Fact Checked

What is the Broad Jump?

Matthew F.
Matthew F.

The broad jump is a jump in track and field events. Also known as the long jump, it can be made from a moving or stationary position. The broad jump distance is measured from the takeoff to the mark of the first part of the jumper to touch the ground. The jump must be made behind a certain line and is usually preceded by a short sprint. The jump is landed onto the landing strip, which is usually made of finely-grained sand. The broad jump, like the high jump, was begun in ancient Olympics in Greece, and is popular in modern Summer Olympic events.

The jump involves strength, speed, and agility, and has featured participation by world class athletes in international competitions since the 19th century. It can also be seen at the high school and collegiate levels, and is practiced in physical testing for younger ages. As an individual sport it has compelled many famous Olympic athletes, including Carl Lewis, in a foray away from sprinting; Jesse Owens, who set the world record in 1935; Bob Beamon, who broke Owens’ record in 1960; and Mike Powell, who broke the world record in 1991 with a jump of 8.95 m (29.4 feet).

Sprinting typically precedes the broad jump.
Sprinting typically precedes the broad jump.

The broad jump begins with competitors sprinting down the runway, which is generally a rubber or vulcanized rubber track surface. The approach down the runway is important in establishing the velocity of the jumper, with a higher velocity producing more energy for a longer broad jump. The last two strides are performed with high technique especially, as they play a large role in the character of the jump. The second-to-last stride is taken longer than each before it, as the speed and power increases, while the last stride is taken shorter. The last stride is complimented by a lowering of the center of gravity, and the short step helps to offer an explosive position for take-off.

The broad jump is one of several track and field events.
The broad jump is one of several track and field events.

The takeoff, the most important part of the broad jump, is executed in many ways. Most importantly, the preceding strides must be coordinated with the take-off line, which the runner cannot cross. The strides must also put the jumper in position to take a broad-footed jump, relying not too heavily on the heels or toes, onto the landing strip. The broad jump takeoff styles vary from the double-arm, which pushes the arms back and the hips forward; the sprint, a straightforward method with arms pumping and legs in stride as normal; and the bounding method, which pushes the back arm into a straight line giving the jumper additional extension.

The broad jump landing into the pit is measured by the first part of the jumper’s body to touch the sand. The mark closest to the take-off point will be used to measure the distance of the jump. If a jumper lands on his feet, and then falls backward due to a lack of balance, the position of the fall is measured as balance was not kept on the jump. The broad jump, like many Olympic and individual events, has seen drastic increases in feats and numbers in the last half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.

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Discussion Comments


Bob Beamon still holds the record from the Olympics standpoint with a distance of 29 feet, 2.5 inches.


Who currently holds the record for long jump in the Olympics and what is the distance?

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    • Sprinting typically precedes the broad jump.
      By: Dmitry Bairachnyi
      Sprinting typically precedes the broad jump.
    • The broad jump is one of several track and field events.
      By: Brenda Carson
      The broad jump is one of several track and field events.