Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

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Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby CoachEric » Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:10 pm

After touching on this topic in the Video Review section, it looks like I'm in the minority here on this point, so it might be a fun discussion worth its own thread. This post is about the function of the bottom arm at the plant, which I am surprised has not been covered very clearly on PVP.

The following points are assumed to be agreed upon:
- The vaulter should strive for maximum pole angle at takeoff
- The vaulter should not block the chest or shoulders from being allowed to move. This is accomplished with bottom elbow bend and allowing the bottom hand to travel back over the head post-takeoff.
- There should be no (or minimal, for practical purposes) loading of the pole while the athlete is still on the ground

I submit that these points are entirely achievable with a fully extended bottom arm as the athlete plants, even holding at grips as low as 14'. The reason the vaulter would want to do this is because pole angle at takeoff is a function of the position of the bottom arm, not the top arm (seems to be the primary point of contention). Additionally, the bottom arm creates the space between the vaulter and pole. Maximizing this space maximizes the potential for the athlete to swing.

So, the argument to this point seems to be about the geometry of the position. If a vaulter has a narrow grip (which I advocate), and the top arm is reaching straight up, with a totally open shoulder angle, then the top of the pole is as high as it will go, and it would seem that there is not enough room to extend the bottom arm.

However, the open shouder angle is the problem. Better than a totally open shoulder angle at takeoff is a hollow shoulder position, with shoudlers rounded and stretched up and forward. This places the top arm in line with the front half of the face, so that the bicep touches the cheek. The bottom arm has more room to extend and push, exactly in the direction of the forthcoming rotation of the pole. Pole angle is higher this way, because the pole is moving in the direction of its upward rotation, and the resulting stretch on the top arm shoulder will be greater. This position also allows the vaulter more space to move post-takeoff, as the shoulders open up and the body goes elastic.

BUT, for practical purposes, achieving full extension with the bottom arm is not possible for most vaulters. The following points would preclude the ability of any athlete to reach full extension at takeoff:
1. If the athlete drops the pole tip below eye level before the plant motion
2. If the athlete does not have an accelerating pole drop toward the plant, effectively making the pole weightless in the hands and creating pole rotation about the axis in the middle of the pole while planting
3. If the athlete has any deficiencies in sprint technique, (posture, hip stregnth, flexibility, etc.) which hinder the ability to accelerate into takeoff
4. If plant technique is not perfect

Essentially, achieving full extension with both arms is only possible if the athlete is doing the same things that are necessary for a free takeoff. Just as with the free takeoff, if the athlete is doing any of the above, they will not be able to take off with enough space between them and the box to get extended without blocking.

Now, to say that an athlete should execute a free takeoff and achieve full extension with both arms is sort of theoretical for a lot of athletes. Much like the exsistence of the free takeoff was debated years ago because Bubka was off the ground with a completely straight pole only rarely, there aren't a whole lot of good examples of athletes having the bottom arm totally extended at takeoff and not blocking.

But that doesn't mean it isn't a great cue for developing athletes. Getting closer to that position is always better, but most vaulters stop short with the bottom arm somewhere in the plant motion. Most do not think of the concept of "creating space" between themselves and pole, and it's a great way to think about the plant postion blending right into the vault, and will get athletes hitting elatic postions, turning poles over, and forcing them to raise their grip.

Now, feel free to dissect :)

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby grandevaulter » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:41 pm

Great piece of writing. Easy to make sense of for the high school coach. I like 1-4, cold hard facts.

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby altius » Wed Mar 13, 2013 9:46 pm

"Much like the exsistence of the free takeoff was debated years ago because Bubka was off the ground with a completely straight pole only rarely, there aren't a whole lot of good examples of athletes having the bottom arm totally extended at takeoff and not blocking."

I will continue to wait to see how this debate progresses, but in relation to the above issue I would make the point that while Bubka was rarely able to prejump (his goal at take off), he took off with an unloaded -therefore straight - pole in the vast majority of his jumps. Even managed it - as in Seoul for example when he appeared to be a tad under with his take off.

I just hope this discussion does not become as esoteric as many others have in recent times - moving further and further away from the realities of actual coaching. The idea surely should be to clarify and simplify not to baffle with bulls***. But a pretty good start Eric.
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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby superpipe » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:19 pm

Honestly, I don't follow one bit of what you said here with respect to a straight bottom arm and it's supposed benefits. I'd love to see video, a drawing or animation showing support of what you are saying.

Here's two drawings I just made in Sketchup that are to exact scale of my height and grip width to show how "crazy" it is to plant with a straight bottom arm:

FIGURE 1:
Image


FIGURE 2:
Image

Seriously, what could possibly be good about a straight bottom arm at plant? Why have a top arm then?

CoachEric wrote:there aren't a whole lot of good examples of athletes having the bottom arm totally extended at takeoff and not blocking.


Please show me one example.
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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby CoachEric » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:45 pm

Here are two pretty good examples.

Bubka, 6.11, create space.JPG
Bubka, 6.11, create space.JPG (20.55 KiB) Viewed 10027 times

Bubka, 6.14, create space.JPG
Bubka, 6.14, create space.JPG (13.5 KiB) Viewed 10027 times


Yes, there is very, very slight elbow bend, but this represents full extension. Note that I never said "lock the elbow." A locked elbow is hyperextended, and would automatically cause the athlete to block.

To Altius' point,
I just hope this discussion does not become as esoteric as many others have in recent times - moving further and further away from the realities of actual coaching.


The vaulter should strive to create as much space as possible and be as extended as possible before takeoff. I'm not getting out a protractor to measure my athletes' elbows. I'm cueing them to get as extended as physically possible. To teach a young athlete to press toward full extension is to encourage a long body and a transition into an elastic position post-takeoff. The vaulter from the Video Review thread was stopping short with his plant motion and making little effort to push the pole up with both hands and stretch the shoulders upward.

Now, to your drawing. You've moved the vaulter back 8" when in fact you should have increased the pole angle. Assume that your 29" top arm effectively becomes 30" as the hollow body position allows the shoulder to stretch a little higher. Also assume that it is acceptable and even encouragable for top athletes to take off slightly out. A vaulter with a pre-jump has a higher takeoff angle than one who doesn't. Take a look at Bubka's top hand relative to where his takeoff foot would be in the 6.14 vault.

Seriously, what could possibly be good about a straight bottom arm at plant? Why have a top arm then?


Nothing about the top arm is changing. The top arm carries the pole, plants the pole, and is the tension force with which the athlete will generate centripetal force with the swing. The bottom arm is moving upward agressively thoughout the plant motion in order to optimize pole angle, and to prepare for the post-takeoff elastic position. Think of it this way - the higher the left hand goes before takeoff, the higher the left hand will be post-takeoff.

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby superpipe » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:21 pm

I'll stop after this, but you are using the bottom arm WAY to much and cueing any athlete to extend the bottom arm as much as possible is not good communication in my book. There is already WAY to many athletes and coaches out there using and teaching bottom arm extension in the worst possible way. Your comments seem to support these "bad" issues to the max for young vaulters reading this forum.

Comments like creating maximum space is not right. To create maximum space you would "jam" a straight bottom arm. You want to create "optimum" space that keeps the body upright through the takeoff. There's a huge difference between the two.

My point was you don't need a protractor it should be so obvious to never extend a straight bottom arm.

Bubka's elbow is bent way more than you think in those shots you posted. It's not even close to being straight as you seem to indicate and my drawings were meant to prove that.
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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby tsorenson » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:16 pm

CoachEric, thanks for your thoughtful post.

CoachEric wrote:I submit that these points are entirely achievable with a fully extended bottom arm as the athlete plants, even holding at grips as low as 14'.


This is a key point that any young vaulter should take to heart if they are gripping below 14', before trying to get a straight bottom arm. Also the fact that full extension at the plant is a function of the free takeoff, pole carry and drop, which very few vaulters achieve.

In both of the images of Bubka you showed, his top arm is more in line with his ear rather than his cheek. I don't see how closing off the angle of the shoulders would assist in getting the hands over the head or going elastic. It would have the opposite effect. Usually people striving for a straight bottom arm at the plant either push it OUT towards the box, or turn the shoulders out of square...neither is good. I don't agree that the bottom arm controls pole/ground angle at takeoff; rather it affects pole speed and pole bend. If you have a free takeoff, there is no advantage to pushing the bottom arm out straight during the transition of support onto the pole. It can only serve to keep the COM (chest) away from the pit and cause a premature and excessive pole bend at the expense of pole speed. Pushing out a straight bottom arm at that moment can only serve to have a negative effect on the natural swing. I do believe that it is useful to push the bottom hand out at the initiation of the swing, as the pole is bending away from the vaulter, as Petrov stated "the active unbending of the bottom arm" creates the fast swing, keeps pressure on the pole, and keeps the pole moving forward.

So yes, I agree that creating space with the bottom arm is important, but I disagree about the ideal timing of this motion. I would say that vaulters like Bubka, Markov, Steve Hooker, and Andrew Irwin who have a free takeoff and bend the elbow out to the side during the initial support phase (to allow the COM and pole to travel forward and upward without early pole bend), followed by a fast natural swing through the top hand, over the top of the still-bending pole, are good examples of what I am talking about.

Respectfully,
Tom

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby tsorenson » Sat Mar 16, 2013 1:30 pm

Forgot to mention Brad Walker as another vaulter who does not transfer support to the pole with a straight bottom arm, rather attempts to allow his COM to travel inward and upward. He discussed this concept in his recent webinar, archived here:

http://www.anymeeting.com/WebConference ... 50D683854E

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby CoachEric » Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:04 pm

...Brad Walker as another vaulter who does not transfer support to the pole with a straight bottom arm

I'm not saying that the vaulter transfers support with the bottom arm extended. Rather, the bottom arm extends as much as possible before the tip hits the box. As the tip hits, the bottom arm provides only passive, controlled resistance, as the bottom arm elbow bends, and the bottom hand travels back over the head.

It can only serve to keep the COM (chest) away from the pit and cause a premature and excessive pole bend at the expense of pole speed

Again, I'm not advocating that the vaulter presses into the pole with the bottom arm. The pole bends as a result of tension from the top arm.

To be clear, the vaulter's ability to open the shoulders and move the head and chest through, I would say, is far more important than maximizing space before takeoff, and it is contingent on bending the bottom elbow. If the arms block the chest and the hands don't move, pole rotation stops and the vaulter can only rotate the pole by overcompressing it. So I'm on the same page as everyone else here as far as that's concerned. The bottom arm definitely bends as the vaulter transfers weight to the pole.

I don't see how closing off the angle of the shoulders would assist in getting the hands over the head or going elastic.

Don't think of it as closed. Instead think of it as "hollow." Hollow is an extended, open, pressing position. It's not a closed or blocking position. It's integral to a lot of gymnastics movements. I had a great conversation with Dennis Kholev in Reno this year, and he called it "disconnecting the shoulders." The advantage of emphasizing this position is the greater movement that the vaulter can achieve while going from hollow to elastic. The potential to swing comes from that movement. The greater the movement, the more potential.

I would say that vaulters like Bubka, Markov, Steve Hooker, and Andrew Irwin who have a free takeoff and bend the elbow out to the side during the initial support phase...are good examples of what I am talking about.

Yeah, agreed. But of those only Bubka has a good enough pole drop and plant motion to achieve close to full extension, which I argue he does. Andrew Irwin seems to stop well short of full extension very deliberately in order to get the free takeoff. Since sub-optimal pole drop and plant motion put the vaulter under, they cannot fully extend the bottom arm. Not that he isn't successful with it, but I would coach him differently. If he had better pole carry, he would be able to plant higher.

I can't access that link you posted with Brad, so I don't know what he says. But Brad wouldn't be able to reach full extension with the bottom arm either, because he uses Dan Pfaff's model for the plant motion, which isn't a straight line plant. As a sidenote, I do think Dan Pfaff's model has some merit, but Petrov's is better.

I agree with all the points you posted, Tom. The elbow definitely must bend, and the hands must move, and a vaulter pressing into the pole with the bottom arm can cause all sorts of problems (I was a big blocker myself when I first learned to vault). And post-takeoff "up pressure" is important for accelerating the swing and is impossible if the bottom arm doesn't bend first.

I think in general if vaulters develop their pole drop and plant motion, and they do not stop the motion of the bottom arm during the plant, they will generally achieve higher plants with better pole angles and more extended bodies. They'll create space, which is good! :)

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby tsorenson » Tue Mar 19, 2013 10:26 am

Thanks for your response Eric. I do agree that the bottom arm should be as extended as possible as the pole is being planted, as long as the shoulders are square and the force is directed upward at an angle at least perpindicular to the pole's line of travel. The amount to which this can be achieved depends on the quality of the pole carry, drop and plant, and also strongly on grip height (all of which you have mentioned).
Not coincidentally, it's around a 14' grip for boys that the angle of the pole allows more extension at the plant (more like 12'6 for girls...depending on the vaulter's height). This is when I start emphasizing more extension of the bottom arm at the plant, which can be easily achieved without blocking if the vaulter has learned to jump into the "elbow out" position during the learning phase of the vault (first few seasons).

I have been giving your "hollow position" a lot of thought and perhaps this does occur more than I first claimed, although I think of it more as a result than a conscious action. It's not something I've ever specifically emphasized as part of the plant, but vaulters that achieve a free takeoff into a stiff pole will automatically learn this position in order to keep the hips back, maximize pole speed, and set up for the swing. I do emphasize the hollow position during highbar drills and rings as good gymnastic technique. I will play around with this in practice, as I am constantly looking for different ways to emphasize good technique. Thanks for the dialogue!

Cheers,
Tom

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby KirkB » Tue Mar 19, 2013 2:59 pm

Some good points by both Eric and Tom.

There's a distinct difference between post-vault analysis and what we coaches THINK about our vaulter's technique versus what we point out to them on the vid and what we SAY to them pre-jump or as they exit the pit. I know you both understand this distinction clearly.

My suggestion is to focus on where the top hand is and what it's doing during the plant, as well as where the pole tip is. I believe that focussing on where the bottom hand is and what it's doing is a coaching mistake.

While I agree with the hollow/elastic theory, telling a kid to be cognisant of his bottom hand will only detract from the top hand and pole tip focus.

The role of the bottom arm and hand is to direct the pole into the box. The role of the top arm and hand is to optimize the angle of the takeoff.

If the pole tip and top hand are positioned optimally, then there's no reason to discuss the bottom arm or hand positions. Once the width of the grip is determined (pre-jump), then the bottom hand will go where it needs to go - naturally, without any coaching.

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Re: Creating Space with the Bottom Arm

Unread postby CoachEric » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:56 pm



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