Frank Horwill



  • These articles were first published many year's ago and whilst some are as relevant today as they were when new, many are now mostly of historical interest as modern research and coaching methods have superseded them.

Getting it Right: the Triple Jump

By Frank Horwill

Expert triple-jumpers take great exception to the event being called the hop, step and jump. For a start, they say, there is no "step", it is a leap.

There are three ways of building up correct technique:

  1. Even rhythm. If you listen to the foot impact of a first-class exponent, you will hear dah-dah-dah. From the novice, you will get a different messagedah-dit-dah. A short sharp beat in the middle phase denotes that the hop has been too long and high, causing the second phase to be a desperate attempt at recovery in order to launch a final jump into the pit. The beginner should, use a short approach of about seven strides and without maximum effort, get the rhythm right. Forget Jonathan Edwards’s technique! When the technique is right, increase the speed.
  2. Increase in height. This revolves around keeping the hop low and building up the height in the middle end last phase. This will permit greater speed and prevent the buckling effect after a high hop. At this point it is pertinent to mention leg strength. Both legs should be of equal strength. A simple way to test this is to mark out 25 long walking strides, then hop the distance on each leg, aim high and long. If, say, the left leg covers the distance in 11 hops, and the right leg takes 13 hops, the latter is weaker and must be strengthened. Most jumpers will use the stronger leg to launch the first two phases and be faced with the task of leaping even higher off the weaker leg.
  3. Ratio of distance. This is universally used by most specialists. The jumper decides on a suitable ratio between the three phases and puts marks at the side of the runway as a guide in training sessions. A suitable ratio for the novice would be 10:7:10 - ie 10ft for the hop, 7ft for the leap and 10ft for the jump, giving a 27ft. jump in total.

We often hear the expression "It’s how you approach ... that matters." Well, the expression aptly applies to the triple jump run-up. There are some gifted athletes who can walk back 25 metres turn around and sprint down and adjust the take-off foot to land not more than a foot behind the tell-tale sand-line. Others who emulate this approach will either take off two feet behind or two feet in front. The first fails to maximise distance, the second is useless.

The approach run should be sufficiently long enough to be running at full speed when one hits the board. If the run up is too short it means that maximum speed is reached as one arrives at the board, this makes concentration on the jump difficult. A tall athlete takes longer to reach maximum speed and will require a longer approach. The reverse is the case with a smaller compact athlete. In order to find out your personal most efficient approach, proceed as follows:

  1. Measure out the estimated distance to reach full speed (30 metres plus). Place a marker.
  2. Stand on the take-off board and reversing the run-up, starting with the take-off foot, run straight through to the end of the run-up. While doing this, get a partner standing on the mark to watch where, adjacent to this mark, your foot lands. If it lands on the mark, this can be taken as the starting mark; if, however, it lands either before or after the mark a new mark must be made at this point and used as the start.
  3. From the agreed mark, start with the take-off foot and run straight through the board. If your stride has been consistent you will hit the board, if it falls short you must bring the starting mark forward the corresponding amount and if in front of the board you must take it back. The importance of practising this until you can hit the board regularly cannot be over-emphasised. One or two check marks can now be inserted if you wish. One is usually enough and this should ideally be not less than eight strides from the board. It is advantageous to hit this check-mark also with the take-Off foot, so that the same foot is used to start the approach, to hit the mark and to take-off with from the board.

It is generally necessary to shorten the last stride before take-off to produce the correct leg action.

Major faults

Inconsistency of stride length in the approach. Too high and long a hop in the beginning. Insufficient knee lift and distance in the leap (step). Loss of speed and poor leg shoot on landing.