To Jump Far, Run Fast: Kinetics and Kinematics (Part 1)


To Jump Far, Run Fast

To jump far, it is important to consider the kinematics and kinetics of the event. There are many ways to jump far, but the best jumpers display similar forces, angles, positions, and velocities. Jumping far is heavily dependent on the takeoff velocity and vertical forces applied at takeoff (Beres, Csende, Lees, & Tihanyi, 2014). These two factors are strongly correlated with far jump distances(Lees, Graham-Smith, & Fowler, 1994).

Takeoff velocity is largely dependent on the athlete’s ability to accelerate to a maximum velocity during the run up of the long jump(Graham-Smith & Lees, 2005). If the athlete is unable to achieve a sprinting velocity of 10 m/s, it is unlikely that they will be able to jump over 8 meters in the long jump (Linthorne, 2008). From a purely mechanical point of view, if flight time were to stay the same and takeoff velocities increased from one trial to the next, the farthest jump would occur in the trial with the higher takeoff velocity. This principle underpins the importance of sprint speed in the long jump, and the importance of the kinetics and kinematics of high speed running.

During the initial steps of the run up, the athlete is applying very large horizontal forces (Morin et al., 2015). These initial steps function to put the athlete in the appropriate position to continue to accelerate later in the run up. Ideally, the athlete projects out with an appropriate degree of body lean. This body lean functions to assist in balance and applying large horizontal forces (Kugler & Janshen, 2010; Morin et al., 2015). This angle will progressively increase as the athlete reaches higher velocities. The reason this occurs is to allow the athletes to balance themselves as they achieve higher velocities, and to allow them to apply large vertical forces over increasingly shorter periods of time (K. P. Clark & Weyand, 2015; Weyand, Sternlight, Bellizzi, & Wright, 2000a). It is important to recognize that several shifts in kinetics and kinematics occur as an athlete accelerates to maximal velocity. The first factor to consider is stride length. This is the distance from one ground contact to the next, and it should increase in distance as the athlete achieves higher and higher velocities. Additionally, ground contact time should decrease as the athlete accelerates (Weyand et al., 2000a). Initially, ground contact time will be relatively long to optimize the force-velocity relationship, but decrease as the athlete achieves maximal velocity (Kenneth P. Clark & Weyand, 2014). If the athlete is on the ground too long, they are likely increasing breaking forces or increasing the amount of time required for the recovery leg to be repositioned in front of the body during flight (Weyand et al., 2000a). This would decrease stride frequency, or the number of strides occurring in one second. During upright sprinting, the limiting factor in running fast appears to be vertical force production (Weyand et al., 2000a).

This isn’t to say that horizontal forces aren’t important, but the difference between elite and sub elite sprinters appears to be the amount of vertical force they apply, and the time it takes to produce this force (Morin et al., 2015). Better sprinters are characterized by a longer acceleration. This acceleration can only be accomplished through the ability to apply horizontal forces that allow them to accelerate in spite of two variables: their more upright body position and the ground contact location relative to their center of mass that is less mechanically advantageous to applying horizontal force, and the insanely short ground contact times occurring at higher sprinting velocities (Brughelli, Cronin, & Chaouachi, 2011; Kenneth P. Clark & Weyand, 2014; Kugler & Janshen, 2010). The fastest long jumpers are able to overcome these two obstacles deeper into the run up (Young, 2015).

In summary, to run fast the athlete should see a progressive rise in body lean every step, a decrease in ground contact time, an increase in flight time, a shift from horizontal pushes to vertical pushes, an increase in stride length, and an increase in stride frequency (Weyand, Sternlight, Bellizzi, & Wright, 2000b). These factors are incredibly important in long jump, as there is strong correlation with takeoff velocity and long jump performance (Lees et al., 1994).


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John Evans

John Evans

John has a BS in Exercise Science from Slippery Rock University, and is currently pursuing his MS in Sport Science from Northern Michigan University. He is an assistant combined events/jumps coach for NMU women's track and field team, and USATF/USAW level 1 certified. Previously, John interned at Athletic Lab for two summers under owner/director, Mike Young.
John Evans


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