The triple jump is one of the most exacting and physically demanding of the field events in modern track and field competition. The triple jump has been a part of the modern Olympics since its inception in 1896, and it has also been a part of the competitions sanctioned by organizations such as the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) of the United States. As with many sports that form the broader world of athletics, the triple jump does not enjoy a significant public appeal except at a world championship or at the Olympic Games.
The triple jump is also known by the simple expression that defines the mechanics of the sport,
The triple jump is divided into four distinct phases for training and coaching purposes; these phases are the approach, the hop, the step, and the jump. In the approach, the athlete seeks to develop as much speed as possible, much as a long jumper will sprint with maximum power to spring from the jump. As with the long jump, the athlete must make the initial movement from behind a predetermined mark, typically a takeoff board.
The second phase begins with the athlete making a hop as a takeoff. The jumper will maximize lift in the hop through the full extension of the takeoff leg, followed by a powerful drive through the air with the second leg. Much of the focus in triple jump coaching and training is the precise coordination of this movement; the more supple and smooth the takeoff, the greater the amount of approach energy directed into the hop. The athlete will also seek to be as streamlined in the air as is possible, with the legs positioned as nearly one behind the other in flight as is possible to emphasize maximum forward movement and to reduce drag.
The landing of the hop phase is the essential linkage to the step phase. The athlete will seek to drive the landing leg on the hop downward with force, to create a steady landing and to ensure the maximum return of energy to the landing foot from the ground that will power the step phase. As the athlete enters the step, there is again a powerful drive forward with the planted leg and a corresponding stride in the air with the second leg. The second leg will be the landing leg to provide a takeoff for the jump phase. To create an effective jumping lever, the athlete will extend this lead foot as far forward as is possible.
The jump phase commences with the takeoff leg being extended by the athlete as forcefully as possible, accompanied by a drive with the second leg forward to the waist height of the jumper. This movement is designed to ensure a maximum forward thrust of the body as the jump continues into the landing area. In a coordinated motion, the jumper will seek to drive the arms forward and upward, with the legs positioned in a seeming kneeling position in the air. As the athlete prepares to complete the jump, the arm and the legs simultaneously drive forward, with the hips elevated as far as possible.
Triple jumping is a sport where there is an increased importance in the core strength, the body's ability to balance the action of the muscles of the abdomen, gluteal (buttock), lumbar region (low back), groin, and upper legs. The weight training typically used to develop the core strength of a triple jumper includes shoulder presses, abdominal crunches, and squats. Plyometrics and bounding drills are essential to develop leg strength as well as the explosiveness required in the approaches and takeoffs between each triple jump phase. It is not uncommon for a male triple jumper to possess a vertical jump exceeding 30 in (0.7 m).
Effective triple jump drills will also emphasize the rhythm necessary to coordinate the four phases of the sport. Exercises that incorporate continuous hops or bounding in various sequences achieve this end.
SEE ALSO Cross training; Muscle fibers: Fast and slow twitch; Plyometrics; Stretching and flexibility.