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Winter Training for Pole Vault Strength and Technical Owen Heard

Winter Training for Pole Vault: Strength and Technical



Winter Training for Pole Vaulters

The winter training block is a hugely important element of the pole vaulting year, providing the foundation for a successful competition season.

The main goals of winter training are to:

  • Improve technical ability (stripping to basics, pole vault drills, short approach vaulting)
  • Increase physical base (strength and gym volume, rehab weak areas, general fitness, speed, testing)

Overall, winter training gives the pole vaulter a better start point which they can build off throughout the season.


This varies from athlete to athlete, but generally, there is a similar model followed by all vaulters.

Here are some examples of what these training methods may be:


Drilling is of ample importance. It allows the athlete to develop muscle memory in correct vaulting positions and greatly influences coordination with a pole. It’s one thing being athletic, strong, and powerful – but it is completely useless if you cannot do so in conjunction with a pole.

Here are some basic types of drills that athletes might employ throughout winter prep. Don’t be fooled by the ‘Basic’ title! These drills are helpful for all vaulters as part of their routine.


How Do You Train for Pole Vault

This teaches the athlete what position the pole needs to be held in at each pole drop and plant phase. This is a simplified version of what takes place on the runway.

I personally use this as a brief part of my warmup before many vault sessions.


Pole Vault Take Off Drills

This straight-pole drill enforces staying behind the pole and pushing upwards with your top hand fully extended. This can be performed on flat ground or in a sandpit and can vary from a standing plant to a 2-step walk-on, to a run-on etc.


Teaching Pole Vault

The same as standing pole drops but whilst walking. They are typically done in 6-step or 8-step fashion.

This can be progressed to running and planting, using a sliding wooden box anywhere from 4 steps to a full run-up.


Pole Vault Training Program Pdf

This is a progressed version of the walk-over, where a run-up into a sandpit is added, and poles can be planted into the sand at higher speeds. This can even be progressed for bending poles.

Inspiration for this drill and how it is performed can be found on YouTube.


For example, inverts

Pole Vault Inversion Drills

This is one example of a pole-vault-specific high-bar drill. It requires good strength and explosivity and drills the leg swing and invert into an athlete. 

Being able to kick hard and rock back on a bar will transfer over to an actual vault.

This is just to name a few, but if you do some research or talk to different coaches, you’ll learn all types of drills to experiment with. Every coach has some kind of drill which they swear by!


Once you have the basics nailed down to a tee, you can progress onto some of the more fun elements of pole vault. These can get difficult, so you must have the basics mastered. If not, you may pick up some bad habits.


Pole Vault Training Near Me

This drill is a straight pole vault, but with limited speed due to the 2-step approach.

It can be performed from a large tower (as per the photos), a smaller gymnastics wooden box, or even solid plyo boxes (any form of stable and safe elevation).

2-step vaulting is also performed from the ground, gripping low on the pole.


Rope Exercises for Pole Vault

Swinging and inverting on a rope can help increase familiarity.

It also helps with strength, and the fact that the rope is not a solid pole means you might not get blocked from reaching certain positions you are still figuring out.

This is what the final invert position looks like in an ideal world. It’s not particularly easy to get there.


Pole Vault Drills to get Vertical

This is the next progression for on-runway vaulting. It’s as simple as the sand vaulting but planting into the metal box on the runway instead and landing on the bed. 

An invert can be added onto the end of a straight pole vault, but beginners should start with simple take-offs first (like the walk-over drills), and then gradually try to invert.


An essential part of winter is vaulting off short approach. Starting back from the beginning and mastering technique on a smaller run-up is paramount for building confidence after the off-season. It’s not advised to go straight back into full-fledged long run-up vaulting. It’s a process. 

First, start with the shorter run-ups – whatever is most comfortable for you (6-strides, 8-strides, 10-strides). I go through all the progressions, 4 strides back to 14 (with 2-step increments) slowly throughout winter. 

Moving back on the run-up every couple of sessions is a good aim to strive for. However, progress is individual to the athlete and should be dictated by confidence and if they feel ready.

Pole Vault Technique Name

Beginner Pole Vault Training

Pole Vault Training Pole

8-stride pole vault example


Along with speed training and general fitness, strength is a big focus of winter. Some methods you should employ as part of your strength training include:

  • Weightlifting sessions
  • Circuits
  • Gymnastic conditioning
  • Injury rehab


Weightlifting as a pole vaulter often includes general Olympic lifts such as cleans (and variations, hang cleans, power cleans etc.), along with common athletics lifts such as calf raises, hip thrusts, squats (1/2, 1/4), split squats, Romanian deadlifts, step-ups, snatch, back extensions etc.

There is a plethora of exercises out there, and the lifts included in your programme should be catered to you. This is a discussion between you and your coach, or S&C, to figure out what you need to target and what the plan is. Often you need to focus on elements of the lower body and core.

Weightlifting as a Pole Vaulter also includes upper body lifts because strength is required up top. This may consist of weighted pull-ups, shoulder pullovers, bench presses, etc. Again the lifting programme is individual to an athlete and varies from coach to coach, but I would advise that there are at least one or two lifts in the programme which are Pole Vault specific.


The purpose of circuits is to aid the general conditioning of athletes whilst also targeting the fitness side of things, as the short breaks between exercises tires you out. Performing circuits in a group with various exercises (both general and pole vault specific) can be an effective way to grind out the strength training with less of an urge to fall short or skip anything out.

Pole Vault Exercises at Home


This can also be known as general strength and conditioning, using bodyweight exercises and equipment such as bars and rings. Having on-bar strength can transfer into better abilities when vaulting.

This type of conditioning can include general strength, such as pullups, or specific, such as the drills mentioned earlier.


Strengthening in very specific areas is essential to recovering from certain injuries. If an athlete has a particular weakness (such as poor calf strength) and is facing lots of problems due to it (such as foot pain while running), this needs to be targeted. A physio or a coach may likely prescribe rehab exercises. 

The bottom line is, don’t skip this, as if you are injured, you won’t be able to put all this hard winter grind into competitions!


Not usually a primary focus of winter, fitness base is more significant. However, speed is very important to pole vault, and it should be maintained throughout winter or even improved if the training programme is suited to this. 

Different speed sessions should be incorporated into winter training blocks, especially toward the end of winter and close to the indoor competition season.


This can be used to gauge an athlete’s start point in terms of physical ability. Speed testing, strength testing, and all forms can be recorded in early-mid winter and then compared later down the line to note improvements and weaknesses. 

This is just a supplement to winter training and can give athletes goals to work towards (such as trying to run 0.2 m/s faster through timing gates etc.).


Work put in during the winter season lays the foundation for personal best vaults in the coming season and reduces injury risks. Work with your coach to pull together a programme using these examples to suit your needs as a vaulter. 

Let us know in the comments or on social media which winter pole vaulting drill is your favourite!


Owen Heard Pole Vaulter Neuff Athletic Blog

Currently 3rd in the UK rankings, Owen has been pole vaulting for many years, and you may recall seeing him compete in the Men's Pole Vault Final in this year's Commonwealth Games for Team England.

He is also a hurdler and a Team Pacer athlete, making him incredibly knowledgeable and skilled at what he does, especially as he's only 20 years old!

Click here to view his Team England profile.

Instagram: @owen_heard


Pacer Vault Poles

At the moment, we stock Pacer One and FXV poles, both of which are superior choices for vaulting and are loved by athletes worldwide, including Owen!

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