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Fixing Common Hurdles Mistakes

Helpful advice for young hurdlers who want to improve their craft


Every young hurdler will face some problems in the beginning, while learning the proper technique. Here are some fixes to common problems, based on a presentation by David Mitchell at the 2014 Michigan Interscholastic Track Coaches Association’s 2014 clinic.

Trail leg errors: Many trail leg problems are caused by the mistakes with the lead leg. Hurdling is like any other track and field event – if you look back a little ways before the error, there’s probably something that caused that error. So young hurdlers should do twice as many single-leg lead drills as single-leg trail drills to perfect their lead-leg technique.

Jumping too high over the hurdle: The athlete is probably afraid. The hurdler’s mind is saying, ‘jump.’ The hurdler may also be too close to the hurdle so, as a result, jumping vertically is the only way to clear the hurdle. Placing training sweeps on top of the hurdles can help fix this problem, because the hurdle can be lowered about 3 inches. The athletes then perform drills in which they gradually reduce their jumping height until they touch the sweep. Begin with walking drills, then move at half speed, then try to clear the hurdles at a run. Coaches should encourage hurdles to make contact with the sweeps with the heel of their lead leg, or with the thigh as they clear the hurdles, or even the inside of the trailing ankle.

Running into the hurdles: Coaches should watch the hurdler’s form. The athlete might be taking off a little too close to the hurdle. That’s the natural fear – ‘I’m too far away.’ But they also may not be turning their trail foot out, or possibly they’re turning the lead foot in instead of clearing with their toes up. So getting the foundation from the walkovers and using verbal cues can help hurdlers cure most of these problems. Sometimes when the problem exposes itself the hurdler must go back and work on the basics. Some people pick up certain parts of hurdling really quickly and some people take many repetitions to get it right.

Twisting the trail leg: If the hurdler comes down and twists while clearing the hurdles, or drops the trail foot, the athlete must focus on lifting the trailing knee higher than the ankle. Additionally, the coach should hear the sound of an active trail foot landing against the track, so the hurdler gains a full running stride off of that trail leg, rather than just stepping down.

Weaving from side to side in the lane: Use small target sweeps, just a few inches wide, and have hurdler aim the lead leg at the sweep. The drill also helps hurdlers learn to run the curves. Placing the target sweep on the left side of the hurdle teaches the runner to stay toward the inside of the lane.

Reaching some hurdles in three steps, but not others, in the sprint events: Athletes who can reach one hurdle in three steps but can’t make it to the next are probably not getting a full running start with the trail leg. They’re probably shortchanging themselves on that stride, so they’re losing a little distance on every hurdle, which eventually catches up with them. In theory, if hurdlers can three-step one flight, they should be able to do the next one, as long as they’re accelerating off each hurdle. If a hurdler is landing and then gathering to collect himself, then the hurdler loses speed over the hurdle.

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