Is ‘back arch’ important in the high jump?

Posted by Boo Schexnayder

Normally we equate a large degree of back arch as a beneficial element of ‘over the bar’ mechanics in the high jump.

And by ‘we’ I mean ‘I’ because that is what I thought.

But as I was watching Boo Schexnayder’s High Jump Technique and Teaching DVD, he said something quite different.

When I posted this comment on the Complete Track & Field Facebook page, some disagreed with Boo’s opinion.

Uh oh!

Take a look. Think it through. And, as always, post your thoughts.

“A common misconception in the high jump is that obtaining a large degree of back arch is desirable. In fact, excessive arching is normally indicative of poor alignment at takeoff and is usually caused by the lead leg dropping after takeoff at a long position over the bar. Both of which are bad habits.” – Boo Schexnayder

Here is an opposing viewpoint on Boo’s statement:

“I would argue that the ‘back arch‘ comes from the position of your lead arm and proper timing of putting your head back. While I agree that dropping the lead leg to will prolong or drag the time over the bar it really doesn’t come cause arch. Over arching (and I don’t know that I agree that there is such a thing) would come from throwing the head back, and not learning when to tuck the chin. I would also argue that the take off doesn’t cause over arching. It can certainly cause premature arching and plowing though the bar. But I will tell you what, It is far less of a problem to have someone who can arch over someone who doesn’t. If you are going to talk about proper alignment and planting I would stress proper turn or angle of the plant foot, and proper placement of the hips which have a major influence over a jumpers ability to complete a proper jump.” – Chris D. (I withheld his full name so people don’t put him on blast.)

After reading Chris’s dissent, I thought to myself,

“You know who would be a good person to ask about this? Boo Schexnayder.”

And here is what Boo said:

“I don’t feel much disagreement with these sentiments. Extension of the lead leg in flight does produce the dragging effect you mention, and usually jumpers compensate by increasing the degree of back arch. Also, the alignment factors you mention at takeoff have a greater effect on the appearance of the flight pattern than the movements in flight do. Overarching can and does occur, usually in situations where the jumper is too close to the bar and as an incorrect alternative to accelerating flight rotations. Many bars have been clipped off with the heels as a result of that error, and the huge number of world class competitors who do not arch at the very least points to other views.”

What do you think?


Here is a preview of Boo’s High Jump Technique and Teaching DVD. It’s not specifically about back arch, but shows the first couple minutes of the video, an overview of what, ultimately, will be addressed in the 66 minute DVD and, therefore, must be addressed by the coach.


To your success,

Latif Thomas

Twitter: @latif_thomas

Boo Schexnayder - Irving “Boo” Schexnayder is regarded internationally as one of the leading authorities in training design, bringing 39 years of experience in the coaching and consulting fields. Regarded as one of the world’s premier field event coaches, he was the mastermind behind 19 NCAA Champions during his collegiate coaching career. Schexnayder has also been a prominent figure on the international scene, having coached 11 Olympians, and has served on coaching staffs for Team USA to the 2003 Pan Am Games in Santo Domingo, the 2006 World Junior Championships in Beijing, and was the Jumps Coach for Team USA at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Prior to his collegiate and international career, Schexnayder was a successful mathematics teacher and prep coach at St. James High School for 11 years, coaching football, track and field, and cross country. The Vacherie, La., native was class valedictorian at St. James High in 1979, and earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Nicholls State University. He graduated cum laude with a B.S. in physical education in 1983 and later added a master’s degree in administration and supervision in 1988, again earning cum laude honors.

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