Hurdle Form Basics
Lead Leg should be back in the blocks and use same start as other sprints. The athlete should come to the upright position faster than a sprinter in order to make visual contact with the first hurdle and accelerate to the first hurdle.
The athlete should use eight strides to the first hurdle. Using seven steps to the hurdle results in over striding of the athlete. After the first hurdle, the athletes steps will be cut down between the hurdles if they are fast. The goal is to three step between each hurdle if possible.
Take off is between 6 to 7 feet from the hurdle, depending on the athletes ability. The athlete drives the knee of the lead leg at the hurdle. The lead arm should be bent at the elbow and kept at the side of the body and also not cross the midline of the body and the back arm or trail arm should also be bent at the elbow and kept at the hip. Shoulders should be kept level, square, and just in front of the hips while the center of gravity is in front of the take off foot with the take off leg fully extended. The athlete should take off from the ball of their foot. It’s important for the athlete to focus through the hurdle and not on the hurdle that they are clearing.
The Hurdle Clearance
The lead leg is almost completely extended, it should have a slight bend in it and the take off foot should be turned out and tucked close to the glutes and pulled from behind to a high knee position in front of the body, this leg becomes the trail leg. The lead arm is raised to allow the leg to come through and should move backward to counter balance the forward movement of the trail leg. The trail arm is moved forward to also counter balance the forward movement of the trail leg. The shoulders should be kept level and have no movement to either side.
The landing should occur four feet in front of the hurdle and the toes of the lead foot should land with the heel never hitting the ground. The lead leg should be fully extended at landing and the knee should be over the toes. This will allow the athlete to maintain their speed off the hurdle. The center of gravity is over the landing leg to help the athlete maintain speed. The trail leg should be in a high knee position in front of the body and the arms should resemble sprinting form.
The Step off the Hurdle
The body should be tall with a slight forward lean. The landing foot should be pulling back to help propel the athlete to the next hurdle and the trail leg, that is in the high knee position, is then driven to the ground under the body, it should not extend.
Knee should be aggressively driven at the hurdle and the toe should be cocked back towards the athlete. After clearance of the hurdle, the leg should be “pawed” down and backwards. The faster the athlete gets their lead leg down, the faster they will run.
Toes should be cocked and the heal should be as close to the glutes as possible. The leg should be brought as close to the body and through the arm pit as possible. The trail leg should finish in front of the body in a high knee position.
Arms should resemble sprinters arms, and they should never cross the midline of the body. They should help balance the body over the hurdle and work as hard as the legs in between the hurdles.
Hurdlers need to make sure they have good rhythm with their lead leg over the hurdle.
Setup – Set up 4 or 5 hurdles that are about 6 feet apart. Adjust the height to reflect the age of the runner.
Procedure – Instead of running over these hurdles, sprinters will walk over the top of the hurdles with special emphasis on the knee lift, toe extension and then heel over action that goes with climbing over the hurdles.
This is done at a walk to make sure the runner’s hurdling technique is perfected, before working between the hurdles while running. The emphasis should be on exaggerating each movement as the hurdler crosses over the hurdle. The exaggeration is what helps build the proper form when a sprinter is running at full speed.
This is a form drill that helps the hurdler perfect their technique, while still getting the practice going over the hurdle.
Setup– Set up 4 or 5 hurdles to start, each about 6 feet apart. You can shorten the distance between hurdles as the runner becomes more comfortable with their technique.
Procedure – This drill allows the sprinter to go over the hurdles, but it is faster than the A-March, and slower than half speed. Once again, the focus is on the technique of the hurdler.
With the sprinter jogging, they need to run over the hurdles. With the slower action, the runner can focus on driving their knee high over the hurdle with the lead leg, and getting full extension with the trailing leg as they bring it over the hurdle.
Runner should focus on rhythmic pumping of the arms and keeping their shoulders and hips squarely pointed at the hurdles.
100m Accelerate and Hurdle Drill
Teaching the runner good conditioning and being able to finish a race in the last 30m is important for their overall success.
Setup – Have a 100m stretch of track available for runners. In the last 30m of the stretch set up the hurdles in typical race fashion. Mark off the 60m point – for the runner’s to begin acceleration.
Procedure – This is a hurdler’s conditioning and acceleration drill. Often times, runners will lose focus, acceleration, and their technique goes out the window near the end of a race.
With this drill, the runner will start from blocks, and run at between ½ and ¾ speed until they get to the 60m mark – at which time the runner will accelerate to full speed and work on their form over the hurdles for the last 40 to 50m.
Coaches should watch closely the changes in the technique that might be apparent over the last half of the race – if your runner is dogged by knocked over hurdles.
The runner will not only build their conditioning and technique for the last half of the race, they will also work on increasing acceleration for the end of the sprint.
Another form drill that helps build the muscle memory of the trailing hurdle leg.
Setup – A wall to lean against, with a flat surface around it. You can also add in a hurdle in order to give the sprinter an idea of how high they are going to have to bring their leg.
Procedure – Set up the hurdle on the trailing leg side, but the runner will not actually go over the hurdle. It is just a guide for the leg at this point. Leaning against the wall with the hand and arm opposite the trailing leg used to hold the runner up, the runner extends the trailing leg out, as though they were leaping over the hurdle.
Still leaning, the runner will round the knee over the hurdle with enough height to make sure they can get the entire thing over the hurdle. They should go through the entire process right to getting the trailing leg back on the ground over the hurdle.
This exercise builds muscle memory in the trailing leg so the hurdler knows it is going to get over the hurdle and not slow them down.
Hit the Mark
Having a standard takeoff and landing point for the hurdler helps them to keep their form throughout a race
Setup – The coach will mark off the distance from the hurdle that the runner should take off and land from. Place 4 hurdles along the track at the regular race interval (8.5 metres).
Procedure – The sprinter will start this drill either from a standing start or from the blocks and they will approach the first hurdle. The idea of having the marks is to create a mental image of where the runner should be taking off from in order to continue the maximum speed and acceleration, while clearing the hurdle.
If a runner misses the mark, they stop the drill and go back to the beginning. The goal is to hit all of the marks on a consistent basis without hitting the hurdles. Once the runner becomes proficient with 4 hurdles, you can add one hurdle at a time to build consistency down the entire track.
Eventually this is going to build a mental image for the racer to follow for the entire race.
Lead Leg Drill
While the hurdles will be set up, the runner will not actually be going over the hurdles; they will be practicing their technique over the hurdles right next to them.
Setup – You can set up an entire length of hurdles in order for the runner to practice with, but ideally they can work with 4 or 5 hurdles placed at regular race intervals.
Procedure – The runner will start just next to the first hurdle on the side of the hurdle that is opposite their leading leg. If you lead with your right leg, you will be on the left side of the hurdle to start.
The drill starts with the runner lifting their lead leg with the proper form (high knee, extension and then land), without the trailing leg, and then running to the next hurdle and doing the same thing. This drill is for the lead leg only – in order to work on the proper form for this leg.
Trailing Leg Drill
This drill is similar to the last one, only the runner will work on their trailing leg only.
Setup - You can set up an entire length of hurdles in order for the runner to practice with, but ideally they can work with 4 or 5 hurdles placed at regular race intervals.
Procedure – This drill works in the opposite fashion that the lead leg drill works. Start on the opposite side of your trailing leg. If the trailer is the right side, then runners should be on the left side of the hurdle.
The drill starts with the runner extending his or her trailing leg behind without the lead leg starting, rounding over the hurdle and then running to the next hurdle and doing the same thing. This drill is for the trailing leg only – in order to work on the proper form for this leg.
This is a progression drill, to help runner focus on their form right through a series of hurdles
Setup – Start this drill with 5 hurdles set up at regular race intervals, and at the proper height for the runner.
Procedure – From the starting blocks, the runner will burst out on their own time and hurdle the first 5 hurdles at full speed, focusing on their form through the first 5.
If there is a mistake in form, or a hurdle goes down, the sprinter keeps going with only 5 hurdles. If they can successfully scale all 5 hurdles with regularity, then they can add two hurdles. This will likely happen as a progression over the course of several practices.
Once the sprinter reaches the end (110m), then they will start back at 5 hurdles and rebuild their way back to the full race.
This is a simple repetition drill that helps hurdlers focus on their form while they are making it down the track. Eventually, the hurdle will become second nature to the runner.
300m Hurdle Conditioning
This is a great early season drill to start building the endurance of muscles and to help the runner focus on form when they are tired.
Setup – You will need the full track to do this drill, with a hurdle set up at each 100m interval. You can run athletes at intervals to get several going at a time.
Procedure – This is just straight conditioning with an emphasis on keeping the form of the hurdle when tired.
The runner will start from a standing position and run at about ¾ speed. At each 100m interval the runner must use their proper hurdling form at the hurdle and leap over it while continuing their run. The same is repeated for the next 100m, and so on, until they get to the 4th hurdle, when they can stop.
If a runner knocks down a hurdle, or they ignore form in order to just get over the hurdle, then they must run the drill again, up to that point. (Provide 5 to 7 minutes rest in between).
Proper push off is important for hurdlers to maintain momentum when they are clearing hurdles.
Setup – A set of 10 stairs for the runner to work on.
Procedure – The runner will start at the bottom of a set of stairs, and they will hop on one leg up all 10 stairs. They should walk down the stairs with both legs and then do the exercise again with the other leg.
This drill is not about speed, but about preparing the body to push off and getting the most push they can by thrusting their body forward. The push off will help to build the muscles in the leg that work the push off. This helps the runner with power when they go to leap the hurdles.
The increase in push off power allows the runner to continue to maintain his or her momentum when they approach a hurdle, because the push is strong and does not limit their ability to continue forward.
First Hurdle Drill
The first hurdle is a mental as well as physical hurdle for the runner.
Setup – Set up the starting blocks as done for the beginning of the race. Only one hurdle is needed for this drill.
Procedure – The first hurdle can be a challenge for some runners as they are still in a full lean as they gain acceleration. That’s why this drill is important to work on throughout the season.
As the runner explodes from the blocks, you do not want them dropping acceleration by standing straight up and down to meet the first hurdle. Instead, they need to work on keeping their acceleration lean while hurdling the first hurdle.
The runner will burst out of the starting blocks and sprint to the first hurdle – maintaining their lean while hurdling the first hurdle. That the drill in a nutshell. Work on the drill until the form is acceptable.
This is a good mental exercise for the hurdler
Setup – Set up the hurdles as you would for a typical race, however, only set up the middle two lanes with hurdles. Runner will run on either side of the hurdles.
Procedure – Runners will use blocks to start, running this race as though it were the real thing. The only difference between this drill and the real thing is the hurdles.
The sprinter will run beside the hurdles that are set up, but still hurdling them as though the hurdles were in front of them. This drill is purely aimed at allowing the runner to focus on running the race, rather than making sure they get over the hurdles.
Coaches should watch the race for potential misses, and to make sure the runner maintains form, even though they are not going over the real hurdle.
Runners will be able to work on race fundamentals: acceleration throughout the run, good stride rhythm, and they must work on form for their jumps, without worrying about the hurdle.