You can break down the phases of the high jump into factors that will contribute towards 80% of your performance and other factors that will contribute towards 20% of your performance. In my own opinion, the knee drive can make a substantial difference to your performance, but I think it falls into the 20%.
The reason I say this is that your body’s jumping ability will primarily come from the physical condition of your body. If your body has been trained to execute power in the form of vertical lift, then even without the perfect knee drive, you will still jump high.
But even though it falls into the 20% impact, it will still make a substantial difference to your high jumping performance once you start working on the finer mechanics of the jump that will allow you to maximise your peak height over the bar.
When should you start emphasising on the knee drive in your high jump training?
It’s good to train your body’s mechanics to have good knee drive, as it can be challenging to develop later on. The earlier this can be practiced, the better it will be for the athlete in the long-term.
That being said, it shouldn’t act as a substitute for developing the athlete’s strength, speed and power, which will allow them to excel in the high jump event.
High jumpers should train to improve their knee drive, but the action might add anywhere from 5 to 15cm improvements. If the athlete jumps 1.60m, they are not going to beat the athlete who can clear 1.80m without any knee drive.
What are some drills that you can do to improve your knee drive?
Athletes need to be strong in their core and in their hip-flexors. Even though the knee drive only occurs for a few seconds, many athletes drop their knee too early and as a result, lower their maximum height potential.
High jumpers can do the following activities, which should help them improve their knee driving ability.
Leg extensions (Light weights)
This will strengthen the athletes quadriceps and hip flexors. As they develop more strength, they will be able to hold their leg in the knee drive position for longer.
This exercise will strengthen the hip flexors and the core. Many athletes struggle with leg raises because they aren’t strong enough in their core or in their quadriceps (which is why leg extensions on the weight machine are recommended). Athletes should aim for 3 sets of 15 repetitions.
Knee drive drills.
Have athletes run through or run past the bar that is put at a height that is past their personal best. The athlete needs to drive and hold their knee so that it passes the bar.
As the athlete becomes stronger in the core, they should be able to hold their knee longer, thus maximising their vertical lift.
Another exercise that can be done and that is quite effective is doing the same knee drive but with the elastic bar. That way, athletes can drive their knee over the bar without any fear of knocking the bar or hurting themselves. They will also build up confidence to attack the bar at greater heights over time.
Australian high jumper and former high jump Olympic medallist Tim Forsyth used his knee drive well to clear epic heights.
One of the athletes I learned from was Tim Forsyth. In the videos below, you can see how well he held his knee as he drove it upwards and he held it past the bar so he could clear the height easily.
Former Olympic high jumper Jamie Nieto explains the importance of the knee drive in the video below.
Give these drills a go and let me know how it impacts your high jump performance? Are there any other drills or techniques that you think should be added? Leave them in the comments section below.
Featured image credit: That’s mags
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