Energy and pole ground reaction force contributions to pole vault performance

Trenton Kenneth Warburton

    Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

    1686 Downloads (Pure)


    Effective performance in the pole vault event is heavily reliant on the efficient transfer of energy throughout the vaulting phase. The overall principle of this energy transfer is not complex with the approach used to generate the initial kinetic energy. This is transferred into elastic potential energy (EPE), stored in the pole. This EPE is converted into gravitational potential energy (GPE) of the vaulter as the pole bends and then recoils. Research into the pole vault has generally separated the pole and the vaulter with more recent studies beginning to investigate vaulter energy. Pole ground reaction forces (GRF) have had limited examination despite their potential to be incorporated as an influential analysis tool. There is a lack of published data characterising poles, how they bend and their specific storage capabilities. The energy calculations have previously used representative body parameters that are not specific to the population being investigated. Coupled with this then is a limited understanding of the effect on the final energy calculations. The present thesis addresses these limitations with an overall aim of determining performance in pole vaulting. The investigations are presented as chapters. Three studies are included which examine the vaults of eight elite level male and female pole vaulters and the individual poles used. A further chapter is included that utilised a case study approach to investigate two different vaults, with substantially different performance outcomes, from one of the elite female vaulters.

    Study one investigated the specific poles for characterisation beyond their manufacturer ratings using dynamic and quasi-static bending methods. The development of a custom designed pole bending system was the initial part of this study. A bilinear fitting method was employed providing four variables to distinguish between poles. A more advanced empirical function was developed to calculate the curve based partially on previous literature. The results indicated that poles behave differently between bending regimes with greater energy stored and lost for slow dynamic bending compared with quasi-static. This investigation showed that it is possible to model the pole’s response and then provide integration up to any point for calculation of energy that could be incorporated in the following studies for determining performance.

    Study two indicated that incorporating different body segment parameters can have significant impact on final energy calculations when conducting experiments on specific populations. Results indicate that wherever possible individual specific body segment parameters should be incorporated to provide greater relevance to the target population. Furthermore, males presented higher energy results at specific time points throughout the vault when using subject specific body segment data. Comparisons of waveform data provided little significant differences between males and females, only GPE displayed any difference. The total vaulter energy at maximum pole bend and the overall total vaulter energy were found to affect the performance of a vault.

    Study three demonstrated that pole GRF can be developed as an effective tool for pole vault biomechanical analysis. However, for effective technique prescription in applied settings it may be beneficial to provide individual specific analyses as grouping of participants for complicated elite sporting events may mask potential findings. No significant differences were found between males and females for mass normalised force. Variables that were expected to correlate with peak height did not eventuate. The similarities in the force profiles between genders and differing performance outcomes suggest that eventual performance may not be distinguishable from the pole GRF profiles alone as there are other factors in the vaulting manouvre that are likely accounting for any changes to the outcome of the vault.

    This thesis demonstrates the importance of providing a complete analysis the pole vault event and minimising assumptions made to both the pole and the vaulter when determining performance. A more detailed method of characterising and modelling a pole’s bend was presented and incorporated into vault analysis. Additionally, body specific energy calculations were found to impact the final energy through the vault. Furthermore, although GRF data can provide an additional tool for biomechanical feedback it does not provide the ability to distinguish performance. Ultimately these finding add to the limited information that exists regarding performance in pole vaulting.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    • Lyttle, Andrew, Supervisor
    • Alderson, Jacqueline, Supervisor
    • James, Ralph, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2015


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