Vitaly Petrov's Vault Model

Doug Fraley

Vitaly Petrov is one of the world's premier authorities on the pole vault. He coached In the pole vault school in Donyetsk, Ukraine, and tutored Sergey Bubka from 1975 to 1989. He now coaches in Formia, Italy.


Part One: (First four to six steps). The vaulter begins with good posture and with the pole lifted high enough so that its weight is not hard to control. These first steps establish the rhythm for the, entire jump.

Part Two: (The next eight to ten steps). The second phase is the true speed acceleration part of the run. The pole begins to drop as the rhythm gets faster. The vaulter should end this phase nearing maximum controlled speed with the pole in the proper position. Therefore, the last phase of the run can be used for takeoff preparation.

Part Three: (the last four to six steps - four ff the run is 16 steps or less, six if the run is 18 steps or more). Phase three is the preparation phase. During this part, the maximum controlled speed is maintained while the rhythm is quickened and the pole drops into planting position. It is important that the vaulter drop the pole to near parallel at approximately the third step before takeoff. The timing of the pole drop directly affects the rhythm and speed the vaulter has at take off.


By the third-to-lost step, the right hand (right handed vaulter) should be moving forward and upward away from the waistline as the tip of the pole drops toward the box. On the penultimate (next-to-last) step, the pole moves upward to where the right hand is slightly above and in front of the vaulter's right temple. This arm positioning, combined with the flat-footed penultimate step, provides optimum position for both early and explosive takeoff. From the penultimate step to the takeoff step, the vaulter's arms and legs work together. The arms thrust upwards with maximum extension as the takeoff foot thrusts downward to the runway.

At the moment the pole tip makes contact with the back of the box, the vaulter should be coming off the left toe with all of the momentum of the run continuing off the ground (i.e. a long jump takeoff). Upon leaving the ground, the vaulters extended arms recoil back as does the left leg while the chest drives forward (i.e. running and jumping onto a high bar).

Swing to Inversion

At this point, the swing becomes very much a gymnastic type skill. With the arms and left leg stretched back from takeoff, the initiation of the swing will begin with the hands moving forward in the widest possible arc. This coincides with the left leg swinging through very hard. Petrov is adamant about keeping both arms extended so that the pole will stay bent until the lower body has a chance to swing around to the pole, thus keeping energy loss from the pole to a minimum. If the pole is unbending before the vaulter has swung around to the pole, he has probably let the pressure off with his arms.
A vaulter must understand that the run and takeoff have more effect on the success of the swing than any other factor. In other words, if a vaulter does not leave the ground with a solid takeoff, his chance of a proper swing or rock-back is very much diminished.

Extension and Turn

Assuming the vaulter has performed the first three phases of the vault correctly, the hardest parts are over and it is mostly a matter of lining up with the pole and taking a ride skyward. After the vaulter has swung around the pole, he extends by exploding from the hips and dropping his shoulders directly under his center of gravity (i.e. a gymnast casting to a handstand on a high bar) as the top of the bent pole begins to straighten. This explosion of the hips will add to the upward thrust that the pole offers. The turn then begins as the vaulters body is rigid in line with the pole. The right hips should not fall away from the pole too early during the turn so the vaulter can keep an upward, not outward, path over the crossbar.