bar; my self-confidence; and my aggressiveness. I never once started my run doubting my ability to clear the bar. I also didn’t procrastinate on the runway. My prep would be over within about 5-10 seconds of standing on the runway (often less than 5 seconds). I would check the wind, but (except for special circumstances) I wouldn’t wait for the ideal breeze to blow by. If I did that, the adrenaline rush that I’d built up during this mental prep would be lost.

I should also mention here that I rarely cleared a PR in practice. I attribute that to the lack of adrenaline rush in practice, compared to in competition. (That by itself might also not be that unusual.)
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #9 - Pole Grip, Start-of-Run, and Pole Carry

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:16 pm

Post #9 - Pole Grip, Start-of-Run, and Pole Carry

I used a “high pole carry”. To accommodate this high pole carry, I had a relatively narrow hand spread – 22 inches. This was quite a natural spread at the start of my run, as it put my lower forearm approximately parallel with the ground. (It was also a better hand spread for the plant and takeoff too, as I explain later.)

In the standing position on the runway, the angle of my pole was initially 90° to the ground. I stepped back to my left foot, and then started forwards, with the pole angle becoming perhaps closer to 70°-80°. No hops, skips, or stutter steps, because I felt it was important to start the run in exactly the same controlled way each time, in order to hit my target takeoff point.

One trick I used on the first couple steps was to hold the pole centered in front of my body by reaching forwards with my top hand. This allowed my top arm to be a bit of a “shock absorber” whilst I was starting my run. Then, for the first few steps, there was slight downwards pressure on the thumb of my bottom hand, and as the pole reached its equilibrium, this pressure eased off. My objective was to keep the pole at an optimum angle, so that its weight was never leveraged - its dead weight (as opposed to its cantilevered weight) was all that I ever felt on my top hand. (To be clear, the top hand is always defined as the one that’s gripping highest on the pole – even tho it’s lower than the bottom hand during the run.)

None of the weight of the pole was ever on the bottom hand (except to initially raise the pole above my head while standing). With the bottom hand, I only kept the pole balanced. If it was falling forwards too fast, I put backwards pressure on my thumb. If it was falling backwards, I put forwards pressure on the palm of my hand. It was essential that I made these minor corrective maneuvers quickly, or the pole would “get away from me”. Once I got the hang of this, I very rarely halted a vault midway thru the run (except if there was a side wind - my worst enemy!). Although my explanation above sounds a little complicated, in reality the pole carry was a simple balancing act, and it was usually consistent – all the way into the pole-drop and plant.

This is just common sense stuff – nothing too difficult. However, compared to other vaulters that tried this, I probably held the pole much looser than them. The tendency is to hold the pole tightly with most of the fingers of the top hand. My trick was to use only the thumb and edge of my top hand, and to not support the weight of the pole at all with the bottom hand. I never worried about getting a good grip on the pole for the takeoff, and I never once lost my grip on takeoff. I had strong hands. I used pitch (stick’m), but I found that I needed less and less of it each year. i.e. I did not get jolted on takeoff.

I had observed Kjell Isaakson use a high pole carry in the Portland Indoor in early 1971, and it worked for me from the moment I tried it.

Instead of going by memory, I will quote a newspaper article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer after jumping 16-4 in the NCAA Indoor in Detroit:

“His best vault in college … was 15 feet, until the day he changed his pole grip. At Shannon’s suggestion he tried carrying it pointed almost straight up into the air. ‘It raised my grip over a foot’, Kirk said, ‘I did 16 feet the first day I tried it’ ‘And he had a heck of a shot at 16-8 at the NCAA Indoor meet’ Shannon said.”

Prior to my high pole carry, I used a typical off-to-the-side low pole carry. While this technique may have allowed my arms to hang at a more natural angle for running, I found that it prevented me from gaining acceleration during the run - not to mention planting issues, which I explain later. I could not move my shoulders back and forth much at all during the high pole carry (compared to a low pole carry), but I preferred that issue to having to bear the weight of a “heavier” (leveraged) pole. Incidentally, we used very heavy poles (I mean mass – not flex) back then.

I don’t know their exact weight, but I recently hefted a modern day pole, and I was amazed at how light it was! I conjecture that for Isaakson – who was very short and light – the [leveraged] weight of his poles would have been the reason why he used a high pole carry.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #10 – Run

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:17 pm

Post #10 – Run

My run was unremarkable, so I won’t go into details. I just did the best I could with the wheels that I had. The objectives of my run were to gain top controlled speed, and to get my body into the proper posture for a good plant and takeoff. My posture was fine - I ran on the balls of my feet, lifted my knees high, and kept a consistent cadence. I just wasn’t nearly as quick as other elite vaulters. I had a ~121’ run in 1971, which increased to ~128’ in 1972. I think it was either 19 steps or 21 steps – I can’t remember which.

Maybe someone knows how to calculate that?

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #11 - Pole Drop

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:19 pm

Post #11 - Pole Drop

I timed the drop of the pole to coincide with a high plant and vigorous takeoff. I did not carry the pole high, and then push it forwards near the end of my run. It was a gradual drop for the duration of the run – so that the pole felt weightless the entire way. This was important, especially thru the plant. I’m actually struggling for words to explain anything special that I did during the pole carry and drop, because really, all I did was balance it and drop it. It was that simple!

Perhaps if I explain my earlier struggles with a low pole carry, you can appreciate the simplicity of the high pole carry and the resultant “simple” pole drop. With a low pole carry, I could not run as fast. But more to the point, I had to push the pole sideways to get it into the box. This compounded the problem of slowing down during the last few steps of the run, and I could not get as early of a plant, or jump as vigorously off the ground. Also, my posture was bad – leaning back due to the leveraged weight of the pole. My wider grip caused other running posture problems as well – I wasn’t running as square to the runway as I thought I should.

Even with my high carry, I did encounter problems with left-to-right side-winds, and in at least 2 meets, a left-to-right side-wind caused me to NH. However, with my high pole carry, this problem was different. It was because I was balancing the pole so precariously that the slightest side-wind would put me off.

I didn’t mind a slight right-to-left side wind. I could carry the pole a little to the right of center, and it would still drop in freely/weightlessly. But carrying it a little to the left of center was difficult, because it meant that my right (bottom) arm had to reach further across my body during the run.

In early 1971, I experimented a bit with using the drop of the pole to actually accelerate my last stride into the takeoff. I had hypothesized that if I used my bottom hand as a fulcrum, and then let the top hand be pulled up and towards the pit as the pole dropped, it would then lift my CoG, allowing me to jump faster and higher. But in practice, I found that the side effects of this idea totally negated its advantages. For example, the fulcrum would only work whilst my takeoff foot was on the ground, which actually forced it to be grounded for a longer period of time. I’ll explain more about this in the Jump-to-the-Split-Position part.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #12 - Plant

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:23 pm

Post #12 - Plant

I will explain my plant from both ends of the pole.

From the bottom end of the pole, the objective of my plant was to drop the pole into the back of the box, without hitting the sides or apron. I always aimed for the left corner of the box, so that the pole would have more room to bend without interference from the top edge of the box. This required a good aim. (The reason for this concern may become obvious once you read about the Single-Leg Swing part – where I describe the Big Bend.)

I reasoned that striking the left side or apron might cause the pole to bounce to somewhere other than the bottom-left corner. I don’t think my aim was ever so bad that it bounced out of the box, but I did occasionally have jumps where my pole rubbed against the top-right corner of the box, causing an abnormal bend. I usually bailed on these occasions. On one occasion, I didn’t bail when I should have, and I landed outside of the pit – with severe head injuries!

From the top end of the pole, the objective of my plant was to move the pole from a below-the-shoulder position to an above-the-shoulder position, while still keeping my shoulders as square to the runway as possible. I wanted to do this with minimal lateral (curling) motion of my top hand and the top of the pole. I also did not want to plant behind the shoulder, nor in front of the shoulder. Behind the shoulder would be just plain wrong, but ahead of the shoulder (a “shovel plant”) was experimented with and discarded, as I didn’t feel like I was “attacking the box” very well.

I settled on a “thru-the-shoulder” technique, very similar to Dave Roberts’ plant. (I purposely tried to emulate his plant. I do not claim that my plant was unique – or even unusual.) There was always a slight bit of lateral motion, but the objective was to minimize this. Physically planting the pole thru the shoulder is impossible of course. To be precise, it may be better described as “just slightly in front of the shoulder”. It was important to me to keep my shoulders as supple as possible, by doing stretches and skin-the-cat every day.

When I started my plant, my top hand was still holding the pole only by the thumb and edge of the hand – just as at the start of the run. So when I moved the pole from below my shoulder to above it, that’s when I clasped it with the entire hand – not before. As this happened, my shoulder actually moved out of the way for a split second, allowing my hand to move “thru-the-shoulder” – or more precisely “thru-where-the-shoulder-was-a-split-second-ago”. Once the top hand performed this critical maneuver, the shoulder was once again squared to the runway – in unison with my last stride. I couldn’t have kept the pole so close to my body if my top hand was holding tighter (using more fingers).

I’ve heard vaulters describe their plants as “well, at exactly x steps out, I begin my plant, and then on my y stride, I …”. I suppose if I analyzed film of my plant, I could dissect it that way. However, I relied more on the feel of it. And remember that I was dropping my pole from many, many, many strides out, so I didn’t really have to think about the exact stride that the pole drop should start – it started well before the plant started, so the two actions weren’t very inter-related - compared to other vaulters.

There was definitely a bio-feedback system going on that told my body exactly when to start each action – it just wasn’t very cognizant. And I think it was queued more by timing than by using certain body positions or strides to initiate the plant. Once my top hand passed thru my shoulder, I considered the plant part of my vault “substantially complete”. Most other vaulters stressed the importance of getting the plant as high as possible – to get a smooth takeoff. That was one of my objectives too. However, I always considered that as an objective of the Jump to the Split Position – not the plant.

Whilst the top hand did most of the work on the plant, the bottom hand did guide the pole into the box somewhat, and my narrow hand spread – which was necessary for a comfortable high pole carry – meant that I could jump into the split position a little more efficiently, without having to artificially reach forwards. It also kept my shoulders a little more square to the runway during the jump.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #13 - Jump to the Split Position - and Lift the Trail L

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:25 pm

Post #13 - Jump to the Split Position - and Lift the Trail Leg Back

This is the part of the vault that most vaulters refer to as the takeoff. I coined the term “Jump-to-the-Split-Position” (or more simply “Jump-to-the-Split”) to better describe what I really did on takeoff and immediately after takeoff. I personally discovered/invented this technique in the gym – not during vaulting practice.

This technique (and term) became commonly known by Coach Shannon and the UW vaulters because I referred to it so often, but was virtually unknown outside our circle – unless I explained it to someone (which I often did – including to Dr. Richard Ganslen).

What did I do on takeoff? Well, I jumped into a split position, and at the same time, I purposely lifted my trail leg backwards by several inches – maybe as much as a foot - before I began my swing!

This Jump to a Split was the most critical part of my technique. The purpose of getting the trail leg back as far as possible was to position my body into what I considered the optimal posture for a long, powerful, slightly delayed trail leg swing.

Let me explain how I got into that position, and then I’ll describe what the split position was, and then its importance.

On every stride of my run, I stayed on the balls of my feet, clawing each step as quickly as I possibly could (given the wheels that I had to work with). This was of the utmost importance on the last few strides. I purposely shortened my last few steps. The purpose of shortening them – not much different than for any other vaulter (I don’t think) – was to get a good forward lean, and to prepare (gather) for the takeoff on my penultimate step. I knew that it was bad to slow down in these last few steps, and I knew that I should not lower my CoG very much. Otherwise, I would be jumping flat-footed, with a braking action. That was common knowledge shared by all vaulters. However, I cannot honestly say that I did not slow down or introduce a braking action on my takeoff. I just know that I attempted to minimize these faults, and was far above average in the acceleration/speed/power (whatever you prefer to call it) of my jump on takeoff.

I can best describe how my takeoff felt in terms of how it felt to dunk a volleyball …

When I dunked a volleyball (in high school), I definitely had a braking action, and jumped flat-footed – much like a high jumper. So that doesn’t correctly describe my takeoff, as it was at a much lower angle than a dunk on a 10’ hoop, and I definitely stayed on the balls of my feet on my 2nd last (penultimate) and takeoff steps. Instead, I think it would be more comparable to taking off at the top of the key (~20’ from the basket) and dunking a volleyball on an 8’ hoop – with a very pronounced forwards lean.

Caution: Do not try this at home! If you do it like I’d do it, you’d fall flat on your face! You need plenty of padding under the hoop! You might, however, try to dunk a volleyball over a bungee, strung between the pole vault standards. But I think that this might still be too upright – not enough forward lean (unless you somehow somersault after you dunk). I’ve never tried this – we didn’t have bungees back then.

I can describe this forward lean in two other ways.

First, as is common with many vaulters, I warmed up before vaulting by running without a pole to my takeoff point, then jumping into the pit whilst doing a somersault. In this exercise, I tried to emulate the takeoff angle that I would have in a real vault. In other words, on a real vault, I had almost the exact same forwards lean that resulted in a somersault during warm-ups.

I never really realized the extent of my forwards lean until one Spring day in 1972, when I decided to try long jumping. I had not long jumped since high school, when I jumped ~21’. But with all my intensive training for the previous 3.5 years, I was interested to see how far I could jump, so I went over to the long jump runway in Husky Stadium, and measured out my run. Like a fool, I didn’t build up to a full run long jump - I just went for the gusto!

I ran down the runway like I always did for a vault, and I jumped off the board at about the same angle – and with about the same velocity – as a vault, but with the intent to jump more than 21’, and land on my feet. Well, I realized halfway thru my air-time that I was heading into a forwards flip, so – struggling to prevent that (for fear of getting wet sand down my back) – I ended up landing flat on my chest, with a face full of sand! I looked around to see if anyone had noticed, and luckily, I think no one did! With that, my experiment was abandoned, I spat out the sand, and went sheepishly back to the pole vault runway!

The point of the story is that my forwards lean on my takeoff was extremely pronounced.

So how did I jump into my split position? By the extreme forwards lean on takeoff! Most vaulters had only a slight forward lean on takeoff, so if they were to try to lift their trail leg in a backwards direction, they would find it very difficult. But by tilting forwards prior to takeoff, they would find it much easier to achieve.

I will now explain what the Split Position looked like, and then how I got into that position.

The “C” position is quite a well-known position in pole vaulting – perhaps best known by the way that Serge Bubka looks, soon after a “free takeoff”. This position is visually similar to my Split Position, but not quite. First, my trail leg was always fully extended – absolutely no bend in the knee. Second, I had a more pronounced forward tilt in the freeze-frame of the vault where the trail leg is fully stretched – ready to swing.

Another way to explain what the Split Position looked like (or felt like) is to hang onto a highbar with both palms facing forwards and lead knee up, then swing and lift the trail leg backwards whilst stretching the chest thru the shoulders forwards. From there, swing forwards into a rockback (concurrently pulling your arms down with your lats - almost). Now drop your legs down again, and repeat the action. Done incorrectly, your torso will begin swinging, and someone will have to steady you. Done correctly, driving your chest forwards as you drive your trail leg backwards will kill your swing from the previous cycle and you’ll be stretched into the split position - ready for your next powerful trail leg swing forwards.

I’ve never seen any other vaulter do this drill very well, although I’ve tried to teach it to quite a few. Jeff Taylor didn’t do it too badly. Some reasons for this are that it requires supple shoulders, good timing, and a very strong core. These attributes are attainable by most vaulters, but to perfect them, many months of repetitions and other supplementary training is necessary.

Now, how do you get into the Split Position? Well, you jump there! You jump vigorously as per the “top of the basketball key” takeoff angle that I described above, whilst at the same time lifting your trail leg back. Not just leaving it behind you, but cognizantly lifting it backwards and upwards – without bending the knee! Your body is now in a taut, fully stretched posture – from top hand to trail leg toe – ready to swing/snap down and forwards. If you bend the trail leg knee, you will take some power out of your stretched posture – so don’t do that. Meanwhile, your lead knee should be fully bent.

After pausing for a split second (until the pole hits the back of the box), you’re now ready to swing. To be a little more precise, the pause is concurrent with the lifting of the trail leg. That is the pause! It just felt like I jumped to the split and then paused, but really, it’s only the upper body that pauses – the lower body is actively moving the trail leg back.
I should also point out that calling the Jump to the Split a “Kickback the Trail Leg” is a misnomer – even tho I’ve described it that way myself. Calling it a kickback is an oversimplification, which might sound like the trail leg is allowed to bend. It should not bend. When I kept my trail leg straight, it actually raised the hips slightly (because hips aren’t supple enough to hyper-extend). In my experience, it’s more important to keep it straight than for the trail leg foot to move further back by bending at the knee – because the stretch is more pronounced then.

The lead knee is lifted as high as possible in a forwards direction, as the trail leg is lifted in a backwards direction. (Lots of strength training is required to perfect this.) Also, the top hand is outstretched above and in front of the head as high and as forward as possible. This stretching is actually a natural outcome of jumping off the ground – just as you would thrust the volleyball upwards and forwards when dunking.

The target angle for stretching my top hand was definitely more in the vertical (upwards) direction, rather than the horizontal (forwards) direction, but I would not want to conjecture what this optimal angle should be. Instead, I can only tell you how it felt. It felt like I was “filling the gap” of the air-time that I had between my takeoff and the distinct pause before I began my swing. In other words, I jumped to the split before the pole hit the box, but I tempered that by reaching my top hand more forwards than most vaulters.

Reaching slightly forwards not only “filled the gap”, but it gave the shoulder of the top arm a smoother transition to the point of impact of the force of the pole hitting the back of the box. In other words, I could fully stretch the top arm (push and squeeze) without fear that I would jolt the shoulder. Once the impact of the pole was felt, my swing would begin immediately. That’s when I intuitively knew that I should not “pause” in the split for much longer.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #14 - Single-Leg Swing

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:27 pm

Post #14 - Single-Leg Swing

Now most of the hard work is over, and the fun begins!

If I hit my plant and takeoff correctly (resulting in the ideal Jump to the Split Position), I already knew whether or not I’d fly off the top of the pole. That’s because there was hardly any risk in the remaining parts of my vault.

First, when the pole hits the back of the box, the impact is felt by the top hand, and I initiate the swing with the trail leg. Instead of letting the top arm continue to swing, I actually let the shoulder stretch back behind and above my head, dampening the impact of the pole and giving me time to start swinging the trail leg. Then, the trail leg is aggressively rotated forwards about the hip, until the entire body is almost aligned with the chord of the pole. I was “behind the pole” during the vigorous swing into the straight-body position; then I did a “tap swing” just before hitting the chord; then there was a “sinking sensation” as I whipped thru the chord.

The swinging motion behind the pole can be accurately described as a whipping or snapping motion – like snapping a whip. This action is very similar to how it feels on a highbar or rings. The swing is started with a “lat pull” of the arms, then the force ripples down the torso to the trail leg. When this force is felt by the top hand, it actually puts additional potential energy into the pole – no different than bending a highbar by a similar action. All I really did was repeat what I’d learned and conditioned my body to do on the chinning bar, rings, and highbar.

Notice that I have not included a rockback part in the description of my vault. That’s because there wasn’t any! It was a continuous motion – from the swing thru the chord to the extension off the top of the pole. However, back in the day, we did call the part of the vault from the passing of the chord to the start of the extension a “rockback”. This didn’t mean that I actually rocked back – I didn’t.

Having said that there was no rockback, I must admit that there was a short period of time between passing the chord and starting the extension.

There’s 3 points here …

First, I don’t think the chord was its shortest when I passed it. Rather, I think that I was no longer putting energy into the pole at that point, but then (my theory only) the inertia of my body was not yet fully absorbed by the pole.

The pole still had to “sink” a bit more, before it would reach its shortest chord. This is similar to the bounce of a lacrosse ball. When you drop the ball to the floor, it will compress, flattening on the bottom. It will then expand – causing it to bounce back up off the ground (to a point a little below where you dropped it from). The pole works this same way – it hits the box; it’s compressed; you swing to the chord; it’s compressed some more; it “bounces”; and then it recoils. It’s during the time of this bounce that a couple interesting things can and do happen.

First, this gives you time to “follow-thru” your swing into an inverted position – just as you follow-thru on the highbar (into a rockback) after you hit its chord.

Second, as soon as you get “under” the pole (i.e. your hips are above your CoG), you can actually begin your extension to add more energy to it. Or more precisely, you can slow down the recoil of the pole by starting your extension early (earlier than you would be able to if you didn’t have such a vigorous trail leg swing). In other words, you delay the extension to the optimum moment.

Stated another way, most vaulters swing immediately upon takeoff, but are unable to swing vigorously enough to get under the pole. They [almost] get ahead of the pole too early – before their hips are high enough to start an efficient extension. So to recover from that predicament, they tuck. Some even tuck before the trail leg has passed the chord. This style can be summarized as “swing immediately, then catch up to the pole by tucking, then pause for the pole chord to rotate to vertical, then shoot”.

Instead, my technique allowed me to do somewhat the opposite. I paused first, and then swung as long and as quick and powerfully as I could. This put me in an inverted position at perhaps the same time as a tuck/shoot vaulter, but when the chord of the pole was at its shortest (i.e. there was more energy in the pole), I was ready to extend for the entire duration of the recoil, and my hips were higher in relation to my CoG, so there was less energy loss (no muscular effort or struggle) to move the hips above the CoG.

In other words, once the pole started recoiling, I was already starting my extension! It actually started slowly, then built to a crescendo once I really began to accelerate rapidly up the pole. The two still pics that I showed above depict this – although 2 stills aren’t enough to fully grasp this concept. Of course, once I released the pole, I began to decelerate, as gravity took over.

From the stands, spectators saw a big (huge!) bend compared to other vaulters. It was a more accentuated bend, but it also looked bigger to the naked eye because it stayed bent for significantly longer than other vaulters. This was because of the long duration from the start of my trail leg swing to the start of my extension (which delayed the recoil).

Although I got a rush from the roar of the crowd when they saw my Bryde Bend shoot me over the bar, I also got a “high” (no pun intended) from doing this in practice (at lower heights). This is similar to the rush from bungee jumping, or from swinging to zero-gravity on a long rope over a high cliff!

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #15 - Shoot (Extension)

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:28 pm

Post #15 - Shoot (Extension)

It’s hard to separate the swing from the extension, so I repeat myself a bit in the description of this part …

My extension actually started as soon as I passed the chord of the pole. There was no rockback! After snapping “past the pole”, the sensation that I had was one of my shoulders sinking whilst my hips were raising and an increase in pressure ( a “pull” from the pole, felt thru both hands) on the pole. By this time, the pole was somewhat horizontal, and my body weight was somewhat balanced between my left and right hands. In all of my good vaults, I never felt like I had to “muscle” or “row” my hips above my CoG. I swung my hips above my CoG! From that inversion motion, the extension (i.e. the straightening of the entire body into the “I” position) felt much like I was “shooting to a handstand” on the highbar.

The pressure of the pole on my hands increased, as I extended my lead leg to catch up to my trail leg and I unbent slightly at the hips. In other words, I was adding more potential energy into the pole, slowing the expulsion of energy from the pole. A split second after that, I began my shoot – slightly backwards, towards the runway. Since the horizontal speed of the pole towards the pit was still good, my net direction was almost straight up (standards almost always at 24”). I timed my extension to coincide with the poles recoil. This was the intent of most vaulters, but I think that I had better timing of this, because of my highbar and trampoline training, and because my hips were higher earlier.

I did not have any push-off the pole to speak of. That’s because I was already pulling/shooting up so fast that the pole became out of reach by the time I might have pushed off. Also, I was naturally right-handed, but vaulted left-handed. A left-handed push-off would have been like throwing a javelin with my left arm, which wouldn’t go very far.

I often thought that I’d get a better handstand off the pole if I vaulted right-handed, but the benefits of a right-foot takeoff were much more important to me. I made the switch from right-handed to left-handed vaulting before I switched from steel to fiberglass.

Whenever I flew off the top of the pole too slowly, I never tried to improve that by any drills or mental focus. Instead, I focused on why my Jump-to-a-Split (or run or plant) might have been a little off, which was usually the root cause of a slow fly-away. Focusing on the bottom part of my vault was far more productive than worrying about minor details at the top end. My checkpoints were my posture on takeoff, and my posture in the split.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #16 - Fly-Away (Bar Clearance)

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:30 pm

Post #16 - Fly-Away (Bar Clearance)

My bar clearance was a typical fly-away style. The only thing that I might have been unique in my clearance was to turn both thumbs downwards, which caused the elbows to turn up and away from the bar. This technique was taught by Shannon; practiced in a tramp drill; and shared with all the UW vaulters. I don’t know if this is a trick that’s used today, but it’s only a minor technical point. Unlike some current vaulters like Brad Walker or Justin Norberg, I did not move my hand(s) quickly over the bar in advance of my body – I let them hang/drape over the bar as I flew past. I thought that prematurely pulling them up would lower my CoG, but this is also a very miniscule technical point.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #17 – “Mechanics of the Pole Vault” Notes

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:36 pm

Post #17 – “Mechanics of the Pole Vault” Notes

At his request, I sent these notes to Dr. Richard Ganslen for his book in 1972. They are the only notes that I could find from back then, but they clearly document my intent during my prime as an elite vaulter.

[start-of-quote]

VI. What type of pole plant are you using at the present time (that is, side arm, overhead)? What special technique do you employ in the plant? Do you use any special training excercises?

“Through-the-shoulder” pole plant. I keep the pole as close to my body as possible while planting, keeping the shoulders square at all times except for the split-second when the top hand passes from a “fingers down position” under the shoulder, to a “fingers up” position above the shoulder. The top hand passes just in front of the shoulder (“through” where the shoulder would have been if it stayed square), then just in front of the ear. A tight (i.e. close to the body) execution of a thru-the-shoulder plant is possible only with a very flexible shoulder. I improve my shoulder flexibility by doing skin-the-cat drills on the highbar and rings, and hanging dislocates on the rings.

VII. After the plant, do you consciously press forward on the pole with the lower hand at take-off and are you aware of the pressure?

No! The bottom hand is used for balance and control only. Any pressure applied would interfere with circular momentum (swinging to a rock-back action).

VIII. In the take-off action from the ground, how do you control your driving action?

I think of my take-off action as a “jump to a split position”. i.e. driving the lead knee forward and upward quickly and driving the trail leg upward and backward quickly. At the same time, the chest is driven forward towards the pole. There is a definite pause in this split position after take off. The higher the grip the more the pole bends, then the longer you should pause in the split. (I hand-drew a stick-man vaulter in the split position – annotating the accentuated “split” between the 2 legs.)

IX. What are your cues (visual or otherwise) for getting into the well rocked position on the pole before pulling?

I don’t “come off” the pole (i.e. stop the rock-back and start the leg extension) until I kinesthetically feel a loss of horizontal momentum. If my leg swing does not give me the circular momentum to rock back completely before the pole straightens then I usually switch to a lighter pole that will give me more time to rock back, without losing horizontal momentum. My “pull” is more of a leg extension, like the first half of a “clean” in weight lifting. This is the strongest part of my vault. By using my legs and back instead of my arms, I get a very efficient extension. It makes sense to use the arms only as a last resort, becuz they are much weaker than your legs and back.

X. In delaying your pull and turn, how do you control and maintain your position on your back?

As long as I have confidence that I will land well into the pit, I am able to delay the turn until the extension is almost complete. Also, since I don’t pull with my top arm until the extension is almost complete, I don’t rotate until then. The two go together.

XI. I wish to introduce a new concept in the vault which I will call PENETRATION. By penetration, I mean the ability to get up high and still have sufficient momentum to clear the bar. This concept is used because many young vaulters get well up into the air and “stall out” or are unsuccessful in reaching the cross bar. What are three or four major factors in your opinion which make it difficult or impossible for the vaulter to achieve successful penetration?

1. Grip too high.
2. Pole too stiff.
3. Leaning back on take off.
4. Not driving the chest forward into the pole on take off.

In order to penetrate horizontally over the bar, you must first penetrate horizontally towards the bar just after take-off, while in the split position. If you have not penetrated before you rock back, all is lost for the top of the vault and you are probably making one of the above four mistakes.

XII. Do you work for a particular clearance style over the cross bar?

I only worry about the position of my arms. I turn my thumbs in to raise my elbows above the bar.

XIII. In your personal judgement, what are the three major faults in technique or training that hold back the progress of many vaulters?

1. Most vaulters rely too much on vaulting practices for learning their technique. It is much more expedient to concentrate on one part of the vault at a time by doing running, jumping, gymnastics, and weight-lifting technique drills.

2. Many vaulters (myself included) have a “make or break” attitude, going for the long run, the high grip, and the heavy pole for the “big” jump, rather than learning proper technique slowly but surely. e.g. one step of progress at a time, but never digressing.

3. The stomach muscles are one of the most important, but also the most neglected muscle groups in a vaulter’s conditioning and strengthening program. The difference between a 14’ and a 16’ vaulter is often merely gut strength.

XV. What are your thoughts on the future of modern pole vaulting?

Physically and physiologically, a 20 foot vault is possible today by several different athletes. …

As Bob Richards once said to Junior: “The sky’s the limit!”

[end-of-quote]

That’s where I got my tagline! :)
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #18 – Can Beginners Do the Bryde Bend?

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:41 pm

Post #18 – Can Beginners Do the Bryde Bend?

I've heard that the Petrov model is recommended for all ages and abilities of pole vaulters. I don't think that's the case for the Bryde Bend. I don't recommend it to high school vaulters, unless their body is already exceptionally well-developed. Only the top few vaulters in a country would meet this prerequisite.

Here's why ...

It requires well-developed muscles to perform the gymnastic movements properly. These muscles are of the type found in highbar specialists - not ring specialists. That is, they are for properly performing swinging movements - not to be confused with the strength moves you see on rings by gymnasts with well-developed biceps.

In addition to upper-body muscles, the muscles of the torso (core) and the legs (particularly to keep the lead knee up) also need to be exceptionally strong. If an athlete hasn't already recorded thousands of one-legged situps, thousands of swing-to-rockbacks on the highbar (or rings or chinning bar), and hundreds of hip-circle-to-handstands into his training logbook, then it's highly unlikely that he (or she) will be able to execute the Bryde Bend very well.

I think it's better to first get your body into shape to be able to execute the right movements, and then (and only then) worry about advanced technique on the pole.

I've seen too many kids that just want to vault high, but don't want to take the time or put the effort into training. On the first day of Spring, they get on the pole and try their best to have good form, but they just don't have the coordination and strength to do it. Vaulting practice without gymnastic training is really a waste of time. You can learn so much more on the rings or highbar than you can ever expect to learn during vaulting practice.

I suggest that beginners learn the basics first – using the Petrov model. In a few years, once they’re strong enough and coordinated enough to be able to keep the lead knee up and invert quickly, then they can consider using the Bryde Bend. But if the athlete has excellent core strength and still gets stuck with his (or her) hips below the CoG (this includes all tuck/shoot vaulters, I think), then lifting the trail leg back might fix that. It’s at least a 3-step process:

1. Put in the time in the gym and weight room to improve your strength and coordination.

2. If your trail leg isn’t fully extended and swinging long and hard (as per the high bar swing drill), then fix that next.

3. Experiment with the Bryde Bend. I recommend a gradual increase in this (measured in months or years – not in days or weeks), as your vaulting technique improves. How extreme you split/lift is up to each individual. I think I was definitely extreme, but you’ll still get some benefits with a slight backwards lift.

There’s no silver bullets! No shortcuts! Training for the pole vault is hard work, and it takes years of practice to master!

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!

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Post #19 – Vaulters Jumping Like Bubka – BEFORE Bubka

Unread postby KirkB » Sun Jun 29, 2008 9:58 pm

Post #19 – Vaulters Jumping Like Bubka – BEFORE Bubka

This is one of the threads that intrigued me enough to document my own technique after all these years ...

On Oct 18 2007, in the Vaulters Jumping Like Bubka – BEFORE Bubka thread of the Historical forum ...

altius wrote:Over the past couple of years there have been a few posts implying that several - many? - US vaulters jumped 'like' Bubka, in the 1960s and 70s.

The only vaulters who I have seen who jumped 'like Bubka before Bubka' were folk like Warmerdam whose technique was conceptually the same, and Slusarski of Poland, the 1976 Olympic Champion, who demonstrated perhaps the most critical of the Petrov/Bubka characteristics - an unloaded pole at take off.

So I would really appreciate it if someone could post film of US vaulters - or anyone other than Slusarski - who jumped 'like' Bubka before 1980 - i.e. before Bubka! :idea: :yes:


I hope I have satisfied altius’ request for something more than just anecdotal proof.

I do not expect him to be fully satisfied. I don’t actually claim to have vaulted like Bubka – I just don’t know. I leave that for the PV gurus on this forum to judge. Also, I have only shown a couple pics, which is all I have.

The descriptions of my technique are to the best of my recollection, and I have documented written sources in 1972 and 2004 that match my current memory. Those sources can be checked directly and independently, without any reliance on my 2008 memory.

I wrote the 2008 descriptions, then found the 2004 email to Pat Licari, then found the 1972 answers to Dr. Ganslen’s questions. I actually surprised myself in finding the 3 writeups so consistent!

I’m using some new-found words this year, but the essence of the description of my technique has not changed in my mind’s eye. I still vividly remember my best vaults!

As far as I’m aware, my intentional lift BACKWARDS of my trail leg might be the only part of my technique that is quite distinct from the Bubka “Petrov Model” or “6.05 Model” or “6.40 Model”. But you be the judge of that.

Kirk Bryde
Run. Plant. Jump. Stretch. Whip. Extend. Fly. Clear. There is no tuck! THERE IS NO DELAY!


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