There’s a lot of confusion surrounding the topic of what happens immediately off the ground in the pole vault.
David Butler describes the post-takeoff cues as the “3 Verticals,” or “3 Connections.”
If you haven’t heard this terminology before, this might sound obscure or abstract. But bear in mind that the vaulter’s first priority is to rotate the pole toward the back of the pit as quickly as possible, and these points are all about the relationship between the pole’s movement and the vaulter’s actions in the air. Feeling “connected” to the pole describes the desired awareness while pushing the pole, being elastic on the pole, and going hollow.
If a vaulter can execute the 3 Verticals and understand what it means to feel connected to the pole, they will consistently rotate poles to the back of the pit and learn to swing in time with the motion of the pole.
The 3 Verticals
At the instant the vaulter takes off, he/she is pushing the pole with the whole body. It is a solid body position, with the vaulter actively pressing up on the pole to drive the pole toward vertical, and there is a vertical line from the back of the vaulter’s top hand to the tip of the vaulter’s toe. The force of pushing the pole upward in this extended position should make the vaulter feel “connected” to the pole, as if body is part of the pole, with no slack in the system.
As the vaulter’s weight transitions to the pole, the vaulter will go elastic, allowing the bottom hand to move over the head, creating a vertical line with the bottom hand, the head, and the hips aligned vertically. This instant also maximizes the elastic stretch on the shoulders, and the vaulter will again feel “connected” to the pole as the tension from the top hand prepares to accelerate the swing.
Then, the vaulter “realigns,” driving the hands back up into a hollow body position. The bottom hand presses vertically up toward the bar – and does not row down – and the vaulter is again “connected” to the pole as he/she changes back to a hollow shape to accelerate the swing. Again, do not row! All of the upper body action is overhead. The hips go to the hands, and not the other way around.
Also check out David Butler’s article on the topic that can be found in the Pole Vault University.