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Long jump

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Long jumper at the GE Money Grand Prix in Helsinki, July 2005.
Long jumper at the GE Money Grand Prix in Helsinki, July 2005.

The long jump (formerly called "broad jump") is an athletics (track and field) event in which athletes combine speed, strength, and agility in an attempt to land as far from the take-off point as possible.

Competitors sprint down a runway (usually coated with the same rubberized surface as running tracks, crumb rubber or vulcanized rubber) and jump as far as they can off of a wooden board into a pit filled with finely ground gravel or sand. The distance traveled by a jumper is often referred to as the “mark,” because it is the distance to which the first mark is made in the sand. More specifically, a mark is the minimum distance from the edge of the takeoff board, nearest the landing pit, to the first indentation made by the competitor. If the competitor starts the leap with any part of the foot in front of the board, the jump is declared illegal and no distance is recorded. At the elite level, a layer of plasticine is placed immediately in front of the board to detect this occurrence. Otherwise, an official (similar to a referee) will observe the jump and make the determination. The competitor can initiate the jump from any point behind the foul line; however, the distance measured will always be from that line. Therefore, it is in the best interest of the competitor to get as close to the foul line as possible.

The exact format of the competition varies, but generally each competitor will get a set number of attempts to make his or her longest jump, and only the longest legal jump counts towards the results. Generally, competitors will be given three trial jumps with which to make their best effort. Higher level competitions are split into two rounds: trials and finals. In competitions containing a final round, only a select number of competitors are invited to return for further competition. The number of competitors chosen to return to the final round is determined prior to the start of the meet by a committee comprised generally of coaches and officials. It is standard practice to allow one more competitor than the number of scoring positions to return to the final round. For example, if a given meet allows the top eight competitors to score points, then the top nine competitors will be selected to compete in the final round. Taking an extra competitor to the final round helps to allow that athlete to move into a scoring position if the competitor can improve on his or her best mark of the competition. Final rounds are viewed as an additional three jumps, as they do not have any priority to those scored in the trial round. The competitor with the longest legal jump (from either the trial or final rounds) at the end of competition is declared the winner. (For specific rules and regulations in U.S. Track & Field see Rule 185 in Article III of the USATF 2006 Competition Rules [1]).

There are four main components of the long jump: the approach run, the last two strides, takeoff, and action in the air and landing. Speed in the run-up, or approach, and a high leap off the board are the fundamentals of success. Because speed is such an important factor of the approach, it is unsurprising that many sprinters, notably including Carl Lewis, also compete successfully in the long jump.

The long jump is also notable for two of the longest-standing world records in any track and field event. In 1935, Jesse Owens set a long jump world record that was not broken until 1960 by Ralph Boston. Later, Bob Beamon jumped 8.90 meters (29 feet, 2-1/2 inches) at the 1968 Summer Olympics, a jump not exceeded until 1991. On August 30 of that year, Mike Powell of the USA leapt 8.95 meters at the World Championships in Tokyo. Some jumps over 8.95 meters have been officially recorded (8.99 meters by Mike Powell himself, 8.96 meters by Ivan Pedroso), but were not validated since there was either no reliable wind speed measurement available, or because wind speed exceeded 2.0 m/s. The current world record for women is held by Galina Chistyakova of the former Soviet Union who leapt 7.52 meters in Leningrad in 1988.


The long jump was one of the events of the original Olympics in Ancient Greece. The athletes carried a weight in each hand, which were called halteres. These weights would be swung forward as the athlete jumped, in order to increase momentum, and then thrown backwards whilst in mid-air, so as to help the jumper propel himself further forward. Most notable in the ancient sport was a man called Chionis, who in the 656BC Olympics staged a jump which was equal to 7 meters and 5 centimeters (23 feet and 1.5 inches) [2].

The long jump has been part of modern Olympic competition since the inception of the Games in 1896. In 1914, Dr. Harry Eaton Stewart recommended the “running broad jump” as a standardized track and field event for women [3]. However, it was not until 1928 that women were allowed to compete in the event at the Olympic level (See Athletics - track and field).

The approach

Long jump takeoff board, Courtesy of
Long jump takeoff board, Courtesy of

The objective of the approach is to gradually accelerate to a maximum controlled speed at takeoff. Observing the laws of Physics, the two most important factors for the distance traveled by an object are the angle and velocity at takeoff. Elite jumpers usually leave the ground at an angle of twenty degrees or less; therefore, it is more beneficial for a jumper to focus on the velocity component of the jump. The greater the velocity, or speed, at takeoff, the higher and longer the trajectory of the center of mass will be. The importance of a higher velocity at takeoff is a major factor in the success rate for many sprinters in this event.

The length of the approach is generally a precise distance for each athlete. Approaches can vary between 12 and 19 strides on the novice and intermediate levels, while at the elite level they are closer to between 20 and 22 strides. The exact distance and number of strides in an approach will depend on the individual jumper’s experience, sprinting technique, and conditioning level. Consistency in the approach is important as it is the competitor’s objective to get as close to the front of the takeoff board as possible without crossing the line with any part of the foot.

Inconsistent approaches are a common problem in the event. As a result they are generally practiced often by athletes, approximately 6-8 times per jumping session (see Training below).

The last two strides

The objective of the last two strides is to effectively prepare the body for takeoff while conserving as much speed as possible.

In this phase, the next to last stride from takeoff is known as the penultimate stride. This is the longer of the last two strides, where the competitor begins to lower his or her center of gravity to prepare the body for the vertical impulse. Directly following the penultimate stride is the final stride, which is markedly shorter because the body is beginning to raise the center of gravity in preparation for takeoff.

The last two strides are an extremely important phase of the jump, as they ultimately determine the velocity with which the competitor will be entering into the jump.


The objective of the takeoff is to create a vertical impulse through the athlete’s center of gravity while maintaining balance and control.

This phase is one of the most technical parts of the long jump. Jumpers must be conscious to place the foot flat on the ground, because jumping off either the heels or the toes will have negative effects on the jump. Taking off from the board heel-first will cause a breaking effect, which will decrease velocity and put strain on the joints. Jumping off the toes will decrease stabilization, putting the leg at risk of buckling or collapsing from underneath the jumper. While concentrating on foot placement, the athlete must also work to maintain proper body position, keeping the torso upright and moving the hips forward and up to achieve the maximum distance from board contact to foot release.

There are four main styles of takeoff: the kick style, double-arm style, sprint takeoff, and the power sprint or bounding takeoff.


The kick style takeoff is a style of takeoff where the athlete actively cycles the leg before a full impulse has been directed into the board.


The double-arm style of takeoff works by moving both arms in a vertical direction as the competitor takes off. This produces a high hip height and a large vertical impulse.


The sprint takeoff is the style most widely instructed by coaching staff. This is a classic single-arm action that resembles a jumper in full stride. It is an efficient takeoff style for maintaining velocity through takeoff.

Power sprint or bounding

The power sprint takeoff, or bounding takeoff, is arguably one of the most effective styles. Very similar to the sprint style, the body resembles a sprinter in full stride. However, there is one major difference. The arm that pushes back on takeoff (the arm on the side of the takeoff leg) fully extends backward, rather than remaining at a bent position. This additional extension increases the impulse at takeoff.

The “correct” style of takeoff will vary from athlete to athlete.

Action in the air and landing

The objective of this phase is to counteract the natural forward rotation of the body from takeoff while maintaining an effective landing position.

Once a competitor leaves contact with the ground there is nothing that can be done to alter the flight path of his or her center of gravity. What ‘’will’’ affect the distance of the jump is the body position at landing. If a competitor was to leave the ground without taking any action to prevent forward rotation in the air, the body would naturally move into a facedown position as the velocity of the lower half of the body at takeoff is greater than the upper half of the body due to the contact with the ground. The three predominant in-the-air techniques used in the long jump in order of increasing difficulty of execution are the sail, hang, and hitch-kick.


The sail technique  .
The sail technique [4] .

The sail technique is one of the most basic long jump techniques practiced by competitors. After the takeoff phase is complete, the jumper immediately lifts the legs into a toe-touching position. This is useful for the novice jumper, as it allows the competitor to move into the landing position early. The downside of this technique is that it does not counter the body’s natural tendency to rotate too far forward.


The hang technique .
The hang technique [4].

The hang technique works by lengthening the body to make it as efficiently long as possible. Here both the arms and legs are extended to reach a maximum distance from the hips. This position is held until after the jumper reaches the apex of the jump, at which point the athlete will snap the legs forward into a landing position. This technique helps to diminish the tendency to tumble forward or lose the extension of the body. Generally the competitor is encouraged to flex the knees at a 90 degree angle, which enables the feet to swing with the fastest possible angular momentum when snapping into the landing position.


The hitch-kick technique .
The hitch-kick technique [4].

The hitch-kick is also known as “cycling” or “running in the air”. As the name might suggest, this technique relies on a cycling action of the arms and legs through the air to maintain an upright body position. This technique takes longer to execute and is therefore generally reserved for more experienced jumpers.

In-the-air techniques are generally selected by the athlete and coach during training based on an individual athlete’s skills and experience.

When landing, it is the primary objective of the competitor to not fall back in the landing pit. The jump is measured from the location in which the body contacts the sand closest to the takeoff point. For this reason many jumpers will work on keeping their feet in front of the body at a maximum distance from the hips. Upon landing, competitors will often use their arms in a sweeping motion to help keep the legs up and the body forward. Generally a jumper will bend the knees upon contacting the ground to cushion the impact on the body.


The long jump generally requires training in a variety of areas. These areas include, but are not limited to, those listed below.


Long Jumpers tend to practice jumping 2-3 times a week. Approaches, or run-throughs, are repeated sometimes up to 6-8 times per session.

Over-distance running

Over-distance running workouts allow an athlete to work at distances greater than those at which he or she must compete. For example, having a 100m runner practice by running 200m repeats on a track. This is especially concentrated on early in the season when athletes are working on building endurance. Typically over-distance running workouts are performed 1-2 times a week. This is beneficial for building sprint endurance, which is needed in competitions where the athlete is sprinting down the runway 3-6 times.

Weight training

During pre-season training and early in the competition season weight training tends to play a major role. It is customary for a long jumper to weight train up to 4 times a week, focusing on higher repetitions with less weight. Weight training in this fashion will help the athlete to build a solid base of strength without creating too much bulk muscle.


Plyometrics, including running up and down stairs and hurdle bounding, can be incorporated into workouts, generally roughly twice a week. This allows an athlete to work on agility and explosiveness.


Bounding is any kind of continuous and repetitive jumping or leaping. Bounding drills usually entail single leg bounding, double-leg bounding, or some variation of the two. It may also include box drills or depth jumps. The focus of bounding drills is usually to spend as little time on the ground as possible; working on technical accuracy, fluidity, and jumping endurance and strength.


Flexibility is an all-too-often forgotten tool for long jumpers. Effective flexibility works to prevent injury, which can be important for high impact events such as the long jump.

A common tool in many long jump workouts is the use of video taping. This allows the athlete to go back and review their own progress as well as enabling the athlete to compare their own footage to that of world-class athletes.

Training style, duration, and intensity will vary immensely from athlete to athlete based on both the experience and strength of the athlete as well as on coaching style.

Top 10 performers

Accurate as of September 10th, 2006.


*(meters), **(meters/second)


*(meters), **(meters/second)


  1. USATF – 2006 Competition Rules (HTML). USA Track & Field. Retrieved on 2006-10-29, 2006. Retrieved on October 29, 2006.
  2. Ancient Origins (HTML). The Times/The Sunday Times. Retrieved on 2006-10-29, 2006. Retrieved on October 29, 2006.
  3. Tricard, Louise Mead (1996-07-01). American Women’s Track & Field: A History, 1895 Through 1980. McFarland & Company, 60-61. ISBN 0-7864-0219-9. Retrieved on 2006-10-29.
  4. Jacoby, Ed; Bob Fraley (1995). Complete Book of Jumps. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 3-66. ISBN 0-87322-673-9.

External links

  • Track & Field all-time Performances Homepage
  • USA Track & Field

See also

  • Guthrie, Mark (2003). Coach Track & Field Successfully. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 149-155. ISBN 0-7360-4274-1.
  • Rogers, Joseph L. (2000). USA Track & Field Coaching Manual. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 141-157. ISBN 0-88011-604-8.
  • Ernie Gregoire, Larry Myricks. (1991). World Class Track & Field Series: Long Jump [VHS]. Ames, IA: Championship Books & Video Productions.
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