Basic Hurdle Technique and Training

Coaching Notes


Heel Walks- to stretch calves and prevent shin splints (walk on heels, toes pointed up off the ground).

Preventive Ice therapy - to ankles and shins


-deemed most important aspect of hurdling- affects speed

-lengthening of the hamstring takes the most oxygen effort

-do NOT want hamstrings fully extended on touchdown

-need hamstring and gluteus strength - very important


-should be 6-8 inches in front of your center of gravity

-must push “down and back” to generate speed

-do not want to collapse (over extend)

-knee up, toe flexed up when going over hurdle, enables a faster recovery

-on touchdown, landing should be on outside/front of foot, as race continues, touchdown on ball of foot

-no shoulder movement

-shoulders relaxed, down

-elbows critical, back elbow does not break, stays at a 45 degree angle



-in “set” - shins should be as parallel as possible to the ground

400m - 2 second difference between first 200 and second 200


Strength and Conditioning

-athletes must record workouts in order to see progress

rest and nutrition year round, as well as year round training

-should lift all year round with a 15-20% decrease in weight during season

-squats and cleans the most important



-lack of flexibility

-muscle imbalance- work some areas and not others

 “Relaxed is Fast”

-Active Foot; heel up, toe up, knee up

-Foot Strike; must be under hip

-Knee Action; “punch” the knee down the track

-Arm Position; rotate arm past hip pocket & up chest / faster arm makes faster cadence

-Head Position; natural, relaxed jaw- should be able to put finger between teeth

Additional Information   

The hurdles are one of the more difficult events in track and field. They combine sprinting, both short and intermediate, and jumping. Teaching and training for the hurdles are also taught in these two phases. Conditioning, speed and agility drills are necessary components for the “running” aspects of the hurdles. For now, we will concentrate on the “jumping” aspect of the event – the hurdle!

Navigating the hurdle can be broken down into three main phases – the “three T’s”;

1)      Takeoff            2) Transition                 3) Touchdown.

The Take OffAttacking the Hurdle


The takeoff is moving from the running phase to the jumping phase of the race. The takeoff will set up the next two steps in this process. The drive and lift gained here will allow your momentum to carry you over the hurdle and return to running.

The first concept you must have is how to “mentally” approach the hurdle. In many cases hurdles first run into trouble when they slow down, or stutter step while approaching the hurdle. The hurdle is an inanimate object; it just “sits” there – yet many who run the hurdles fear it. It is not going to move, or jump up in front of you. Mentally the hurdle must “attack”! There can be no hesitation, no slowing, take no prisoners! Good hurdles respect the hurdle, but do not fear it. Does this sound a bit corny? Yes, but…it is also true.

The basic parts of the takeoff are speed and drive. The hurdler must maintain their speed as they approach the hurdle, or even attempt to accelerate. Any loss of speed will add extra time after the hurdle, as the runner must reaccelerate. The hurdler should be in good running form, leaning slightly forward, power in their legs.

The drive involves both lower and upper body movement. Notice first the upper body of both sprinters in the pictures at the beginning of this section. Their arms help power them into the takeoff, driving and reaching upwards. Both hurdlers lift with their left arms, as their right legs are their lead leg (the leg that goes first). The lead leg reaches and drives the hurdler up into the hurdle, creating the force necessary to cross over. (That’s why bounding drills are so important).

TransitionOver the Hurdle


Once you have attacked the hurdle, you must transfer yourself to the other side. This process mainly involves your trail leg (the leg behind you). The faster this leg can come over the hurdle and “hit the ground running”, the faster your total transition time over the hurdle is.

There are several things to notice. First, the drive leg, or lead leg, has now extended. This leg is important because it will be the leading force in moving from the jumping to the running phase (see touchdown phase). The trail leg is also raised to clear the hurdle. Being “flat” over the hurdle is not always the best thing to be. Some hurdles will work to be flat, and will “stall out” over the hurdle. They actually “hang” there too long, slowing down the rest of their race. The lead leg needs to get up so that it clears the hurdle (you of course never want contact with the hurdle), and the body follows. The lead leg on good hurdlers will immediately after clearing the hurdle, begin to fall to the ground.

The trail leg is the downfall of many aspiring hurdlers. While it is important, having a slow trail leg is not the end of the world for a hurdler. As your body clears the hurdle, your trail leg must “whip” over the top, and return to the ground in running form. During this phase, the key is to actually convince your body of the need to accelerate – to complete the transition in a “faster” rhythm than the running rhythm.

Touchdown – Back to Running


   The final phase of the hurdle is to return to the running stride. The faster this can be accomplished, the faster the time between hurdles will be. Remember, if you slow down in any of the three phases over the hurdle, then you must waste time to reaccelerate.

   The term “touchdown” refers to when the lead leg has come over the hurdle, and touches down on the ground again. This signifies the end of the jumping phase and the return to running. As the season progresses, many coaches will work with “touchdown times” – charts that will help them determine what a hurdlers splits will be between hurdles to run a certain time for their race.

   The lead legs, and more importantly, the lead foot, act as a shock absorber for the entire body. If you land “extended”, which means your foot is out in front of you and your body is way behind, you have a good chance of sliding, or spraining an ankle. On the other hand, if your foot comes down too soon, and your body gets ahead of you, you are likely to stumble and fall.

   The proper touchdown is with the foot in an upright position, your body slightly behind, but almost on top of your foot. You do want to return your foot to the ground as fast as possible after clearing the hurdle. The faster you are on the ground again, the faster you can start running again. Hurdlers are taught to “paw”, like a horse would paw the ground. For the hurdler, to “paw” means to bring the foot back at an angle towards the body. By doing this, the foot is “locked and loaded”, and ready to run as soon as it hits the ground.

Once touchdown has been achieved, the focus returns to the trail leg. Speed, snap and quickness are bonuses to returning to the run phase. The faster you can take the first two steps after the hurdle, the lead leg mention already, and now the trail leg, the faster you return to a full sprint mode. In basic drills, hurdlers will work to increase the speed and snap of the trail leg.

Getting Ready

     Of course you understand, you don’t just decide to run hurdles one day, and magically have the ability to do so. There are some gifted athletes who can run the race with little practice and get fairly good time, but to reach your potential in the hurdles requires a lot of work.

    1. To begin with, conditioning is VERY important in hurdles. Interrupting the running stride to jump a stationary object is taxing. Getting stronger through weightlifting is also a benefit. It takes “power” to drive through the hurdle. In addition, to get better, you need to practice running the hurdles, which requires a lot of stamina and endurance. You have to be in good physical condition!

   2. Flexibility is a big key. Hurdlers need to do a number of extra stretches in addition to the normal stretching routine used by sprinters. More emphasis is placed on the quads, groin and hamstring muscles to prepare for the hurdles. Being flexible will allow a faster transition over the hurdle, increase your endurance and stamina to keep working on the hurdles, and prevent injuries.

   3. Agility drills are very important. Working on form running, foot speed drills, bounding, and other “footwork” drills are needed preparation for learning and improving the skills needed for hurdling.

   4. Attitude! Hurdlers have to be hurdlers because they “want” to be hurdlers! You have to have a “let it all hang out”, gutsy, I’m going to blow these things away attitude. Mental preparation before the season, in preseason and during the season is just as important as during race day. You have to make a commitment to work hard, and do all the things you are asked to do to become a better hurdler.

Terms to know;

Takeoff                        Transition                     Touchdown                  Lead Leg

Trail Leg                       Paw                             Drive                            Running Mode

Jumping Mode             Running Mode

Drills for Hurdlers

1.      Skips – again, emphasis on reaching with arms and legs for height.

2.       Skip Out – Skip drill, but emphasis on driving leg to the outside.

3.      Bounding for Height – Emphasis on reaching with arms and legs for height, working on the drive aspect of the takeoff.

4.      Bounding for Distance – Emphasis on reaching out. Hurdlers should try to reach with lead leg as they would on the takeoff.

5.      Paw Skips – leg extended, thigh flat, paw with foot.

6.      Alternating Fast Leg – slower running motion, alternate between legs and give step a sudden burst

7.      Backward running – leaning forward – very important to stretch out hamstring.

These drills will be done every day with the other speed and agility drills. For hurdlers, they should expend a more concentrated effort on these drills.

We also do a lot of work with;

Lunges – starting slow – 50M lunges (2X). Concentrate on upper body as well.

Abdominal Work – very important muscle for hurdling.

Hip Flexor Work – usually over hurdles, walking drills to increase flexibility.


  1. To Warm Up properly – jogging, stretching and agility warm ups are ALL necessary to prepare for a hurdle workout.
  2. To Cool Down properly – after the workout jogging will help tired and strained muscles relax, and stretch immediately after and 2-4 hours after the workout will help your body bounce back for the next days workout.
  3. Set goals for what you want to accomplish and work to achieve them.
  4. To HAVE FUN! If you’re not, no matter how hard the workout is, you need to reevaluate your goals and objectives!

“Getting Hurdle Warm”

After completing the "regular" routine stretching and warm ups, hurdlers go through an additional routine to prepare for their event.

Preliminary Hurdle Stretches

  1. Leg Swings – either using the hurdle or the wall / fence, etc…
    1. Side to Side – face wall, swing leg side to side with hip and trunk rotation
    2. Front to Back – parallel with wall, swing leg forwards and backwards, as high as possible both directions, 10-15 times
  2. Hurdle Hamstring – one leg up on hurdle at 90 degree angle to ground, stretch
  3. Hurdle Groin – with one leg up, reach to toes on leg on ground, stretch groin
  4. Hurdle Stretch;
    1. Regular hurdle stretch with trail leg out
    2. Also stretch trunk rotation
    3. Running in place, reach rotation (three step form)
  5. Standing Hamstring – with one leg up, stretch forward, stretch hamstring, quads, gluteus – push forward – also emphasis for drive of lead leg when hurdling

Hurdle Warm Up Drills

  1. Trail Snaps – walk to hurdle, snap and paw trail (both legs 10-15 times)
  2. Jogging Snaps – same drill with small step slow jog to hurdle (10-15 times)
  3. Walking Four – four hurdles, close together, step, snap and paw (5-8 times)
  4. Quick Four – four hurdles, slightly more spacing, 3 mini-steps in-between (4-8 times)
  5. Jogging Four – four hurdles, slightly more distance between, jogging in between hurdles, hitting them quick and fast (3-8 times)
  6. Take Offs – jogging up to hurdle and jumping the hurdle in form – full approach (4-10 times)
  7. Single Hurdles – full speed approach and run through one hurdle (2-4 times)

Alright! Now you’re ready to hurdle!!!!!