High Hurdle Practice and Drills
The first thing to remember as a coach is that hurdlers apply much greater stress to their legs and body than do normal sprinters; therefore, you cannot expect them to run hurdles on back-to-back days. This does not eliminate, however, the need to work on the daily flexibility that is associated with the hurdling technique.
Hurdlers should always do a majority of their warm-up work in flats to protect their legs. They will need to be in spikes when they actually perform on hurdles and work on technique drills.
Because it is difficult to simulate “competitive adrenaline” during practice, you may want to consider running most or all of your practices on shortened distances between the hurdles. Doing so makes it easier for the athletes to hit the proper strides each time and to avoid struggling to get to the hurdle. Shortened distances ensure that throughout the workout, the athlete has the best chance at using proper technique on the hurdles. At the beginning of the year I shorten the distance to the second hurdle by half the length of my shoe, the distance to the third by a full shoe length, the distance to the fourth by one and a half shoe lengths, and so on. Later in the season, I close up the space between each hurdle bya shoe’s length, or even a shoe and a half per hurdle, to help the athletes produce a faster neuromuscular memory pattern.
Likewise, I like to have athletes practice over hurdles that are three inches lower than the competition height to assist in their speed development in this race. The shorter, closer hurdles enhance the athletes’ “quickness” of the technique on the hurdle, first step after the hurdle, and speed between the hurdles.
I like to use the following three lead-leg drills with the hurdlers in a break-out practice setting. These same drills can be used to work on the trail leg.
The athlete places the hurdle up against the wall at competition height. He or she backs up and walks three steps into the takeoff position, then drives the lead leg toward the wall by leading with the knee and placing the calf up against the hamstring (figure 8.3a). He or she hits the wall with the ball of the foot, keeping the shoulders square and the arms in proper position (figure 8.3b). To drill the trail leg, place the hurdle about 30 to 36 inches from the wall. The athlete places both hands on the wall and steps with the lead leg so that the heel is in line with the vertical tube of the hurdle. Then the athlete pulls the trail leg through. Athletes can also modify this drill by doing cycles of trail-leg drills, such as five in a row without stopping, and by leaving the grounded foot stationary.
With one or up to five hurdles set up in a sequence, the athlete starts from a jog. He or she approaches the hurdle and completes the lead-leg action over half of the hurdle. The athlete then focuses on leading with the knee and remaining on the ball of the foot, with the shoulders and arms in proper position (figure 8.4, a and b). As the athlete becomes more efficient, he or she can also focus on the speed of the lead leg to the ground and the arm drive into a sprinting motion while clearing the hurdle.
The athlete is again working on half of a hurdle. With a sequence of up to eight hurdles set 8 to 10 feet apart and using the previously described lead-leg technique when the lead leg touches the ground, the athlete takes a single stride and clears the next hurdle.To work on the trail leg, the athlete starts from a jog, clears just half of the hurdle with the trail leg, then focuses on the everted footand drives the knee up to the armpit. The runner then focuses on the stepping away and the high-knee drive for the next step (figure 8.5).