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High Jump



The jump style called the "Fosbury Flop" dramatically revolutionized the high jump. Dick Fosbury's movement technique involves racing toward the bar in a curved approach, lifting off with the left foot, pivoting the right leg backwards and sailing over the bar backwards, stretching the back and flipping the legs upward. In 1968, Fosbury set a personal and Olympic record of seven feet and four inches - a full two and a half inches higher than the 964 Olympic record. By 1980, 13 of the 16 Olympic high jump finalists used the Fosbury Flop. All three phases of the high jump require allowing for and using different physical forces. The approach involves accelerating the body along a curved path that leads up to the bar. At that point, the jumper is actually leaning away from the bar, allowing for the centrifugal force that will pull him or her into a vertical position for the jump. The lift-off requires the jumper to overcome gravity by launching directly upwards while pushing against the ground. The greater the force applied to the ground, the greater the force that returns to the jumper. Bar clearance requires careful management of the human center of gravity. The center of gravity is that point where an object balances perfectly. The force of gravity pulls down vertically and is concentrated at each object's center of gravity. For an object to remain balanced, the center of gravity must be on a vertical line with the point of suspension, above or below it. The ideal high jump position involves draping the body over the height of the crossbar at the peak of the jump.


You can jump higher, too. Experiment with different positions, styles and techniques to find ways to jump higher. Materials:
  • 2-3 feet of butcher paper
  • Colored chalk
  • Tape
1. Tape the paper up on the wall so it is about two feet above the jumper's head. 2. Take turns standing with the right shoulder perpendicular to the sheets of paper. Hold a piece of chalk in your hand. 3. Jump from a standing position and mark the paper with the chalk at the high point of your jump. 4. Experiment with different jumping styles to see if you can jump higher. Suggestions:
  • Start your jump from a squat position, with your arms above your head.
  • Start your jump from a squat position, using your arms to pump.
  • Start your jump from a standing position, then squat, then jump.
  • Take a running start then jump.
  • Try your own style, using combinations of the above suggestions, or using your own jumping techniques.
5. Record the success of the different styles you tried.


  • Chase, Sara B. Moving to Win: The Physics of Sports. New York: Julian Messner, 1977.
  • Ecker, Thomas. Basic Track and Field Biomechanics. Mt. View, California: Tasnews Press, 1985.
  • Laws, Kenneth. The Physics of Dance. New York: Schirmer Books, 1984.