If you are training seriously for any sport then you are in the business of optimisation - doing all you can to enhance anything that will make you do better and minimise any faults that hinder your performance. John Barrow takes a look at how mathematics helps athletes optimise their performance in the high jump and pole vault in this article aimed at older students (Key Stages 4 and 5).

This article first appeared on our NRICH website, where you can also find thousands of mathematical activities and games for all ages.