Long Jump Training
The long jump looks like both a fun and simple event at first. You run as fast as you can and jump as far as you can into some lovely sand.
For coaches & athletes
The long jump looks like both a fun and simple event at first. You run as fast as you can and jump as far as you can into some lovely sand. But the more you have a go – at least initially – the more likely you may well get frustrated. Hitting that 20cm wide take-off board for one is no mean skill and maximising distance without falling either backwards or forwards another. Read on to master the basics…
The run-up & the triple A’s
Okay, you sprint, but this needs to be controlled and more deliberate to the way you would on the 100m straight. You need to accelerate, align (come up to an upright posture) and attack the board. Too much speed too soon or not getting up to speed will mean you won’t optimise your distance. And if you don’t get into the right posture come those all-so-important take-off strides you’ll fail to take-off in a way that will max your distance – of which more later.
Top Tip: Up to the age of 16-17 and from the age of 10 use a stride for every year of your life – give or take one as a starting point to construct a run-up. Run it over and over again in training to ensure that it is learnt.
The take-off, well, in realty the set-up to the take-off is the crucial area for making those jumps really long. A hell-for-leather sprint to jump is unlikely to pay dividends. Watch an elite jumper on the TV and you’ll probably be able to discern a set-up to jump over the last three steps whilst they are quite relaxed. Basically the pattern is; step-flat-take-off and should sound “da da-da”. To explain: when sprinting into the board (with control), you should be striking the ground with your toes up (as all sprinters should), but on the second to last stride you lightly drop your heel onto the ground. This will result in the lowering of your hips by a couple of centimetres. Don’t overly drop as this will kill forward velocity. Why do you need to go flat-footed? Well, this will enable your hips to move through the take-off and enable horizontal speed to be maximally transferred into vertical lift without a huge loss of speed (although no matter how good you are this will be inevitable – those that lose the least speed will jump the furthest everything being equal).
Top Tip: Practise the heel drop on the second to last stride repeatedly, into the pit and via specific take-off drills (see also take-off)
Following the correct setting up of the jump (as identified) the jumper must coordinate their limbs and posture to maximise their jump. It’s the take-off set-up and the take-off itself that are very much the “dark arts” of long jump. Many people don’t focus enough on these… power and speed will literally only get you so far. So what do you do? Well, as the take-off foot comes down onto the board (and under the hips), the non-take-off leg should be driven powerfully up and away from the body. Don’t lift it up, take it away and “move” the hip in the process. It’s the long jump not the high jump. The arms should continue through the take-off with the front arm finishing at eye-level and the rear arm’s upper arm parallel to the ground. The chest should be elevated and the head up and chin parallel to the ground. It’s crucial that the jumper maintains this take-off posture for a split second, to enable them to climb into the air before commencing the first part of their mid-air action, whatever this be.
Top Tip: Work constantly on take-off posture through specific drills and through take-offs performed off of run-ups of various lengths into the pit. (Look out for further articles/videos on this and other areas covered)
Mid-Air Action – you can’t fly
Contrary to what people often think the actions jumpers perform in the air (usually hang and hitch-kick variants) can’t actually increase physical flight time. What they do is counteract the rotation that occurs around the body’s central axis when in flight. This results in forward or backward rotation. Why is that bad? Well, it will mean that the jumper’s landing is less than optimal and the heels will fall into the sand before where they should and vital distance will be lost.
Top Tip: Initially learn how to take-off (as described) and don’t worry about learning the hitch or the hang. Getting that take-off right without distraction will reap huge dividends in the long-term.
Top Tip: To perfect a jump at this stage of learning – hold take-off position, take the rear arm at take-off back after take-off and then the forward one, so that they are both overhead. Then as you start to land lift the legs out in front holding the heels up. Near landing bring both arms down past the hips and then forward in order to shift weight forwards to maximise landing distance. This technique is known as a stride jump and is actually a very effective way to jump, if performed well.