Spark image

Pole vaulting

How high you can vault depends on the following things:

(a) your speed along the runway (giving you kinetic energy)
(b) the angle of the pole at the "plant" (when the end of the pole is put into the vault box) this is vital as you will achieve a greater height by pushing down rather than pushing along and so the greater angle at take off the better. If you didn't push downwards and jump up as the pole hit the box it would simply stop you moving! Also the greater the angle of the pole at take off the less distance you are from the box and the les time the vault will take. This means a shorter time for energy retention and control. Of course you cannot hold the pole right at the top unless you are amazingly tall!
(c) the height of your hands on the pole above the ground at take off (this determines the angle of the pole)
(d) the length of the pole
(e) the height of your own centre of mass above the ground
(f) how well you can jump both vertically and horizontally
(g) how much you can push yourself upwards from the pole when it reaches the vertical
(h) how well you can control the movement of your body in the air
(i) how much it bends the elastic properties of the pole
(j) how well you can control this bending

The basic principles of pole vaulting are that you must convert the kinetic energy that you can achieve on the runway and the elastic energy in your legs to two things:
(a) potential energy of your body
(b) elastic compression energy in the pole
Both these are vital
In a way the elastic energy will give you further potential energy by a kind of spring effect as the pole straightens. The faster you run and the greater mass you have the more you can get the pole to bend at take off and the more energy you will store in it. Unfortunately quite a bit of your initial kinetic energy is lost in vibration of the pole and hysteresis (heating within the carbon fibre as it straightens).

Timing is also vital at take off because you need to push upwards at just the moment that the pole enters the box. Upper body strength, particularly in your arms, is essential especially in the initial leverage off the ground and then when pushing upwards at the top of the vault.

For a lot more information try using Google and typing in "pole vault physics" you will get a number of websites that will give you more information.


© Keith Gibbs 2020