Pole Vaulting Hosted By Doug Lytle’s Xtreme Athletics

Equipment: Pole Vault Spikes- special shoes with spikes for gripping the track. Poles- chose based on body weight rating and length (where you grab the pole depends on your weight).

Warm-Up: Running laps, high bar leg raises (i.e. bupkas), backroll extensions (sit, roll back, hands push up on the mat), handstand pushups (or just a hand stand) and stretching.

Practice Entailed :
Pole Carry- carried the pole at your hip, dominant hand on top, non dominant hand at your hip. When you drop the pole, you raise your arm and keep it by your body.
Planting the pole- running with the pole and planting it in to the “box”.
Jumping- lead leg up, trailing leg straight
Running- Running over blocks, start slow and accelerate fast at the end as you approach the box. Stay on your toes.

What to Wear:  Tight fitting workout clothes as you may spend some time upside down

Level of Difficulty:  Difficult. True vaulters make it look easy. We made it look like a funny YouTube Video.

What it Worked: You name it,  it will be worked.

How to Train: A form of exercise that is an assault to the entire body, you should focus on approaching training for pole vaulting in a well rounded manner. Strength, Coordination, Balance, Power, Speed and some serious Jumping ability are all requirements for this sport.

Basic Strengthening Exercises: Squat Jumps, Bench Press, Hammer Curl to Press, Wide Grip Lat Pulls, Dips, Straight Arm, Side Planks, Supermans, Lying Leg Raises, Lying Hip Abduction, Glute Bridge


Maggie’s Review

First Impression: At first I thought “how difficult can it be to run and jump with a pole, I am in decent shape and it’s just physics right?” This attitude quickly changed course when Kory began to spew research on how dangerous and difficult pole vaulting can be. I began to reassess my initial thoughts and rightfully so. I began my own research on pole vaulting… how high people jump, what the dangers are, how to train for pole vaulting and how people get in to pole vaulting in the first place. After a fair amount of research we went to the pole vaulting facility to watch the high school and college kids do vault practice. Although some of them were smaller builds, they all had one thing in common; they were all in excellent shape… “decent” was not going to cut it. After watching them vault, I began to wonder if I would even be able to get off the ground or if my pole vaulting would be more like a floor pole routine found at a shoddy strip joint (only less entertaining and fully clothed).

What I liked the Most:The challenge it presented and the respect it gave me for pole vaulters. I also really liked Bupkas.

What I liked the Least: Sore arms and the back roll extension warm up. I don’t know that I was able to properly perform a back roll extension… I might have needed a spotter if one was even possible. Also, my arms and upper body were so sore the day after our first lesson that I could hardly move without experiencing discomfort. I felt like I had been hit by a truck. “Running with a pole” turned out to be more like being “beaten with a pole”.

It was…Challenging. You run down the runway like you are running on hot coals (knees high). You build speed towards the end of the runway, and then you drop your pole (in a very systematic way) and hit the “box”. The rest is physics. On that note, I think my pole vaulting made it glaringly apparent that I dropped my high school physics class based on my attempts. One of our biggest takeaways was that it takes more than two lessons to pole vault. JJ (our coach) estimated it might take us a few months to successfully vault with a full approach and good form. The highest we accomplished was 6’6”. It was pretty weak, as a reference, our coach said that for women 12’ is a great jump and for men 15’ is a great jump. We were far from great but with a little practice we could be competitive with JJ’s 6 year old son.

That kicked my ass:I’m probably not going to be able to move tomorrow

Will I ever do it again?Glad I did it once, but once is enough… okay twice.

Overall I think:I’ve had worse.

Sara’s Review

First Impression: I went into pole vaulting scared.  I’ve heard people say “how hard can it be?” but, to me – someone who is as naturally coordinated as a cat having a seizure  – it looked like it would be a challenge.  Researching what was required to be a successful pole vaulter and watching a training session with actual pole vaulting athletes only served to increase my fears of looking like a complete idiot.  But by the end, I loved it! And completely understand what is so addictive about the sport.

We started with a warm up where we ran laps around the gym (easy enough), followed by some light stretching (got it down), and then Ashley – the college vaulter who demonstrated everything before we tried it – and JJ said we were going to try **.  I watched as she did a backward somersault where she ended standing up – and thought “uh oh”.  I managed to do it and thought I was doing well when I heard we were going to the platform which meant doing the same backward somersault 10 feet…or maybe more like 4 feet…in the air and, instead of standing at the end, flipping over a cord and falling onto a padded area.  I will admit that standing there getting ready to try it the first time was my first “Oh shit!  I’m not going to be able to do this – how dumb will I look if I give up at this moment?” I had – but I did it!!  And I am alive to tell the story! The rest of the session broke down all the movements and we practiced them over and over and over before we took the runway.   I was thrilled I even got my feet off the ground in the first session and am happy to report a PR of 4.5 feet…ok, sad to actual pole vaulting athletes but better than someone who has never tried it.

What I Most Liked:   Arguably one of the best parts of pole vaulting are the endless jokes to be made (especially when pole vaulting with someone as widely inappropriate as Maggie) from the common pole vaulting terms like moving up on the pole and hitting the box as hard as you can.  It makes for hours of entertainment.

Beyond that – it’s an activity that works body parts you didn’t know you had.  I thought I had taxed about every part of my body at some point between typical activities like pull-ups, push ups, squats and more obscure tasks like hand stand holds and dips – but I woke up the next morning hurting in spots I haven’t ever before that I didn’t even realize could hurt.  It’s an intense sport.  There is a huge sense of accomplishment in getting each part of the vault down.  It seems impossible when you see it all together but, when you break it into its parts and practice each, it’s actually manageable!

What I Least Liked:  It’s pretty obvious that you’d have to do a lot of practicing to be a good pole vaulter…or even an ok pole vaulter.  I was excited to get off the ground but beating my 4.5 foot PR will obviously take a good deal of work and time commitment…but I’m glad I tried it.

It was…There are two things I heard repeatedly about pole vaulting 1) it takes a lot of thought 2) when you are actually doing it, you can’t think.  I was a bit confused about how the two came together in practice…but I get it now.  I think we practiced each “part” of the vault (there are about 18 different movements you have to put together) about 1,000 times each (give or take 970 times) – and that took a lot of concentration…but, when you get into position, you have to shut your mind of and just go for it and go for it hard (insert Maggie’s inappropriate joke here).  You can’t think through the movements or break them down into their parts or – you just go for it and trust it will all turn out okay…which it does – at least most of the time.  You run hard, run fast, plant the pole and hope for the best.

That kicked my ass:  I’m probably not going to be able to move tomorrow

Will I ever do it again? Probably – unless something better comes along.

Overall I think:  I’m not IN love, but I loved it


Kory’s Review

First Impression: When it was first suggested that we were going to try this, I got sweaty palms and a brief heart palpitation. I quickly typed in a Google search for pole vaulting, and upon looking at the frame by frame pics of athletes clearing a crazy high bar with a crazy long pole, I began to feel a bit queasy. I mean, they are practically vertical at some point in the vault. Seriously? I have never participated in track in field, but  I do have a fear of falling on my head or maybe ramming a pole into my sternum. Luckily none of that happened but the thought was always in my mind.

What I liked the Most: I am still alive, uninjured, and I can check it off the list of things I have tried.

What I liked the Least: Do you have any idea of how many things need to go right in order to pole vault? Do you know how many things could go wrong? Let me tell you, A LOT! I have never had to think so hard about doing something. My brain ached almost as much as my arms. Learning how to hold the pole, how to count my steps, how to keep my elbow close to my body, how to run with the pole…… There is more but I will stop there. I’m not going to lie. It ticked me off at how bad I was at this sport. Yeah, I got over the bar a few times but it was way ugly. I was not born to be a vaulter, but I guess I’m okay with that.

Overall I think: It was difficult, but I assumed it would be. It would take a lot of time and dedication to become decent at this. I am 34 and maybe back in the day, I could have taken an honest run at this. But for today, I am ok with leaving this experience in the past with a 5 1/2 ft jump in the bag. I will try almost anything once. So now I can laugh at how ridiculous I look in those pictures. Yeah, go ahead and laugh. It’s okay.