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High Jumping

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



One of the prettiest of our athletic pastimes has of late years been much neglected by sports-promoters. Popular opinion has always held the view that the high jumper is a freak of nature possessed of wonderful "spring," the seat of which is usually supposed to be in the instep and toes. No view could be more erroneous. High jumping may be, in special cases, a gift, but is almost invariably the result of long and constant practice; nor is the jump accomplished by a spring from the toes. It is in reality done from the knees, off the flat of the foot and, in many cases, the heel. This latter is easily verified by examining the "take-off" on a soft day, when the heel-mark is always very prominent. The methods of jumping are various, but two main types predominate-viz., the straight jump, and the side-way or scissors jump. The pure straight jump-i.e., lifting the knees directly up to the chin and so crossing the bar-is rare, and is more usually combined with the "shoot," or twist. The principle in all methods is the same. The first effort of the would-be aspirant to fame is to get his feet over the bar, and with this end in view, always to practise at a higher bar than he thinks he can clear.

Never allow him to raise the lath himself, as by so doing he is aware of the height he is essaying, and knows exactly when he has reached his usual limit. By employing an assistant to raise the lath, he is unaware as to the exact height and often clears more than he expects. Having learnt to raise his feet, he must now endeavour to raise his body in the air by a muscular contraction and also by using the limb, or limbs, which are over the bar as a lever : at the same time by means of a twist or shoot, and a sudden lifting of the arms over the head, he must so alter his position in the air that his feet, which have previously been as high as, and in many cases higher than, his head, now point directly downwards, and by this means he will lift his body and buttocks clear of the bar. It will thus be seen that, instead of a single spring, several separate actions constitute the true jump. In fact, his endeavour should be to climb over the cross-bar in sections, first the feet, then buttocks, and lastly the upper part of the body.

The Take-off-It is essential to find a level spot from which to take off at a given distance from the bar. Practice alone will determine the correct spot for each individual performer. This spot should be fixed, and always adhered to. A simple method in practice is to stick a hair-pin through a piece of paper, which thus catches the eye.

The Run-down-The length of the run varies with each individual, but should be short for the low jumps, and gradually lengthened for greater heights, and should be as long as it can be made without tiring the muscles, as the momentum hereby gained allows more time for executing alterations in position while in the air. The last three steps should be somewhat longer than the others, and of the nature of slight jumps and should, like the take-off, be fixed.

Training-As to training for jumping, all the muscles of the body must be in good condition.

Sprinting is excellent : gymnasium work is also good. All toe-exercises are useful, especially skipping ; in short, all exercises tending to strengthen the muscles round the knee-joint. One should never jump more than three days a week, and never within four days of a competition, as the muscles are apt to lose elasticity. Stiffness must be vigorously guarded against. High kicking is very useful during the off-season.

One's shoes should be light, strong, and tight-fitting, and should in addition to the ordinary toe-spikes, contain three heel-spikes arranged in triangular form, with the apex of the triangle posteriorly. If possible, a pit should always be used to jump into, as by this means the jar which always follows on landing is greatly diminished.

But infinitely more important than all of these are the qualities of self-confidence and pluck, without which no one need hope to become a successful exponent of jumping.

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