Questions for Hurdle Coaches

Posted In: Hurdles


  • Participant
    rcfan2 on #17493

    To pick the brains of hurdle coaches…primarily in regards to HS or college 100/110 hurdlers…

    While I rarely run my hurdlers over full height/full spaced hurdles at practice – let alone in sets of 10 – I know that some coaches do… And like most coaches, I have my my reasons/justifications for my training methods/theory. What I’d like to know is “why” a coach would practice hurdlers over full height and/or full spaced hurdles – occasionally or regularly at practice?

    So…understanding some of the “cons” of full height/full spaced hurdles…

    What are the possible “pros” – that would lead a coach to train over full height and/or spaced hurdles at practice?


    Participant
    eroszag on #107302

    Pros: Most specific training possible
    Cons: Too stressful to be proposed too often, does not allow a coach to work on some aspects better stressed with lesss hurdles, different spacing, more hurdles, also, like the 400m, a bit of mistical value on the competition.


    Participant
    rcfan2 on #107323

    Eroszag,

    Thanks for the reply…

    And like you – I can come up far more “Cons” than “Pros”.

    And while I agree that running a hurdle race (over 10 full height/spaced hurdles) is the most specific form of training in concept – I struggle to see how effective this would be in practice. And I suspect most hurdle coaches, especially age group & high school coaches, rarely if ever use full height/spaced hurdles as the teach the event.

    That being said – I’ve seen some age group and high school coaches run their kids over race height/spaced hurdles at practices. And I know some college coaches who do as well…

    So my question is what training benefit are these coaches after – that can’t be achieved with with “cheated” (lowered and or spaced in) hurdles?

    I’m assuming there is a specific reason/justification why – it just seems to elude me.

    I guess I’m looking to hear from a hurdle coach who does train hurdlers as described – or anyone who’d like to play “devil’s advocate” and suggest possible benefits.


    Participant
    Derrick Brito on #107340

    I believe in using regulation hurdles and do it often. I think it’s the best speed work method for those that can handle it. I think at a certain level you learn the rhythm and technique better when using regulation vs. non regulation. I view the issue the opposite way, why do you feel ‘cheating’ the hurdles is better? I don’t believe that it really is any more stressful, especially when some cheating (like I did today in practice) is something like a 10-12 inch difference in distance. Also, some athletes aren’t ready to three step in a race and I feel ‘cheating’ the hurdles doesn’t change that.

    Having said that, I use non regulation spacing and height every day to teach rhythm and prepare kids for the next level in the event. I also do speed work with non regulation. I will use it to build a quicker rhythm or sneak it in to build confidence. However, I NEVER use a full set of 10 hurdles. That might work for some coaches but when I have two oddly spaced meets in a week I’m not going to put anyone over a full set of hurdles, regardless of spacing and distance.


    Participant
    rcfan2 on #107356

    Derrick,

    I appreciate you taking the time to reply to this post. While I’ve seen other coaches warm-up/practice over regulation hurdles, I’ve struggled to see any advantage to doing so with the kids I coach.

    Being candid, I’ve watch other coaches who (try to) train their kids over regulation hurdles and was underwhelmed by the results. It can be pretty ugly.

    I feel we train over full height hurdles while at meets, which of course is the most specific form of training. Intensity is at it’s highest, reps are low and recovery is usually long/full.

    While my goal of posting this question was to better understand the benefits of training over regulation hurdles vs. debating the merits of cheated hurdles, I’ll take a swing 🙂

    In response to why I feel “cheated” hurdles are usually more appropriate (better):

    1) Environmental factors – we train in hallways and gyms during our indoor season. As such the kids are in trainers/flats. Speed & acceleration qualities are inhibited – so moving the hurdles in and lowering them helps compensate for the loss of velocity vs. race velocity at meets from blocks while in spikes.

    Likewise, when we finally get outdoors, we’re training in 40 degree weather and frequent winds (it’s supposed to be in the 40’s again this weekend). Despite an active & robust warm-up – the kids aren’t going to be able to produce quality runs over regulation hurdles – even my best 3 steppers. So the hurdles are moved in as much as it takes for the kids to 3 (or 4) step consistently. If the wind is behind us, it may not be much. If it’s a head/cross wind – it may be 3′. Last thing I want to see is hurdlers reaching/bounding (insuring a heel first landing at takeoff) to get to the hurdles. I see no benefit to kids struggling to run over hurdles.

    When warmer weather finally sets in – we may run into the wind as as strength/endurance workout (resisted run) over hurdles – so we’ll have to cheat them in to account for the added resistance. Likewise – we may turn them around and let them run with the wind behind them as an over-speed workout where the hurdles may be on regulation spacing, but still down a notch (again – I want fast speed/rhythm and clean runs where we’re challenged to move body parts more rapidly).

    2) Lack of adrenaline/intensity at practice. In my experience w/HS athletes – they’re not able to produce the same levels of intensity at practice as they will display in an actual competitive race. So hurdles are moved in to maintain and/or improve upon race touchdown times. If we’re trying to improve race performance – then I want to simulate equal or faster touchdowns. Again…I see no advantage to taking a 14 second female hurdler and having her run 1.2x or greater touchdowns when she’s going to be running 1.1x in her races.

    3) Hurdle Height – Females. Even my most vertically impaired female hurdler has little trouble clearing a 33″ hurdle in a race. Quite the contrary – they are almost always too high. So I prefer to take that variable out of training and just work over 30’s to insure we get as many quality runs as possible. And while males accept hitting (and sometimes will willingly hit) hurdles – I’ve yet to have a female that wasn’t shook after hitting one – either at practice and in races.

    Males- while the boys 39’s are more challenging and require the boy’s to raise their COM more than the girls (sometimes much more) – I again find I can teach better technique over the 36’s than 39’s. If they can’t hurdle a 36″ hurdle correctly (ie. running over the hurdle vs. jumping the hurdle) – then there’s little profit in raising the hurdle to 39″. Ironically – when their technique improves over the 36’s – I see a corresponding improvement over 39’s in races. And my best male 3 stepper has a minimal hurdle clearance over 39’s in races.

    I guess I’ve yet to coach a “stud” (both physically & technically gifted) that was capable of running excellent technique and race rhythms (touchdowns), over regulation hurdles, repeatedly in a practice setting.

    As such, my inclination is to “cheat” the hurdles to mimic the race rhythm/technique we’re after. Again, I never want to see a kid bounding/over-striding, jumping or banging into hurdles at practice. And running regulation hurdles at practice w/a slower rhythm vs. race tempo(assuming we’re working on speed)just doesn’t seem like it will have as good of training transfer to me.

    Yes, some kids will never 3 step if they don’t have the speed or anthropometric’s. So we take the same philosophy if they are on 4 steps & again looking for quality. And if they are on 5, then we’re going to move the hurdles in and lower them to get them on 4 Once they get used to alternating (which is a plus for the 300H’s as well), we move them back towards regulation.

    I’ll also adjust spacings for hurdle endurance work – where we’re running over hurdles (still good lead/trail & arm/leg mechanics)lowered and either spaced in (for 3 steps) or out for 4 or 5 stepping (depending on our goal – ie. training the “B” leg) – for runs in the 80-85% range.

    For more speed we’ll run over H1 cheated in a bit, then space H2 & H3 for 5 stepping to increase velocity, then back to 3 steps over H4 & H5 (5533 drill).

    Or we’ll run “magic hurdles” with power hurdles at 24″ for H2-H4 to help increase velocity into H5. Not surprisingly the kids will still clear those 24″ hurdles by a country mile – as the bio-motor program is pretty much established for running a hurdle regardless of height.

    I guess we struggle at times to maintain quality workouts at practice over cheated hurdles, so I’m rarely tempted to run them over regulation hurdles. We will run over some full height hurdles (but again, probably cheated in a foot or so depending on weather) when we taper for Sectionals & State and are doing very low reps /but high quality work/race modeling.


    Participant
    ex400 on #107358

    I coach HS girl hurdlers, all of whom arrive having never hurdled before. I agree with pretty much all you are saying and doing, rcfan2. See also

    http://www.charliefrancis.com/community/showthread.php?41065-I-really-need-some-hurdle-help.


    Participant
    Derrick Brito on #107361

    rcfan2,

    I’m sorry my post wasn’t trying to ask a legitimate question. I’m acquainted with the reason coaches use ‘cheated’ hurdles. And I also use them the majority of the time. For example, I have not and will not use regulation this week. And I do think ‘cheated’ hurdles are particularly useful for teaching new people and fine tuning aspects of technique. However, I don’t think it is anathema to use regulation and I do so on a fairly regular basis. In high school all we did was regulation hurdles and I would say our results were pretty good (4 guys at 15.0 or better in four years). Do I think it was the most efficient? Probably not but it worked for the guys we had. I think the lack of results you speak of probably is a result of the whole program and not just regulation hurdles.


    Participant
    rcfan2 on #107372

    Derrick,

    Sorry for the verbose reply – it certainly seemed like you were taking a contrary position in regards to cheated hurdles in your first post: “I believe in using regulation hurdles and do it often. I think it’s the best speed work method for those that can handle it. I think at a certain level you learn the rhythm and technique better when using regulation vs. non regulation. I view the issue the opposite way, why do you feel ‘cheating’ the hurdles is better? I don’t believe that it really is any more stressful…

    And to be truthful…I’m still trying to understand how you use regulation hurdles “often” & on a “fairly regular basis” yet still use non-regulation hurdles “daily” and “most often”… Sounds like a lot of hurdling 🙂

    That said…my original post was not intended to created a debate of the merits of “cheated” hurdles in training (but I’m obviously willing…hah, hah). What I really want to know are the specific training benefits/qualities that you believe you can only achieve with regulation hurdles, and not with cheated hurdles, at practice?

    In other words – when you prescribe this specific training method (regulation hurdles) at practice – what is the training goals/outcomes you hope to achieve?

    In your first post you stated: “I think it’s the best speed work method for those that can handle it. I think at a certain level you learn the rhythm and technique better when using regulation vs. non regulation

    Why do you think training over regulation hurdles in a practice setting produces the “best speed work” vs. cheated hurdles? Basically, how and why do your hurdlers produce better speed work over regulation hurdles at practice than with cheated hurdles?

    As you use both regulation and cheated hurdles – your statement seems to imply that if you want their best speed work – you move the hurdles out and up to regulation settings. Are you basing this on touchdown times or ?

    And what is the specific advantage of regulation hurdles vs. cheated hurdles that allows hurdlers to “learn the rhythm and technique better when using regulation…”?

    What is it about raising the hurdles and increasing the spacing to regulation settings that help your athletes learn better rhythm and display better technique in a practice setting?

    P.S. If always running over regulation hurdles at practice will get me 4 guys at 15.0 or better – than I’m all for it. I’m not greedy…I’ll just take one guy running 14’s.


    Participant
    Chad Williams on #107378

    Couple quick points . . .

    Pick the hurdling spacing and height that establishes the best rhythm for the athlete. If you want the athlete to three-step, then have them three step close to learn the rhythm form the onset, as they age and mature, most likely they will be able to hit the pattern. Ever try changing a 4-stepper into a 3-stepper, it is damn near impossible.

    Choose the height for drills that technique reigns supreme. If raising the bar increases technique, then by all means, go for it, but as RC pointed out, most women will have that “fear” factor. I taught a 6th grader to hurdle over 24in foam on turf (close spacing) and she eventually ran 17.xx in a meet for the 100 hurdles. She had the rhythm and 3-step pattern established but needed the juice of the race to get over the fear.

    In this scenario, I found that the foam was better in maintaining speed through the hurdle and kept the flight path lower. IMHO it is easier to raise the flight path rather than lower it. Once they get used to running, they like that rhythm and the hurdle height will effect speed minimally.

    The athlete needs to be comfortable with the correct rhythm rather than the correct distance/height. So practices can be manipulated to elicit this response. They body will remember the motor pattern in between and make the adjustments to the hurdle and distance with adrenaline in a race scenario.

    Not to say there isn’t a place for regulation heights and distances but it will just depend on what the athlete is trying to achieve that day.


    Participant
    Derrick Brito on #107385

    Derrick,

    Sorry for the verbose reply – it certainly seemed like you were taking a contrary position in regards to cheated hurdles in your first post: “[i]I believe in using regulation hurdles and do it often. I think it’s the best speed work method for those that can handle it. I think at a certain level you learn the rhythm and technique better when using regulation vs. non regulation. I view the issue the opposite way, why do you feel ‘cheating’ the hurdles is better? I don’t believe that it really is any more stressful…[/i]”

    And to be truthful…I’m still trying to understand how you use regulation hurdles “often” & on a “fairly regular basis” yet still use non-regulation hurdles “daily” and “most often”… Sounds like a lot of hurdling 🙂

    That said…my original post was not intended to created a debate of the merits of “cheated” hurdles in training (but I’m obviously willing…hah, hah). What I really want to know are the specific training benefits/qualities that you believe you can only achieve with regulation hurdles, and not with cheated hurdles, at practice?

    Why do you think training over regulation hurdles in a practice setting produces the “best speed work” vs. cheated hurdles? Basically, how and why do your hurdlers produce better speed work over regulation hurdles at practice than with cheated hurdles?

    As you use both regulation and cheated hurdles – your statement seems to imply that if you want their best speed work – you move the hurdles out and up to regulation settings. Are you basing this on touchdown times or ?

    What is it about raising the hurdles and increasing the spacing to regulation settings that help your athletes learn better rhythm and display better technique in a practice setting?

    P.S. If always running over regulation hurdles at practice will get me 4 guys at 15.0 or better – than I’m all for it. I’m not greedy…I’ll just take one guy running 14’s.

    No worries, I suppose I was not clear about some things I was doing. So first of all, my athletes go over hurdles every day, whether that is speed work or drills. Obviously I don’t do speed work every day, so when I go over hurdles on non speed days they are not regulation. Distance is much shorter than regulation in fact, between 6 and 8 yards apart depending on session goals and gender. Height is usually regulation though, whether that is 300/400 regulation or 100/110 regulation.

    So on speed days (2-3 days per week) I make a decision as to whether to use regulation or non regulation. So I will use regulation a maximum of 2 days per week (which is rare) and a minimum of 0 (which happens much more frequently). And the number of hurdles I go over at this setting is also quite low. In the off season I don’t feel the need to use regulation, nor when there is a lot of other stress on the athlete like multiple meets.

    I’ll split the next section into two parts because I have different opinions on spacing (which I modify all the time) and height (which I believe shouldn’t be messed with as much).

    There are two main benefits I see to regulation hurdles. First is learning to get a long stride with the trail leg. I often see athletes slack on a strong trail leg if it isn’t forced. Granted working on this is usually a 16 or 17 second athlete problem, so this does look ugly in practice. But not everything looks pretty right away. 😉

    The second is because it is the most specific training possible. When an athlete already runs 14/15 seconds they have probably trained for a couple years already. That means they are strong and fast (I am a huge proponent of weight training in developing athletes so this fits in my training well) and don’t have as many technical problems from regulation spacing. Which to me means they don’t get the same benefits from non regulation. This means they can get much more familiar with the race than otherwise, especially if they have someone to run with in practice. I also feel that non regulation while practicing four steps is borderline useless.

    A third reason is practicality with mid season recruits. This is an edit so I don’t have a lot of space, but I don’t have trouble converting four steppers with a hurdling future.

    As for height I don’t believe in changing much at all. If I have a 14/15 second guy who can run in college (and thus go over 39s in practice because they are lower than 42s), why can’t he go over 39s now? That just makes no sense to me. Three inches can also make a huge difference in technique, so I just don’t use below 36 for guys or 30 for girls much. However, I obviously use lower heights for drills where you would better mimic hurdling technique with a lower height.

    As for how I measure things, I mostly rely on my eyes. I’m constantly recruiting more hurdlers to the squad so unfortunately I can’t always compare times or video. I think the biggest trick to getting a solid squad is to just get good to great athletes who are willing to hurdle. It’s easy to get kids who haven’t done well in other events, but those great or borderline great guys in jumps and sprints are usually who you want. Frustrated sprinters and jumpers are to hurdles what frustrated jocks are to coaching I think. 😉

    In the aforementioned high school program, that was the main success tool I believe. All of the great hurdlers in that four year block were football players and fast. We were recruited to hurdles as freshmen and worked on it for four years. That’s what made the program I believe, not hurdle spacing or height. I do think that if we had a better hurdle coach we would have been faster, but you could probably say that about a lot of high school programs and we had success regardless.


    Participant
    hscoach on #107388

    dangit. i miss charlie. thanks for sharing ex400.


    Participant
    ex400 on #107390

    When I posted on Charlie’s site a question, or asked for advice, in almost every case I would get a response from Charlie himself. I don’t imagine many, if any, other world-renowned coaches would do that. And his advice was always straightforward, uncomplicated and never condescending. He seemed to care just as much about helping a 63-second quarter-miler get to 60 as he did a 52-second girl get to 50. To me, he was not just a great coach but a great person. He loved the sport and all others who loved it.


    Participant
    eroszag on #107397

    I miss him too…It was a pleasure to exchange ideas with him ( mainly receiving great and helpful advice)
    Working on a Holy Relay for sure these days:)


    Participant
    rcfan2 on #107417

    Derrick,

    I wanted to thank you again for responding to this post and providing justification for when you feel training over regulation hurdles is warranted at your practices.

    And unlike a couple coaches I know who use regulation hurdles exclusively at practice – you also adjust the heights and spacings as needed (including one at the college level who I may end up locking horns with). And no, I have no idea why any coach would be reluctant to discount hurdles in practice…nor why he’d want to run a girl over 10 of them – but he does (sorry…venting here).

    And while I agree that regulation hurdles (spaced & height) represent the most specific form of training – I’m inclined to believe this is primarily true in a race/meet setting (and I account for meets/races as practices in my training plan). This is when I feel the adrenaline and intensity are the highest – something I just don’t feel I can get in a practice setting very often. So to emulate this – I feel I need to discount the hurdles. Maybe if I had two hyper competitive 14 second guys…and wanted to work on race modeling. Sadly…I don’t.

    Regarding trail leg mechanics – I guess I’ve yet to have a boy master the trail leg over 36″ hurdles at practice – so I’m hesitant to move them up to 39″ to focus on the nuances created by the extra 3″ of height. Again, I don’t have any 14 or 15 second boy hurdlers (although I have one who hopefully will dip into the 15’s this season if things go well) – so my guys may not be as advanced as yours. If I had a 13-14 second stud who was excellent over 36’s – but had some issues in races at 39’s – then I can see the possible benefit. Oh, to have such a problem 🙂

    For girls – I still struggle to see any advantage of raising the hurdles to 33″ during our practices. I have coached a 14 second girl – but like all the other girl’s I’ve coached – she still had excessive hurdle clearance in races over the 33’s. But again, that may be just the girls I’ve coached.

    I spend most of my time trying to get a vertical shin angle on the takeoff foot vs. posting the foot in front of the knee. So I need to move the hurdles in to keep them from reaching for their touchdown spot at practice when velocities are slower (and strides tend to be shorter) than in a race.

    First rule I teach the kids – “we run hurdles” not “jump hurdles” 🙂

    Still – I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Gave me some food for thought.


    Participant
    Derrick Brito on #107468

    Derrick,

    I wanted to thank you again for responding to this post and providing justification for when you feel training over regulation hurdles is warranted at your practices.

    And unlike a couple coaches I know who use regulation hurdles exclusively at practice – you also adjust the heights and spacings as needed (including one at the college level who I may end up locking horns with). And no, I have no idea why any coach would be reluctant to discount hurdles in practice…nor why he’d want to run a girl over 10 of them – but he does (sorry…venting here).

    And while I agree that regulation hurdles (spaced & height) represent the most specific form of training – I’m inclined to believe this is primarily true in a race/meet setting (and I account for meets/races as practices in my training plan). This is when I feel the adrenaline and intensity are the highest – something I just don’t feel I can get in a practice setting very often. So to emulate this – I feel I need to discount the hurdles. Maybe if I had two hyper competitive 14 second guys…and wanted to work on race modeling. Sadly…I don’t.

    Regarding trail leg mechanics – I guess I’ve yet to have a boy master the trail leg over 36″ hurdles at practice – so I’m hesitant to move them up to 39″ to focus on the nuances created by the extra 3″ of height. Again, I don’t have any 14 or 15 second boy hurdlers (although I have one who hopefully will dip into the 15’s this season if things go well) – so my guys may not be as advanced as yours. If I had a 13-14 second stud who was excellent over 36’s – but had some issues in races at 39’s – then I can see the possible benefit. Oh, to have such a problem 🙂

    For girls – I still struggle to see any advantage of raising the hurdles to 33″ during our practices. I have coached a 14 second girl – but like all the other girl’s I’ve coached – she still had excessive hurdle clearance in races over the 33’s. But again, that may be just the girls I’ve coached.

    I spend most of my time trying to get a vertical shin angle on the takeoff foot vs. posting the foot in front of the knee. So I need to move the hurdles in to keep them from reaching for their touchdown spot at practice when velocities are slower (and strides tend to be shorter) than in a race.

    First rule I teach the kids – “we run hurdles” not “jump hurdles” 🙂

    Still – I appreciate your thoughts on this topic. Gave me some food for thought.

    I have seen other coaches go over 7+ hurdles in speed work which just boggles me. If it works for them more power to them but it doesn’t fit in my philosophy. I also try to pit kids at a similar level against each other. I think this is where regular spacing works the best. I think friendly rivalries are healthy for the kids, especially if they don’t face a strong hurdling squad every week. For the trail leg I think the regular spacing is more important than the height, and height is more important for the lead leg. I have found some of my hurdlers struggle with higher heights if we raise them up. Fortunately I walked into a great situation with the team I started coaching this year. I have a hurdler that should go 14, another that should go high 15 and (hopefully) sub 40, plus an amazing array of talent. My hardest task is convincing girls to hurdle, though this team is built to do well for a number of years.

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