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Motion Analysis on Pole Vaulting


The ulterior objective of pole vaulting is propelling the vaulter’s body over a cross bar, positioned at the maximum possible height with the assistance of a vaulting pole. Motion analysis of pole vaulting is at the heart of biomechanical analysis which is an imperative technique in guiding high performance sports. Similarly, a thorough comprehension of the dynamics of pole vaulting will come in handy in assisting coaches in devising take off techniques that are more effective. The objectives of pole vaulting can be achieved when a maximum velocity for take-off has been attained. In addition, the vaulter should be in a position to apply maximum centripetal force in the swing-up to bend while at the same time adding a straining energy towards the pole (Davis & Kukureka, 2004).

Use of Equipment

The equipment applicable in pole vaulting is almost similar to high jump equipment. Equipment failure takes place whenever a vault breaks in the course of an execution (Ackland et al, 2009). As a safety precaution to prevent equipment failure, vaulters should only use poles that correspond to their maximum weight. Another vital factor is the stiffness as well as the length of the pole being used. The effectiveness that can be obtained from a pole can be manipulated by changing the grip in relation to the top of the pole (Frere et al, 2009). The grip may be a bit higher or lower.

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Explanation of the Phases of the Pole Vaulting

Pole vaulting comprises of six main phases: run up and pole carry, pole plant, take off and pole bend, swing up, pull and release and clearance and landing.

Run Up and Pole Carry Elements

This phase of pole vaulting encompasses the application of high speed which the vaulter will find useful. Moreover, the mechanics of this face necessitate for a maximum velocity in the course of the run up (Chapman, 2004). Maximum velocity will be important to enhance the generation of maximum kinetic energy. The technique utilized in carrying the pole should be holding at the hip and ensuring that the elbow of the right arm is bent at about 90 degrees while the bottom hand lifts the pole. It should be also important to ensure that the hands holding the pole are held at least 60 to 70 centimetres apart (Davis & Kukureka, 2004). The pole behaves like a third class lever which gives an implication that the weight of the pole must be carried with ease. However, it will be the prerogative of the vaulter to ensure he/she holds the pole as vertical as possible. In this way the torque created by the weight of the pole is lessened because the perpendicular distance to the fulcrum is decreased (Juico, 2000).

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Pole Plant Elements

This phase utilizes a technique whereby the top hand is driven straight to the plant position. The top hand is to reach a certain position that ought to be high enough that the tip contacts the back of the box. The dynamics involve shifting of the top hand to an extent that the vaulter is ready to experience the impact of the pole hitting the back of the box (Livingstone, 2008). In this phase, it is the vaulter’s body that will act as a third class lever because the torque is proportional to the perpendicular distance from the fulcrum (at the back of the box).

Take off Elements

This phase is characterized by using the top hand and arm to take up all the force and then driving the chest forward on the take-off. The vaulter has to take off with the foot directly below the top hand while leaning up and forward as if imitating the motion of a long jumper (Linthorne, 2000). The technique will be crucial because it will enable the vaulter to initiate take off through a clockwise rotation. In addition, if the appropriate process is adhered to in the course of take-off, the kinetic energy will be generated and transferred to the pole to aid in bending the pole. Apart from that, the kinetic energy will also aid in imparting vertical velocity to the pole.

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Pole Bend Elements

The pole bending phase of pole vaulting is where the vaulter swings back and forth while swinging the legs as the pole bends. The vaulter swings the legs in an upward arc. Forward and upward rotation takes place in a counter clockwise direction. The rotation is of paramount importance in increasing the radius of center of gravity by slowing down an upward rotation. Subsequently, the rotation will increase the moment of inertia so long as the vaulter will maintain a consistent movement of moving forward in a horizontal manner whenever the pole bends. Similarly, the reducing momentum of the vaulter will be effective in exerting force that will be sufficient in bending the pole and thus bringing about the pole bending element in the course of pole vaulting.

Swing Up Elements

This is a very crucial phase in pole vaulting because gravity will decelerate the vaulter`s angular velocity. The vaulter will at first be compelled to swing in a forward direction through the extension of the left leg. However, the phase necessitates for swinging legs in a forward manner so as to reduce the radius that subsists between the center of gravity and the top hand grip. This is because the pull of gravity brings forth an effect of reducing angular velocity of the center of gravity. While the vaulter is pushing his/her limbs forward, a large amount of work will be done by the arm, chest and abdominal muscles. An all-round fitness program should, therefore, be embraced by vaulters looking forward to be fit and conduct pole vaulting at ease.

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Pull and Release

During this phase the vaulter accelerates vertically and then vigorously pulls down the pole. The pull will have an effect of accelerating the vertical movement of the vaulter towards the crossbar. It will be a prerequisite for the vaulter to exert a maximum amount of power against the pole accordingly depending on the momentum that has been gained in other stages of the pole vaulting process (Morecki & International Centre for Mechanical Sciences, 2007). Similarly, the power that has been imparted will accelerate the vaulter in a forward direction and become part of the vertical velocity that has been obtained from the conversion of strain energy into kinetic energy.

The acceleration will be very important in this phase because for a vaulter with a weak pull this deceleration will take place even before the release, which may be dangerous in some circumstances. The vaulter should be above and past the pole in a posture where the stomach faces the crossbar (McGinnis, 2013).

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Clearance Elements

This phase of pole vaulting involves using a ‘piking’ action to clear the hips by dropping the arms and legs so as to lift the hips. The movement takes place as a result of decreased vertical velocity of the vaulter immediately after the pole has been released. In fact, as soon as the pole is released, the vaulter will decelerate because he/she is moving as a free body. The ‘piking’ action as well as the action of arms and legs action helps to create an equal and opposite reaction of the torso (Brukner et al, 2004). As a matter of fact, the kinds of movements that have been depicted in this phase signify Newton’s third law of motion. The center of gravity should not go at any point that is above the bar.

The pole vault has undergone a substantial transformation ever since the use of fibreglass poles began. A better foundation of the anatomy related to skills and analysis of pole vaulting demands a better comprehension of mechanics as well as dynamics of pole vaulting. In fact, pole vaulting is a technique that utilizes all muscles, joints and ligaments within the body.

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Joints and Ligaments

Different types of joints are vital in enabling the bones movement process at different extents. The movements stem from the correlation between joint structures and bones movement. The joints and ligaments involved in the run up and pole carry phase are anterior longitudinal ligaments that are on the anterior surface of vertebral bodies. In the phase of swinging up, pulling and release, the primary joints and ligaments that will be engaged are elbow joints, glenohumeral ligaments and intercarpal ligaments. Intercarpal ligaments are a series of short ligaments that primarily connect dorsal aspects to other carpal bones. The ligaments come in handy because movements pertaining to carpal bones are important when it comes to swinging, pulling or other hand movements.

In taking off and pole bend, joint and ligaments that will be actively engaged especially in the take-off process are medial collateral ligament, patellar tendon, quadriceps tendon, lateral collateral ligament and articular cartilage (Benzl & AANS, 2001).

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Other joints and ligaments whose involvement will be secondary will comprise of the femur, posterior cruciate ligament, meniscus and lateral condyle. However, most of the aforementioned joints and ligaments will also be involved in clearance and landing. Longitudinal arch of the foot, medial meniscus and posterior cruciate ligament will be involved in the clearance and landing phase. In the pole plant phase of motion analysis of pole vaulting, joints and ligaments involved comprise of transverse humeral ligament, transverse metacarpal ligament, patellar ligament and long plantar ligament.

Muscles Acting on Each Joint During Every Phase

The upward swing of the legs in the course of the run up and pole carry phase utilizes the abdominal muscles. This is because the movement involves a motion that shortens the distance between hips and ribs through the subsequent contraction of rectus abdominus. Rectus abdominus happens to be the main muscle that runs across the stomach and the abdominal region at large. In the pole plant as well as take off and pole bend phases, the main muscles that are actively engaged are the hip extensors, knee and ankle whenever the athlete is accelerating towards the pit.

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Similarly, whenever the athlete is lifting his/her body from the background, the hip flexors will contract as the athlete lifts his/her legs into the air. Gluteus maximus, the largest muscle of the hips, will be also actively engaged. The hip flexors that will also be engaged in the pole vaulting phases include the sartorius muscle and hamstrings. In order to extend the ankle and give the athlete the maximum speed that will be necessary for the maintenance of a high momentum, other smaller muscles will be involved in the process and will include the tibialis posterior.

In the swinging up phase, most muscles that are used in the process involve the upper body because without having strength in the forearms, one would not be in a position to get a firm grip on the pole. Consequently, the athlete would not complete the vault. Main upper body muscles that are involved in the swinging up phase of pole vaulting comprise of extensors as well as wrist flexors that are located in the forearms. The muscles are very crucial in this phase because they provide hand strength. In addition, whenever the vaulter is straightening the arms in the quest of aiding the movement of pushing one end of the pole into the air, the muscles utilized in the process are pectoral muscles. The movement that takes place in this phase is similar to vertical pushups.











The similarity stems from the fact that shoulders or deltoids contract in the process of the inversion of the body so that the athlete can be in a position to proceed over the bar. An important point to acknowledge is that an athlete, in this case a vaulter, cannot train for strength per se because he/she will also need endurance, speed and power to aid effective movements in the pole vaulting process. Strengthening muscles will require an athlete to train with heavy weights. As for muscle endurance, an athlete will find it equally important to train with lighter weights even though the movement will involve more repetitions to attain endurance. In pole vaulting, an approach run, plant and take off will collectively lead to the swinging phase of the continuous chain. At the end of the swing up, the torso will have undergone a complete turnaround of seesaw action of one hundred and eighty degrees.

Agonist and Antagonist Relationships

Agonist and antagonist relationships stem from the fact that movements of the body utilize joints which are parts of the roles played by the muscle. A particular role is the collective movement of all skeletal muscles to aid in the production of body moves. An imperative aspect that attempts to explain the muscle movements is through synergy and synergists. Synergy and synergist is a term that refers to joint movement and where two or more parts work in a close liaison to establish a move that would not have been released by only those two parts alone. It’s a joint effort essentially.

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Agonists refer to muscles that are actively engaged in the production of a particular and specific movement. In this respect, it, therefore, follows that synergists are muscles that are vital in conducting some particular movement even though their involvement is indirect. There are also other muscles such as neutralizers, stabilizers and fixators that help the movement by opposing unwanted movement or by helping to stabilize the joints that act as synergists. It is thus crucial to note that the phases entailed in motion analysis of pole vaulting counter-intuitively utilize more than one type of body muscle.

The concentric and eccentric relationship is pertinent to the contraction of muscles that takes place whenever some of an athlete`s movements are in progress. Muscle fibres tend to generate tension whenever they are stimulated and this creates the contraction, which is a physiological process.

Functions of Anatomical Structures

The primary functions of the anatomical structures are important in providing support to the body and enabling movements. Other functions that are of equal importance include mechanical protection from other internal organs, storage of minerals as well as the storage of chemical energy that will come in handy in muscle movement and, more particularly, vaulting (MacIntosh et al., 2000).

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Pole vaulting utilizes a technique that requires the athlete to first attain maximum horizontal velocity even before take-off. Maximum power ought to be applied with a jump from the ground which will necessitate the athlete to apply maximum torque. The biomechanics of motion analysis of pole vaulting include five distinct phases that are equally important in the movements that the athlete will engage in while vaulting. The movements start by run up and pole carrying, yielding enough momentum, and culminate in clearance and landing. However, even the movements of body organs in pole vaulting are aided by movements of major joint and ligaments.

The process would not be possible if muscles were not actively engaged in the body movements. Different types of joints are vital in enabling the bones movement process at different extents. Motion analysis of pole vaulting is at the heart of biomechanical analysis which is an imperative technique in guiding high performance sports.

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