Which is it, left or right?

The other day I got a call from a very old friend about his daughter who  is trying to decide which foot to use as her take-off leg.  This has been a discussion for many years.  The two sides are adamant that their version is correct.  On the one side are those athletes and coaches that think a jumper should take off in the triple jump with the same leg that they use in the long jump or high jump (the “jump leg”).  The other side argues that the opposite leg (or “opposing leg”) should be used so that you can save the “jump leg” for the last, or jump, phase.

Let me begin by admitting I am a disciple of the latter view, especially since that is the way I jumped.  However, I am not completely sold on the theory for athletes who are used to jumping the other way.  However, I have changed jumpers so that they start their jump using the “opposing leg” because I felt they would benefit from the change.  With that said I will not make comment, negative or positive about using the jump leg for take off.  I will concentrate on reasons why I believe using the opposing leg for take off is a better use of the skills for triple jump.

First and foremost a triple jumper is told that they are supposed to run off the board as opposed to jumping.  It stands to reason that your opposing leg is a better option because jumping is not contemplated at the board.   To punch hard at the board will typically result in a high arching long jump with the resulting step and jump phases being weak and less effective.  It is much easier to use the opposing leg to run off the board.  Atheltes have significant speed from running down the runway so taking that speed off the board will give the athlete sufficient distance relative to the distance gained from the jump leg.

Clearly, when an athlete gets to the jump phase there is little speed left so an active jump is very important.  If the opposing leg is used in the jump phase it is difficult to gain the appropriate distance to make for an overall lengthy jump.  Using the jump leg will provide the lift-off necessary to carry the athlete a significant distance in the pit.

There is also a physical limitation using the jump leg for take-off in the triple jump (especially for men).  The distance from the board to the end of the runway is 42 feet (12m80).  Several athletes can jump 42 feet in two jumps but have to hold back because they don’t have enough runway to really jump.  That is what made it possible for me to jump further than those athletes, I was able to use my “jump leg” to jump the additional distance needed to jump further than them.

The perfect example is Charlie Simpkins, probably the best “hop-stepper” ever to triple jump.  Charlie could hop-step into the pit but never chose to do it.  If I were Charlie, I would have hop-stepped into the pit…turned and looked at the judge, then demanded that an additional board be inserted 45 feet from the pit so that I could break the world record.  Everytime Charlie started his jump I cringed because I was positive he would beat my world record jump.  Thankfully, Charlie chose to stick with his jump leg on the hop step.

Finally, lets remember that maintaining the speed off the board throughout the jump is what determines the longest jump.  “Jumping” off the board will result in reduction of speed and therefore a reduction in the ultimate distance of the triple jump.


11 Responses to “Which is it, left or right?”

  1. benny mievis Says:

    Hello, I’m a former Triplejumper of noy soo high level (15m38) because in belgium we didn’t have good coaches !!! (once I took part in a clinic in Brussels with Willy, and I also saw him jump at age in San Sebastian, I jumped in the M40 then) and now coach in Belgium. I was vice-european champion Masters M40 with 14m18 when I was 43 years old. My daughter also does long- and triplejumping (surprising no ? 🙂 as well as 400m hurdles (61″62). She is not very fast (12″80 in 100m – 26″00 in 200m – 57″ in 400m) but a real bouncer. She is 16 years old and jumps now 12m47 in the triple. In Belgium she is number one in her age group, and national number 4 of all women. She took part (as the youngest) at th World Championsips in Bressanone and cleared 12m23. She jumpes 5m87 in the long jump, with the Right leg. Also her HOP-leg is the R-one, because this is much stronger than Left. We tried to compensate the weaker legg bij doing dubble excercises a while ago, but Right stays stronger than ever ! My question is : hopping with the strong leg seems to me the best solution because you need the stronger leg twice and the weaker leg only for the jump, am I wrong ? Grtz from Benny.

    • mrtriplejump Says:

      Dear Benny,

      As I mentioned in my blog, I am a supporter of starting your jump with the more stable leg, which is the opposite leg used for the long jump and high jump. This seems counter intuitive but once you understand the dynamics of the jump you realize that the speed generated on the runway will transfer to controlled distance in the jump. The last phase will lack any real speed so the more coordinated and powerful leg will be needed for distance in the jump phase.

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  3. David H. Says:

    Hi Willie,
    I have had a change of heart concerning my hop leg, which has always been my left leg (strong leg). However, I have better control with my right leg (weaker leg). Well, I would not say the weaker leg because I have trained both of them to the same extent. I was wondering if it would be a good choice since I have better control with the weaker leg. I always lose momentum on after the first phase when I use the left leg it is harder to attack the ground.

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