Poles are manufactured with ratings corresponding to the vaulter’s maximum weight. Some organizations forbid vaulters to use poles rated below their weight as a safety precaution. The recommended weight corresponds to a flex rating that is determined by the manufacturer by placing a standardized amount of stress (most commonly a 50 lb (23 kg) weight) on the pole and measuring how much the center of the pole is displaced. Therefore, two poles rated at the same weight are not necessarily the same stiffness.
Because pole stiffness and length are important factors to a vaulter’s performance, it is not uncommon for an elite vaulter to carry as many as ten poles to a competition. The effective properties of a pole can be changed by gripping the pole higher or lower in relation to the top of the pole. The left and right handgrips are typically a bit more than shoulder width apart. Poles are manufactured for people of all skill levels and body sizes, with sizes as short as 3.05 m (10 ft 0 in) to as long as 5.30 m (17 ft 5 in), with a wide range of weight ratings. Each manufacturer determines the weight rating for the pole and the location of the maximum handhold band.