by R. Lewis
Illustrated by Advantage Athletics
Viewing these sequence pictures of running
low hurdles may improve your
running speed, mechanics, form or coaching skills.
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Viewing this article may improve your hurdle
running speed, mechanics, form or coaching skills.
The hurdles are one of the more difficult events in track
and field. They combine sprinting, both short and intermediate, and jumping.
Teaching and training for the hurdles are also taught in these two phases.
Conditioning, speed and agility drills are necessary components for the
running aspects of the hurdles. For now, we will concentrate on the jumping
aspect of the event the hurdle!
Navigating the hurdle can be broken down into three main
phases the three Ts;
The Take Off
Attacking the Hurdle
110 Low Hurdles, 12.63, 2001 World Indoor and Outdoor gold medalist;
2001 U.S. Indoor champ; 3rd at 2001 U.S. Outdoor Champs; Bronze
medalist at 2001 Goodwill Games
2002 Mt. SAC Relays 400 Intermediate Hurdles Champion, 50.57, 2000
Sydney Olympic Games in the 110 hurdles and the 400 hurdles for
The takeoff is moving from the running phase to the
jumping phase of the race. The takeoff will set up the next two steps in
this process. The drive and lift gained here will allow your momentum to
carry you over the hurdle and return to running.
The first concept you must have is how to mentally
approach the hurdle. In many cases hurdles first run into trouble when they
slow down, or stutter step while approaching the hurdle. The hurdle is an
inanimate object; it just sits there yet many who run the hurdles fear it.
It is not going to move, or jump up in front of you. Mentally the hurdle
must attack! There can be no hesitation, no slowing, take no
prisoners! Good hurdles respect the hurdle, but do not fear it. Does
this sound a bit corny? Yes, but it is also true.
The basic parts of the takeoff are speed and
drive. The hurdler must maintain their speed as they approach the
hurdle, or even attempt to accelerate. Any loss of speed will add extra time
after the hurdle, as the runner must reaccelerate. The hurdler should be in
good running form, leaning slightly forward, power in their legs.
The drive involves both lower and upper body movement.
Notice first the upper body of both sprinters in the pictures at the
beginning of this section. Their arms help power them into the takeoff,
driving and reaching upwards. Both hurdlers lift with their left arms, as
their right legs are their lead leg (the leg that goes first). The
lead leg reaches and drives the hurdler up into the hurdle, creating the
force necessary to cross over. (That's why bounding drills are so
Over the Hurdle
Once you have attacked the hurdle, you must transfer
yourself to the other side. This process mainly involves your trail leg
(the leg behind you). The faster this leg can come over the hurdle and hit
the ground running, the faster your total transition time over the hurdle
There are several things to notice. First, the drive leg,
or lead leg, has now extended. This leg is important because it will be the
leading force in moving from the jumping to the running phase (see touchdown
phase). The trail leg is also raised to clear the hurdle. Being flat over
the hurdle is not always the best thing to be. Some hurdles will work to be
flat, and will stall out over the hurdle. They actually hang there too long,
slowing down the rest of their race. The lead leg needs to get up so that it
clears the hurdle (you of course never want contact with the hurdle), and
the body follows. The lead leg on good hurdlers will immediately after
clearing the hurdle, begin to fall to the ground.
The trail leg is the downfall of many aspiring hurdlers.
While it is important, having a slow trail leg is not the end of the world
for a hurdler. As your body clears the hurdle, your trail leg must whip over
the top, and return to the ground in running form. During this phase, the
key is to actually convince your body of the need to accelerate to complete
the transition in a faster rhythm than the running rhythm.
Back to Running
final phase of the hurdle is to return to the running stride. The faster
this can be accomplished, the faster the time between hurdles will be.
Remember, if you slow down in any of the three phases over the hurdle, then
you must waste time to reaccelerate.
term touchdown refers to when the lead leg has come over the hurdle, and
touches down on the ground again. This signifies the end of the jumping
phase and the return to running. As the season progresses, many coaches will
work with touchdown times charts that will help them determine what a
hurdlers splits will be between hurdles to run a certain time for their
lead legs, and more importantly, the lead foot, act as a shock absorber for
the entire body. If you land extended, which means your foot is out in front
of you and your body is way behind, you have a good chance of sliding, or
spraining an ankle. On the other hand, if your foot comes down too soon, and
your body gets ahead of you, you are likely to stumble and fall.
proper touchdown is with the foot in an upright position, your body slightly
behind, but almost on top of your foot. You do want to return your foot to
the ground as fast as possible after clearing the hurdle. The faster you are
on the ground again, the faster you can start running again. Hurdlers are
taught to paw, like a horse would paw the ground. For the hurdler, to paw
means to bring the foot back at an angle towards the body. By doing this,
the foot is locked and loaded, and ready to run as soon as it hits the
Once touchdown has been achieved, the focus returns to
the trail leg. Speed, snap and quickness are bonuses to returning to the run
phase. The faster you can take the first two steps after the hurdle, the
lead leg mention already, and now the trail leg, the faster you return to a
full sprint mode. In basic drills, hurdlers will work to increase the speed
and snap of the trail leg.
Of course you understand, you don't just decide to run hurdles one
day, and magically have the ability to do so. There are some gifted athletes
who can run the race with little practice and get fairly good time, but to
reach your potential in the hurdles requires a lot of work.
1. To begin with, conditioning is VERY important in hurdles. Interrupting
the running stride to jump a stationary object is taxing. Getting stronger
through weightlifting is also a benefit. It takes power to drive through the
hurdle. In addition, to get better, you need to practice running the
hurdles, which requires a lot of stamina and endurance. You have to be in
good physical condition!
Flexibility is a big key. Hurdlers need to do a number of extra stretches in
addition to the normal stretching routine used by sprinters. More emphasis
is placed on the quads, groin and hamstring muscles to prepare for the
hurdles. Being flexible will allow a faster transition over the hurdle,
increase your endurance and stamina to keep working on the hurdles, and
Agility drills are very important. Working on form running, foot speed
drills, bounding, and other footwork drills are needed preparation for
learning and improving the skills needed for hurdling.
Attitude! Hurdlers have to be hurdlers because they want to be hurdlers! You
have to have a let it all hang out, gutsy, I'm going to blow these
things away attitude. Mental preparation before the season, in
preseason and during the season is just as important as during race day. You
have to make a commitment to work hard, and do all the things you are asked
to do to become a better hurdler.
Terms to know;
Drills for Hurdlers
Skips again, emphasis on reaching with arms and legs for
Skip Out Skip
drill, but emphasis on driving leg to the outside.
Bounding for Height Emphasis on reaching with arms and
legs for height, working on the drive aspect of the takeoff.
Bounding for Distance Emphasis on reaching out. Hurdlers
should try to reach with lead leg as they would on the takeoff.
Paw Skips leg extended, thigh flat, paw with foot.
Alternating Fast Leg slower running motion, alternate
between legs and give step a sudden burst
Backward running leaning forward very important to
stretch out hamstring.
These drills will be done every day with the other speed
and agility drills. For hurdlers, they should expend a more concentrated
effort on these drills.
We also do a lot of work with;
Lunges starting slow 50M lunges (2X).
Concentrate on upper body as well.
Abdominal Work very important muscle for
Hip Flexor Work usually over hurdles,
walking drills to increase flexibility.
To Warm Up properly jogging, stretching and
agility warm ups are ALL necessary to prepare for a hurdle workout.
To Cool Down properly after the workout
jogging will help tired and strained muscles relax, and stretch
immediately after and 2-4 hours after the workout will help your body
bounce back for the next days workout.
Set goals for what you want to accomplish and
work to achieve them.
To HAVE FUN! If you're not, no matter how hard
the workout is, you need to reevaluate your goals and objectives!
Go Colts and
Girls State A Champs 1997, 1998, 1999
Boys State A Champs 2000, 2001, 2002