General Flow of the Sprints Hurdles Race
The sprint hurdles event must be thought of as a sprinting
event. In that sense acceleration as well as maintenance
of high velocity throughout the race are key ingredients
to success. Analysis of top - flight hurdlers has
shown that :
Acceleration does not stop at the first hurdle but
rather continues through the 4th and 5th hurdles.
This should not be surprising in that 100m sprinters
accelerate for approximately the same distance before
reaching top velocity.
Stabilization of maximum velocity is extremely strong
through hurdles 6,7,8 and 9. Speed endurance, or
more specifically, Rhythm Endurance is well developed
by successful hurdlers.
findings well illustrate that high levels of specific
conditioning will be required of the sprint hurdler
who wishes to achieve top level performances.
Start to the First Hurdle
An eight stride pattern to the first hurdle is advocated.
This becomes even more important to the more advanced
hurdler. The rhythm used in running eight strides
to the first hurdle is much closer to the rhythm used
between the remainder of the hurdles and thus helps
the athlete 'get' into their rhythm sooner in the
Attack the first 4-5 strides with the characteristic
inclination of the body found in normal accelerating
run from blocks.
Perform the last three strides before the hurdle
with a slightly more upright body position in order
to approach the hurdle in a more effective posture
for hurdle clearance.
first five strides should be should be driving and
powerful with strides 6-8 emphasizing an increase
in cadence much as in the rhythm of the inter hurdle
Take Off Foot
The term take off foot will refer to the trail leg
foot. It will be this foot from which the hurdler
will propel herself into the hurdle. As we will see
later all of the strides initiated by the takeoff
foot are longer than those initiated by the lead foot.
The term cut step will refer to the step before the
hurdle. The stride before the hurdle is slightly shorter
than the previous stride and involves a lighter, active
landing action of the takeoff foot to keep the the
projection of the centre of mass over the hurdle low
and well directed. By active landing we will mean
an active, quick placing of the trail leg into the
takeoff position somewhat faster than in the previous
running stride. This active landing action will 'cut'
or shorten the last stride thus preventing planting
or braking action and therefore minimize loss of velocity
going into the hurdle. This placement should be on
the forefoot and occurs approximately 2.0m from the
hurdle. Anthropometrical considerations must be made
in determining the correct take off distance from
Lead Leg Action
The lead leg initiates and controls to a great extent
the hurdle. Efficient clearance begins in the strides
before the hurdle. Once the lead leg finishes
its last ground contact phase before the hurdle, its
immediately is recovered, heel to butt, as the knee
is driven up to a point over the hurdle rail. This
requires flexion at the hip and the knee. The lower
lead leg remains tucked under the thigh until the
thigh has reached parallel to the ground or above.
When the thigh reaches its apex , momentum is then
transferred to the lower leg by relaxing the hamstring
and allowing the knee joint to open up. The knee does
not lock. (Another reason for flexing the hip and
then extending the lower leg as a two step sequence
is that the rectus femoris and hamstring muscles are
multiple jointed muscles which cross over the hip
and the knee, an a characteristic of such muscles
is that they do not permit complete movement in both
It must not be considered a mistake to not fully
straighten the lead leg at the knee joint.
The lead leg and its opposing arm must move in a
parallel manner. If the arm is directed inwards
towards the leg, then the leg will will also move
inwards, crossing towards the arm , and the forward
motion of the body will be disturbed.
The velocity of both arms must coincide with that
of the lead leg.
Trail Leg Action
The trail leg must work in concert with the lead leg
and arm actions. The trail leg should be active throughout
its range of movement. As the trail foot leaves the
ground, the leg is drawn vigorously forward and upward,
tucking the heel tightly to the butt and thereby shortening
the trail leg lever as much as possible. This enables
the leg to pass over the hurdle with greater speed
and reduces the degree of compensating rotation in
the rest of the body. The foot of the trail leg should
never rise higher than the knee. The trail leg is
kept tightly folded until the knee has reached the
front of the body and is ready to accelerate downward
to the track once again. The athlete should not attempt
to make a long stride with the trail leg coming off
the hurdle. Early in the race this 'getaway' stride
may need to be longer to aid acceleration but most
certainly will need to be shorter as the race progresses
beyond hurdle 5 or 6 and the athlete reaches maximum
Sequencing of Actions
Problems for he coach and athlete aspiring to elite
levels arise largely from established motor and neural
patterns within the athlete. Especially with athletes
who have been hurdling for many years, a definite
rhythmic pattern is ingrained which may ultimately
be the greatest hindrance to breakthrough performances.
The athlete must be able to:
to performing hurdling action sequences at varied
speeds. Anticipate the hurdle coming up more quickly.
ingrained mental and physical rhythms from past
races that were not of a high performance standard.
Understand the interplay of the lead leg, trail
leg, and arm action in hurdle clearance and running
between. Because balance is a key ingredient in
hurdling, these levers must work at highly corresponding
velocities that are well coordinated.
Running Between the Hurdles
All hurdlers take essentially the same numbers of
strides in a race. Therefore it is quite reasonable
to assume that the hurdler with the greatest stride
frequency should have the greatest success providing
technique and power were equal to that of their opponents.
The distance between the hurdles is overcome in three
strides. The strides are not all of the same length
and vary somewhat according to the anthropometrical
characteristics of the athlete. The length of strides
between the hurdles appears to approximate to the
|Early Race 100H
|Later Race 100H
statement has been made that hurdling should deviate
as little as possible from sprinting. However, in
comparing the technique of the flat sprint with that
of interhurdle running, essential differences in the
running movement of the two can be seen. In overcoming
the interhurdle distance in three strides the amplitude
of limb movements by the hurdler is often less than
that employed in the flat sprint. This of course
depends to some extent on anthropometrics and individual
strength levels. All the pivoting phases in the interhurdle
run must be slightly shorter than in the flat sprint.
This is especially significant in the case of the
the takeoff foot where greater pivoting times indicates
more planting action resulting in higher vertical
velocity and therefore greater flight time over the
hurdle. Heel recoveries are lower (especially for
the trail leg) and ground contact time is kept to
a minimum (athlete appears to be running on hot coals).
As you can see in the chart above, those strides initiated
by the trail leg are greater than those initiated
by the lead leg in every case. This accounts for a
lower heel recovery of the trail leg compared to the
Maximum Velocity Stride Length as it Relates to Stride
Length Requirements in the Sprint Hurdles
The required stride length to effectively accelerate
and maintain velocity in the sprint hurdles has been
described above. In the measurement of stride length
values of sprinters and hurdlers in maximum velocity
sprinting, the coach know the current physical capacity
of each athlete. In order to best attain the high
frequencies necessary for success, the hurdler's sprint
stride potential must be greater than the stride requirement
for hurdles. Within the biomechanical limits dictated
by leg length, the coach must direct the training
of the hurdler to overcome any stride length deficiencies.
This means that force production is generated with
proper hurdle running mechanics. This allows the hurdler
to race between the hurdles at a lesser percentage
of their maximum sprinting stride. This in turn allows
for higher frequencies and better rhythm maintenance.
Too far from the First Hurdle.
1. Sprint strides during initial acceleration from
blocks are too short.
Blocks may be set too close together, resulting in
too short of an initial stride
Arm action in initial acceleration may be too passive.
lacks contractive strength levels necessary to drive
from the blocks with sufficient stride length to make
the 13m distance in 8 steps.
Move blocks to medium spacing and check body angle
in start position
Lengthen arm action and increase amplitude of arm
Too High Over the First Hurdle.
1. Too close to the hurdle at take off
Takeoff foot planted on heel
Non existent or non-active cut step
Lead leg not folded tightly until thigh reached parallel
Athlete afraid of hurdles
athlete in sprint acceleration posture longer. This
will keep strides shorter and help the athlete attain
a higher velocity. make sure that the athlete is accelerating
in a pattern of accelerating and not over striding.
If the athlete is planting their takeoff foot like
a long jumper this will make the last stride before
the hurdle too long and result in placement too close
to the hurdle.
Practice a tall posture, making the cut step active
and on front of take off foot.
Rehearse proper lead leg mechanics and body posture
going into hurdle. Also examine what the take off
foot is doing. If it is planted on the heel , then
the lead leg will tend to open up too soon
Use hurdles in practice that are constructed of soft
flexible materials or constructed to be forgiving
. If the hurdle is not a threat to life and limb,
the athlete will gain the necessary confidence to
run through the hurdles with the necessary velocity
to perform efficient technique.
Hitting Trail Knee on the Hurdle.
1. Rushing takeoff (hot stepping the takeoff)
Focus on an active cut step and do not rush force
application of the trail leg
Leave the trail leg back until you feel a push off
the toe. This will cause a stretch in the thigh
muscles, which will snap the trail leg through with
little or no effort.
Off Balance Coming off the Hurdles.
1. Lead Leg and opposite arm are driven inward and
not parallel to the direction of travel
Trail leg opening up too soon as it clears the hurdle.
Work on keeping the lead leg mechanics as described
above so as to enable the athlete to more easily
keep their actions in line with the direction of
the run. Use sprint arm action into the hurdle and
not across the body. Also, the athlete may be too
close to the hurdle.
Do a significant amount of work on trail leg mechanics
to keep the leg folded until the thigh has reached
a position where the knee is pointing in the direction
of travel before opening up towards the ground.
This problem often occurs when the athlete is trying
to rush the trail leg to the ground.
Hitting Hurdles Late in the Race.
1. Loss of Rhythm
Too close to hurdles
Loss of concentration
Trail leg opening too soon thus causing getaway
stride to be too long resulting in placement of
the next takeoff too close to the hurdle. Also if
the athlete fails to maintain a hips tall position
this may cause them to sit and thereby not maintain
good sprint mechanics.
Keep the trail foot tight and shorten getaway stride.
Think of the hurdles race as 100m long and 48"
wide. Learn to control attention to what's happening
in your lane and concentrating on your own rhythm.