How to Improve in the High Jump

Louise Miller

High jumpers are required to have strong, explosive jumping skills while synchronizing speed, timing and body control. To improve at the high jump, first perform a series of plyometric exercises to help improve your explosiveness. Next, focus on tightening up your approach, takeoff and bar-clearing techniques. Don’t forget to include flexibility exercises in your training. Having a good arch in your back helps you clear the bar.

Plyometric Exercises

Perform squat jumps. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your hips and knees and lower your body. Stop when your thighs are parallel to the ground. Immediately explode vertically and thrust your arms up over your head. Upon landing, bend your knees and immediately explode again.

Include tuck jumps in your training. Start as if you were going to do squat jumps, except lower half the distance into a quarter squat. Immediately explode upward, bring your knees up to your chest and try to grab your knees. Land on the balls of your feet and immediately explode again.

Try box jumping. Position six boxes in a row, 20 to 24 inches apart. Stand at the end of the row, jump onto the first box and, without pausing, jump down in front of the second box. Immediately jump onto the next box and then jump down in front of the next box. Continue to the end, turn around and jump back to the start. Repeat three times.

Approach and Takeoff Tips

Practice a J-curve approach. Track and field coach Jim Giroux recommends taking a simple approach with five steps on the straight part of the J. Start to accelerate by the third step. Continue to accelerate through the turn and take five steps leading up to the takeoff.

Lean from your ankles and away from the bar on the curve and concentrate on taking one step in front of the other. The next-to-the-last step should be slightly longer to prepare for the takeoff. Make the takeoff step shorter and quicker.

Take off an arm's length away from the bar. Avoid leaning into the bar when you plant your takeoff foot. Bring the knee of the lead leg up quickly and swing your arms forward and upward. Jump straight up, not toward the bar. Look over your shoulder toward the far corner of the pit to get your back to turn toward the bar.

Clearing-the-Bar Drills

Practice standing jumps with the bar lowered. Place a sturdy 20-inch box 2 feet in front of the bar. Stand on the box with your back to the pit. Jump up and over the bar and land on your shoulders. Concentrate on arching your back. Repeat several times. With each attempt, try to get more clearance.

Remove the box and repeat the standing jumps. You may have to lower the bar slightly at the start. While concentrating on good form and technique, repeat several times, each time striving for more clearance.

Practice a jogging approach once you are consistently clearing the bar from a standing position. Get 6 to 8 feet away from the bar. Jog toward the center of the pit and, as you near the bar, turn 180 degrees, land on both feet and then jump over the bar. Land on your shoulders and repeat.

Improve your Flexibility

Include bridge-up exercises to improve the flexibility in your back. Start by lying on a mat with your legs extended. Position your hands next to your head, palms flat and fingertips pointing toward your feet. Push with your hands to elevate your hips. This will look like an upside-down plank. Try to look behind you.

Perform arched bridges in the pit. Get into the starting bridge-up position, except bend your legs and put your feet flat on the pit mats. Push yourself up so your back is in a deep arch.

Try feet touches after you get used to the arched bridge. Once you are in the full arched bridge position, push off the pit mats quickly and try to touch your heels with your hands before you land on the mats.


Except for the box jumping, perform two sets of 12 reps with each plyometric exercise.