Water Jump Mechanics

A steeplechaser must have a great enough approach velocity to effectively complete the water jump. Without this, the jump will be short and the runner will lose a lot of time and energy every lap. A good degree of coordination and confidence is necessary to move through the obstacle economically.


Summary of Numbers Found on this Page
Approach Velocity (min/mi)
Exit Velocity (min/mi)
Speed over pace (%)
Takeoff Distance (ft)
5 to 6
4 to 5
Landing Distance (ft)
Crouching Height (ft)
1 1/2 to 2
1 1/2 to 2
Pushoff Angle (deg)

The Approach

  • The single most important characteristic for a successful water jump is an appropriate approach velocity.
    • For 36" barriers, an approach close to 4:30 min/mi (for 30" barriers use 5:20 min/mi) should be attempted. If your race pace is a lot slower than this, your should find a good balance between your race pace and the desired approach pace.
  • Takeoff distance (the distance from the takeoff toe to the front edge of the barrier should be near 5-6 ft for men and 4-5 ft for women. This will help the athlete maintain much of their horizontal velocity while gaining the required vertical velocity to land in an appropriate position on the barrier.

Approach and Exit Velocities

Figure 1 - Approach and Exit Velocities (The blue section begins 5m before the barrier and finishes 2.5m before the barrier. The green section begins at the end of the pit and ends 2.5m past the end of the pit).

Definitions for water jump

Figure 2

The Barrier

  • In order to keep water jump velocity close to race pace and to keep from losing too much velocity through the water jump, steeplechasers must get an appropriate approach velocity. The next most important factor is landing distance.
    • Elite male steeplechasers land at least 9 ft from the barrier (3 ft from the end of the pit).
    • Elite female steeplechasers land at least 8 ft from the barrier (4 ft from the end of the pit).
      • The difference in jumping distance is mainly due to the slower approach and not jumping from so great a barrier height (36" for men and 30" for women).
    • After obtaining a good approach velocity, there are three main factors to consider.
      • Crouching height (the height of the hip when it is directly above the barrier) should be about 1 1/2 to 2 ft above the barrier. This will vary between body types, so consider the following two ideas.
        • A crouching height too high requires the athlete to jump higher onto the barrier, thus losing more of their horizontal velocity.
        • A crouching height too low requires a very flexed knee which is a weak position. A strong position is required to push off the barrier with the required effort.
      • The athlete should think of quickness in the touch on top of the barrer. The push off the barrier will be much more powerful if the athlete is focusing on a short contact on the barrier.
      • Leaving the barrier, the support knee should extend to some degree, but should not come to full extension.
        • The push off should be between 100° and 140° (with 180° being a straight leg). The faster the approach velocity, the smaller the knee angle can be.
        • Less extension will limit the athlete's ability to exert force backwards which will accelerate them forwards.
        • Too much extension will limit the athlete's ability to bring the push off leg through in preparation for the required landing position.


  • Arms
    • The arms should be back, but swing forwards immediately prior to landing to help bring momentum forwards.
    • There is a tendency to swing the arms high in the air. This is a natural movement that brings the rest of the body closer to the ground while airborne. However, it should be avoided since it sends momentum in the wrong direction at landing.
  • Legs
    • The trail leg's knee should be close to the support leg's knee at landing and should be moving forward rapidly. This adds to the momentum in the right direction.
  • Trunk
    • The trunk should remain in a running posture at landing.  If the trunk collapses down at landing, the athlete must work later to bring the trunk back upright.