What Muscles Do You Need to Work Out for Pole Vaults?

A pole vaulter's shoulder strength helps him to push off the pole.
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Pole vaulting is a sport that uses muscles from all over the body. According to Michael Marek, former University of Wisconsin vaulter and current high school pole vaulting coach, pole vaulters require excellent core and upper-body strength along with powerful legs. The act of pole vaulting is lifting yourself with a pole and then pushing off that pole to fly over a bar usually set at a height of more than 10 feet. As if that is not difficult enough, you have to use speed when approaching the pit so your forward motion will carry you up and over the bar.


The upward swing of the legs to vertically position the body uses the abdominal muscles. You shorten the distance between your ribs and hips, which contracts the rectus abdominus, the main muscle that runs the length of your stomach. When you turn from a face-up, to a face-down position, your obliques, the muscles along the sides of your stomach contract. In this face-down position, your back extends, which relies on the strength of your erector spinae, which is located on both sides of your spine.

Lower Body

The extensors of the hip, knee and ankle are the main muscles used when you accelerate toward the pit. Your hip flexors contract when you lift off the ground and swing your legs into the air. Your gluteus maximus, or rear, is the largest hip extension muscle. Your hip flexors attach on the front of your pelvis and include the iliopsoas, sartorius, tensor fasciae latae, hamstrings and the rectus femoris. Your knee extensors include the muscles of your quadriceps: vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, vastus medialis and rectus femoris. To extend, or plantar-flex, your ankle, your calf muscles, the gastrocnemius and soleus contract. Other smaller muscles, such as the tibialis posterior and peroneus longus, also located on the back of your lower legs, help to extend your ankle and give you speed.

Upper Body

Without strength in your forearms and hands to grip the pole, you would not be able to complete the vault. Your wrist flexors and extensors are located on your forearms and provide hand strength. You use the pectoral muscles when you straighten your arm to push one end of the pole into the air, as the other end is placed in the box. This movement is similar to a vertical pushup. Your shoulders, or deltoids, contract as you invert your body up into the air and proceed over the bar.


You cannot simply train for strength when you want to compete in pole vaulting. You also need endurance, power and speed. This means that your workouts should include training with heavy weights for strength; training with lighter weights and higher repetitions for endurance; jump training such as vertical jumps, leaps, and skips for power; and sprinting exercises for speed.

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