Sprint Hurdles Specifics Without Hurdles - Using the Lattes

Stuart Dempster

"The athlete who runs quickest between the hurdles will win"

In a senior sprint hurdles race there are 10 hurdles. Obviously one of the challenges faced by the coach is to ensure that the athlete can cross each hurdle with minimum deviation from the sprinting movement.

What can be forgotten, however, is the contribution of other elements such as the approach to the first hurdle, the strides between the hurdles, and the dash to the finish line.

One can work hard on the hurdling technique but there are only ten opportunities here. There are, however, forty one other opportunities to improve performance. This should be addressed alongside hurdling technique.
Movement skill break down:-

o Start to hurdle first hurdle (8)
o Movement over hurdles (10)
o Strides between hurdles (27)
o Last hurdle to the finish (6)

So as can be seen, movement over the hurdle represents only part of the picture regarding hurdle development.
You can see the challenges presented to tall female sprint hurdlers, they will find the intervals between just too easy. The problem is that, as the athlete progresses down the track, the dynamics change due to increased speed, then increased levels of fatigue. This all stresses the Central Nervous System (CNS). The athlete must posses the ability to move long limbs at a high rate.

The Central Nervous System is the engine governing the rate and order of the muscle contraction. The CNS will be developed by regular high-speed cadence work using lattes.


So how do we improve this ability?

Lattes can be used to great effect here. These are simply sticks of approximately 50cm in length. I had mine painted luminous yellow so that they could be clearly seen on all training surfaces.

When you take in to account take-off and landing distances the male sprint hurdler is required to execute a three stride rhythm with-in a parameter of 6 meters. The female sprint hurdler currently is required to achieve this with-in around 5.90m.
Remember that each coaching situation varies according to the capacities of the athletes, facilities and the awareness of the coach.

I will quote my work with an athlete who is 1.92m tall.

Less is more

To start off with we worked out what length the athlete’s maximum velocity stride length was, then placed the lattes at 2cm narrower than this value. This was not specific to the short fast strides required in hurdling but represented a safe starting point from which the athlete can start to sense the slightly more rapid stride rate.

Gradually over several months we set out the lattes at a narrower spacing until the point of overload was reached. This means that the athlete was performing way out of the comfort zone and was often unable to complete a full run with out the stride length going too long.

Running mechanics related to the athlete you coach.

The taller the athlete the more their stride obeys the laws of acceleration mechanics between the hurdles. This is characterised by the heels remaining low throughout the three strides and throughout the race. You simply need to look at the German record holder Florian Schwarthoff to see this. It is for this reason that it is a misconception to think that the really tall athletes are easier to coach. The tall athletes are far more difficult to coach because of the in-built resistance of the long legs. You can contrast Colin Jackson to see that his stride progresses more towards maximum velocity mechanics.

We initially set out one latte per footfall. However after the initial learning phase we needed more distance so we established one latte per for every four footfalls. So, assuming that the stride length to be achieved is 2m, then lattes would be placed every eight meters-more realistic to running between the hurdles. We were using training distances of up to 80m with a run up of 20-30m.This is a big ask on an athlete’s central nervous system so we had to ensure quality at all times.

To increase motivation and competitiveness, the coach can time from the athlete’s first footfall within the lattes to he last footfall. This can be done when the athlete has established good competence in terms of technique and leg speed.

Should you wish to contact me regarding any questions you may have regarding the above article please do so at the e-mail address below.


January 2003

iAs his career reaches its finale, UKHC spoke to COLIN JACKSON about his advice for the comming generation of sprint hurdlers
SARAH CLAXTON and Dominic Girdler triumphed in the 60 m hurdles events at the 2003 AAA/ World Trials at Birmingham click here for the round up.
ALLEN JOHNSON and Gail Devers confirmed their position as favorites for the IAAF Indoor World Champoinships, with clear cut victories.
COLIN JACKSON ran his fastest time of the year in Karlsruhe but was then disqualified under the new IAAF false
JANA PITMAN the Commonwealth Champion, started the season in great style breaking under the 54 second mark with an impressive display in Canberra
UKA announce the qualification standards for the IAAF Paris World Championships in August. ...............................


If interested in becoming actively involved in promoting hurdling within the UK, whether coaching clinics or race promotions please contact: nickdakin@ukhurdlesclub.net