The high jump is a track and field event in which competitors must jump unaided over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without dislodging it. In its modern most practiced format, a bar is placed between two standards with a crash mat for landing. In the modern era, athletes run towards the bar and use the Fosbury Flop method of jumping, leaping head first with their back to the bar. Since ancient times, competitors have introduced increasingly effective techniques to arrive at the current form.
The discipline is, alongside the pole vault, one of two vertical clearance events to feature on the Olympic athletics programme. It is contested at the World Championships in Athletics and IAAF World Indoor Championships, and is a common occurrence at track and field meetings. The high jump was among the first events deemed acceptable for women, having been held at the 1928 Olympic Games.
Javier Sotomayor (Cuba) is the current men's record holder with a jump of 2.45 m (8 ft 1⁄4 in) set in 1993 – the longest standing record in the history of the men's high jump. Stefka Kostadinova (Bulgaria) has held the women's world record at 2.09 m (6 ft 10 1⁄4 in) since 1987, also the longest-held record in the event.
The rules for the high jump are set internationally by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). Jumpers must take off on one foot. A jump is considered a failure if the bar is dislodged by the action of the jumper whilst jumping or the jumper touches the ground or breaks the plane of the near edge of the bar before clearance. The technique one uses for the jump must be almost flawless in order to have a chance of clearing a high bar.
Competitors may begin jumping at any height announced by the chief judge, or may pass, at their own discretion. Most competitions state that three consecutive missed jumps, at any height or combination of heights, will eliminate the jumper from competition.
The victory goes to the jumper who clears the greatest height during the final. Tie-breakers are used for any place in which scoring occurs. If two or more jumpers tie for one of these places, the tie-breakers are: 1) the fewest misses at the height at which the tie occurred; and 2) the fewest misses throughout the competition.
If the event remains tied for first place (or a limited advancement position to a subsequent meet), the jumpers have a jump-off, beginning at the next greater height. Each jumper has one attempt. The bar is then alternately lowered and raised until only one jumper succeeds at a given height.
The first recorded high jump event took place in Scotland in the 19th century. Early jumpers used either an elaborate straight-on approach or a scissors technique. In latter years, soon then after, the bar was approached diagonally, and the jumper threw first the inside leg and then the other over the bar in a scissoring motion. Around the turn of the 20th century, techniques began to change, beginning with the Irish-American Michael Sweeney's Eastern cut-off. By taking off like the scissors and extending his spine and flattening out over the bar, Sweeney raised the world record to 1.97 m (6 ft 5 1⁄2 in) in 1895.
Another American, George Horine, developed an even more efficient technique, the Western roll. In this style, the bar again is approached on a diagonal, but the inner leg is used for the take-off, while the outer leg is thrust up to lead the body sideways over the bar. Horine increased the world standard to 2.01 m (6 ft 7 in) in 1912. His technique was predominant through the Berlin Olympics of 1936, in which the event was won by Cornelius Johnson at 2.03 m (6 ft 7 3⁄4 in).
American and Soviet jumpers were the most successful for the next four decades, and they pioneered the evolution of the straddle technique. Straddle jumpers took off as in the Western roll, but rotated their (belly-down) torso around the bar, obtaining the most efficient and highest clearance (of the bar) up to that time. Straddle-jumper, Charles Dumas, was the first to clear 7 feet (2.13 m), in 1956, and American John Thomas pushed the world mark to 2.23 m (7 ft 3 3⁄4 in) in 1960. Valeriy Brumel took over the event for the next four years. The elegant Soviet jumper radically sped up his approach run, took the record up to 2.28 m (7 ft 5 3⁄4 in), and won the Olympic gold medal in 1964, before a motorcycle accident ended his career.
American coaches, including two-time NCAA champion Frank Costello of the University of Maryland, flocked to Russia to learn from Brumel and his coaches. However, it would be a solitary innovator at Oregon State University, Dick Fosbury, who would bring the high jump into the next century. Taking advantage of the raised, softer landing areas by then in use, Fosbury added a new twist to the outmoded Eastern Cut-off. He directed himself over the bar head and shoulders first, sliding over on his back and landing in a fashion which would likely have broken his neck in the old, sawdust landing pits. After he used this Fosbury flop to win the 1968 Olympic gold medal, the technique began to spread around the world, and soon floppers were dominating international high jump competitions. The last straddler to set a world record was Vladimir Yashchenko, who cleared 2.33 m (7 ft 7 1⁄2 in) in 1977 and then 2.35 m (7 ft 8 1⁄2 in) indoors in 1978.
Among renowned high jumpers following Fosbury's lead were Americans Dwight Stones and his rival, 1.73 metres (5 ft 8 in) tall Franklin Jacobs of Paterson, NJ, who cleared 2.32 m (7 ft 7 1⁄4 in), 0.59 metres (1 ft 11 in) over his head (a feat equalled 27 years later by Sweden's Stefan Holm); Chinese record-setters Ni-chi Chin and Zhu Jianhua; Germans Gerd Wessig and Dietmar Mögenburg; Swedish Olympic medalist and former world record holder Patrik Sjöberg; and female jumpers Iolanda Balaş of Romania, Ulrike Meyfarth of Germany and Italy's Sara Simeoni.
The approach run of the high jump may actually be more important than the take-off. If a high jumper runs with bad timing or without enough aggression, clearing a high bar becomes more of a challenge. The approach requires a certain shape or curve, the right amount of speed, and the correct number of strides. The approach angle is also critical for optimal height.
Most great straddle jumpers have a run at angles of about 30 to 40 degrees. The length of the run is determined by the speed of the person's approach. A slower run requires about 8 strides. However, a faster high jumper might need about 13 strides. A greater run speed allows a greater part of the body's forward momentum to be converted upward.
The J type approach, favored by Fosbury floppers, allows for horizontal speed, the ability to turn in the air (centripetal force), and good take-off position. This allows for horizontal momentum to turn into vertical momentum, propelling the jumper off the ground and over the bar. The approach should be a hard controlled stride so that a person does not fall from creating an angle with speed. Athletes should run tall and lean on the curve, from the ankles and not the hips. This allows the correct angle to force their hips to rotate during take-off, which allows their center of gravity to pass under the bar.
Unlike the classic straddle technique, where the take-off foot is "planted" in the same spot at every height, flop-style jumpers must adjust their take-off as the bar is raised. Their approach run must be adjusted slightly so that their take-off spot is slightly further out from the bar in order to allow their hips to clear the bar while still maintaining enough momentum to carry their legs across the bar. Jumpers attempting to reach record heights commonly fail when most of their energy is directed into the vertical effort, and they brush the bar off the standards with the backs of their legs as they stall out in mid-air.
An effective approach shape can be derived from physics. For example, the rate of backward spin required as the jumper crosses the bar to facilitate shoulder clearance on the way up and foot clearance on the way down can be determined by computer simulation. This rotation rate can be back-calculated to determine the required angle of lean away from the bar at plant, based on how long the jumper is on the take-off foot. This information, together with the jumper's speed in the curve, can be used to calculate the radius of the curved part of the approach. This is a lot of work and requires measurements of running speed and time of take-off foot on the ground. However, one can work in the opposite direction by assuming an approach radius and watching the resulting backward rotation. This only works if some basic rules are followed in how one executes the approach and take-off.
Drills can be practiced to solidify the approach. One drill is to run in a straight line (the linear part of the approach) and then run two to three circles spiraling into one another. Another is to run or skip a circle of any size, two to three times in a row. It is important to train to leap upwards without first leaning into the bar, allowing the momentum of the J approach to carry the body across the bar.
In competition the winner is the person who cleared the highest height. In case of a tie, fewer failed attempts at that height are better: i.e., the jumper who makes a height on his or her first attempt is placed ahead of someone who clears the same height on the second or third attempt. If there still is a tie, all the failed attempts at lower heights are added up, and the one with the fewest total misses is declared the winner. If still tied, a playoff is held. Starting height is the next higher height after the overjumped one. If all the competitors clear the height, the bar is raised 2 cm (0.79 in), and if they fail, the bar is lowered 2 cm. That continues until only one competitor succeeds in overjumping that height, and he or she is declared the winner.
- In the table below, dashes indicate that a height was not attempted, crosses indicate failed attempts, and circles indicate a cleared height. Jumpers A and D cleared 1.99 m but failed at 2.01 m. A wins this competition having cleared the winning height with two attempts, while jumper D required three attempts. Similarly, B is ranked ahead of C, having cleared the decisive height (i.e., 1.97m) in the first attempt.
In high jump, it helps if the athlete is tall, has long legs, and limited weight on their body. They must have a strong lower body and flexibility helps a lot as well. High jumpers tend to go through very vigorous training methods to achieve this ideal body frame.
High jumpers must have a fast approach so it is crucial to work on speed and also speed endurance. Lots of high jump competitions may take hours and athletes must make sure they have the endurance to last the entire competition. Common sprint endurance workouts for high jumpers include 200-, 400-, and 800-meter training. Other speed endurance training methods such as hill training or a ladder workout may also be used.
It is crucial for high jumpers to have strong lower bodies and cores, as the bar progressively gets higher, the strength of an athlete's legs (along with speed and technique) will help propel them over the bar. Squats, deadlifts, and core exercises will help a high jumper achieve these goals. It is important, however, for a high jumper to keep a slim figure as any unnecessary weight makes it difficult to jump higher.
Arguably the most important training for a high jumper is plyometric training. Because high jump is such a technical event, any mistake in the technique could either lead to failure, injury, or both. To prevent these from happening, high jumpers tend to focus heavily on plyometrics. This includes hurdle jumps, flexibility training, skips, or scissor kick training. Plyometric workouts tend to be performed at the beginning of the workout.
All-time top 25 high jumpers
Below is a list of jumps equal or superior to 2.40m:
- Javier Sotomayor also jumped 2.44m (1989), 2.43m (1988, 1989), 2.42m (1994), 2.41m (1993), 2.40m (1991, 1994, 1995).
- Mutaz Essa Barshim also jumped 2.42m (2014) and 2.40m (2014, 2016, 2017, 2018).
- Ivan Ukhov also jumped 2.41m (2014) and 2.40m (2009, 2014).
- Bohdan Bondarenko also jumped 2.41m (2013) and 2.40m (2009).
- Patrik Sjöberg also jumped 2.41m (1987) and 2.40m (1989).
- Carlo Thränhardt also jumped 2.40m (1987).
Below is a list of jumps equal or superior to 2.05 m:
- Stefka Kostadinova also jumped 2.08 m (1986), 2.07 m (1986, 1987, 1988), 2.06 m (1985, 1986, 1987, 1988), 2.05 m (1986, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1993, 1996).
- Blanka Vlašić also jumped 2.07 m (2007) and 2.06 m (2007, 2008, 2010), 2.05 m (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010).
- Kajsa Bergqvist also jumped 2.06 m (2003), 2.05 m (2002, 2006).
- Anna Chicherova also jumped 2.06 m (2012), 2.05 m (2011, 2012).
- Heike Henkel also jumped 2.05 m (1991).
- Hestrie Cloete also jumped 2.05 m (2003).
- Mariya Lasitskene also jumped 2.05 m (2017).
World Championships medalists
World Indoor Championships medalists
- A Known as the World Indoor Games
Athletes with most medals
Athletes who have won multiple titles at the two most important competitions, the Olympic Games and the World Championships:
- 3 wins: Javier Sotomayor (CUB) - Olympic Champion in 1992, World Champion in 1993 & 1997
- 3 wins: Stefka Kostadinova (BUL) - Olympic Champion in 1996, World Champion in 1987 & 1995
- 2 wins: Gennadiy Avdeyenko (URS) - Olympic Champion in 1988, World Champion in 1983
- 2 wins: Charles Austin (USA) - Olympic Champion in 1996, World Champion in 1991
- 2 wins: Iolanda Balas (ROM) - Olympic Champion in 1960 & 1964
- 2 wins: Ulrike Meyfarth (FRG) - Olympic Champion in 1972 & 1984
- 2 wins: Heike Henkel (GER) - Olympic Champion in 1992, World Champion in 1991
- 2 wins: Hestrie Cloete (RSA) - World Champion in 2001 & 2003
- 2 wins: Blanka Vlasic (CRO) - World Champion in 2007 & 2009
- 2 wins: Anna Chicherova (RUS) - Olympic Champion in 2012, World Champion in 2011
- 2 wins: Mariya Lasitskene (RUS) - World Champion in 2015 & 2017
Kostadinova and Sotomayor are the only high jumpers to have been Olympic Champion, World Champion and broken the world record.
- "i" indicates indoor performance.
All time lists of athletes with the highest recorded jumps above their own height.
Female two metres club
As of July 2019, 73 different female athletes had ever been able to jump 2.00 m (6 ft 6 1⁄2 in).