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Hurdle Workouts

Source: www.coacheseducation.com
By Tonie Campbell
Date: March, 2001

The Zone Drill

Invented by Mr. Wilbur Ross, this drill is widely recognized as the single most important workout for the elite athlete during the competitive season.

1.) To condition the hurdler to hurdling timing and technique at hyper speeds during a workout routine.
2.) To condition the athlete to crave speed in the later half of a race.
3.) Elimination of fear at top speeds.

The Set-up:
Place ten hurdles at their normal distances and heights. Remove hurdles four, five and six (blank space effectively becomes the "Zone"). Athlete comes out of the blocks obtaining full speed over the first three hurdles. Upon reaching the zone, athlete must accelerate to hyper speeds on the flat. As they approach hurdle seven, the athlete must make a choice to attack the hurdle or to bail out. The athlete who chooses to attack the hurdle must then maintain the hyper speed while securing a three-step running pattern over the remainder of hurdles.

The speed in which they take the last four hurdles is effectively what the drill is designed to improve and test. The athlete must be maintained his technique over the hurdles once exiting the zone at this new and unfamiliar speed. However, due to the increased speed in which they have assumed this task it is very difficult to obtain. The key is to take the hurdles blindly (blind faith) and stay relaxed reacting quickly and aggressively instead of defensively.

Each run should be timed. Once an athlete is able to do this drill at 100% effort, accurate race times within .28 seconds (if hand timed, add .28 sec.) can be predicted within a two-day window period.

Suggested workouts:
Do this drill during the spring season when weather conditions are favorable. Zone drills should be done within two days of competition due to the emotional benefit and psychological boost the athlete gets from this drill as well as the reaction time decay of most athletes per a given week.

Back and Forths

Mr. Jean Poquette, developing coach of former world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, invented this drill.

1.) The purpose of the drill is to give the athlete speed plus endurance training.
2.) Creates concentration, stamina and discipline over the barriers.

The Set-up:
Set the first five hurdles at normal spacing and normal height. Set a second row of five hurdles returning (a lane apart facing the opposite direction) with a pair of blocks at the beginning of this row (must be measured for correct distance).

The athlete begins with a standing/running start for the first of the five hurdles accelerating to 100%. At the conclusion of the first five, the athlete is given a maximum :15 seconds rest (time enough to get in the blocks) and takes the second set of five hurdles. The drill is to be done at 85-90% effort. Pace and relaxation for efficiency is stressed in this drill.

Suggested workouts:
This workout is good to do when the athlete is in transition from their fall training to beginning season and can be used sparingly as a conditioning workout during the season.

A timed recovery is best for these drills (approximately 4-6 minutes) a total of five runs over the entire drill would be considered an excellent work-out.

Side steps with speed

This drill was created by Mr. John Isaac of Great Britain and used to train hurdlers like Tony Jarrett and myself.

1.) To increase leg speed between hurdles. Reaffirming the philosophy of "hurdler as sprinter".
2.) To allow the athlete to isolate a particular regions of his body.
3.) To eliminate fear of the hurdles at hyper speeds.

The Set-up:
The first five hurdles. The spacing is reduced (at coach's discretion) normally 12" or 1 foot. The hurdles are lowered 3" inches. The athlete takes the hurdle with only one side of his body (i.e. the trail leg or the lead leg) while accelerating to hyper speeds or greater than 100%.

The philosophy is to reacquaint the hurdler with the importance of the sprint in between the hurdles and proper acceleration into and off each hurdle. By lowering the hurdles, we have eliminated the athlete's concern for hurdle clearance. By moving the hurdles in closer, we have eliminated the athlete's concern of distance, giving the hurdler amble confidence in his abilities and allowing him/her to concentrate on speed.

Suggested Workouts:
Have the athlete do these workouts during competition season in place of "Zone drills" if the athlete has particular difficulty with the zone drills. However, this drill should not completely replace the zone drill or vice versa. Use this drill as a complement to the zone drills or perhaps a reward for a tough week. This drill should be done within two days of competition.

The athlete should do a minimum of five passes down each side then five over the top for a complete workout in order to yield maximum benefits from the drill.

Optional suggestions would include; when your athlete has mastered this workout but his technique still could desire more, the coach may raise the height of the barriers or increase the distance of the barriers.

By increasing the height, the athlete will develop stronger and more flexible technical abilities along with greater speeds. By increasing the barrier length the athlete will develop greater ground speed overall.

1/2 Drills

This drill was given to me by 1992 Olympic gold medallist Mark McKoy of Canada.

1.) This drill is great to use when warm-up facilities are limited and your athlete needs several passes over hurdles to warm-up.
2.) Also this is a great drill to do when an athlete is "Flat" (tired, non-aggressive, tight, sluggish) this stimulates tempo and mental alertness.
3.) Gives the athlete a greater number of hurdle passes without a large volume of distance.

The Set-up:
Set hurdles at normal distance and normal height followed by simply inserting a hurdle between each effectively having placed a hurdle at every five yards.

The athlete is to condense his steps to fit a three-step rhythm. The faster the tempo, the harder and ultimately more beneficial.

Suggested work-outs:
Can be used as a warm-up for race, setting hurdles up on a "as needed" basis.

In a workout, an athlete can set up as many as 19 hurdles making up to 20 passes during the fall training season and decreasing the load as the competitive season approaches and the athlete's conditioning increases.

Acceleration Hurdles

Former World Record holder and two-time Gold medallist, Roger Kingdom gave this drill to me.


1.) To create a second half race "surge" and improve general hurdle strength and competition power.

The Set-up:
The first hurdle is at normal distance from the starting line. The second and the third hurdles are moved in 3 feet (36" inches). The third hurdle is moved in 2 feet (24" inches). The forth is moved in 1 foot (12" inches). The fifth and sixth are normal distance. The seventh is longer by 1 foot (12" inches). The eight and ninth is longer by 2 feet (24" inches). The tenth is longer by 3 feet (36" inches).

As you can see by this layout the athlete has quite a challenge awaiting him. From taking the hurdles quickly to having to accelerate and elongate his stride as the drill proceeds whilst maintaining his rhythm and cadence over the entire span of hurdles.

This drill is exceptionally difficult and only the more advanced athletes can physically and mentally handle it.

Suggested Workout:
This drill can be done at anytime in the late fall through the season but only early in the week when the athlete's legs are fresh and mental alertness is at it's optimum level.

A suggested five attempts per workout would be adequate.

20 Step Drill

This drill is another staple of every hurdler. This particular version is of Mark Crear, Olympic Silver medallist in 1996.

To allow the athlete to concentrate on his hurdling technique and quickness while training over a substantial number of hurdles at a three-step pace.

1.) The drill is great as a complete workout and also as a fast warm-up drill (as opposed to the 1/2 step drills)
2.) As with the 1/2 drill, this workout is great for when the athlete is fatigued or tired (flat).

The Set-up:
The hurdles should be set up at 20-22 feet apart at normal height for the athlete. The coach should use his/her discretion as to how many to place. A typical workout for a world class athlete would be eight.

The athlete approaches the drill from either a running start or a block start at about 60% speed. After clearing the first hurdle he/she must accelerate their rate of leg speed in order to continue over the next several hurdles.

Suggested workout:
At typical workout would have four passes over the drill with a timed rest interval of no more than four minutes.

5 Step drill

This is the main stay of every hurdler and coach. This is used to warm up and also can be used as a

1.) To condition the athlete.
2.) To be used as a warm-up
3.) To re-enforce timing and tempo

The Set-up:
The hurdles should be placed at normal distance and normal height. The coach should use his own discretion as to how many hurdles to place. This factor should be determined by

A.) The time of year. Fall workouts or conditioning workouts should build a solid base of hurdle strength for the athlete. The athlete must be able to make a pass over ten hurdles without tiring. Ten hurdles set up is suggested and each workout push the athlete's endurance to the point he is able to make a total of 20 passes over the ten barriers (or 200 individual flights of hurdles
B.) Spring or competition season. This should be used as a buffer to speed work as well as preferred warm-up drill if the space permits it. As a workout , the hurdles can be set up at normal or less than normal distance and the number of hurdles doesn't matter. During this time of year, the drill is mostly for reconditioning of the slower larger muscles and for rhythm and pace

Suggested Workout:
A suggested workout would be setting five hurdles up and each athlete makes ten passes (50 individual flights). Concentrating on technique and keeping tall over the hurdles

Two additional variations of the 5 step drill as a workout exist, Fast Tops and Fast Middles

Version A - Fast Tops
While the set up is the same in all of the 5 step drill training routines, the athlete in this drill is to only concentrate on his quickness and technique over the "top" of the hurdles. It is very important the athlete learns to accelerate his/her technique whilst in flight. Being able to accelerate during flight will condition the athlete to not rely on making a strategic move or race surge only on the ground. It will also re-enforce the athlete's understanding of the physics, which dictate velocity in hurdling.

The athlete approaching the hurdle will do so at jogging pace. At his/her penultimate step, a hard transition or acceleration must take place. Arms, legs, hips and each motion associated with hurdling become intensified and quick. Upon landing the trial-leg, the exercise is concluded and a jog is resumed for the next three

Version B - Fast Middles
As above the athlete is to break up his rhythm by concentrating on different parts of the race. In Fast Middles, the athlete relaxes over the hurdles while in flight and intensifies his run into the next hurdle once landing his trail-leg, effectively, the opposite of Fast Tops. The benefit of Fast Middles is to teach acceleration in between the hurdles and overcoming rhythm problems during a race. The athlete must concentrate on the pumping of the arms and the driving of the knees while during this drill. However, it is very important that the athlete monitors his rate of acceleration and still fit the prescribed five steps in between each hurdle

The coach only needs to monitor the technique of the athlete in each of the versions. In early season, it is good to have constant movement between each flight and set of hurdles. A slow jog back to the beginning is recommended and preferred.

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