Zen and the Art of the Cut Step


The cut step is the last stride before the hurdle and the great hurdlers purposely alter the length and stride time in order to set up optimal take off. This is very difficult to teach as the step is so fast it can’t be drilled effectively without proper coaching. I am not saying I am the expert on the cut step but many hurdlers need to set up their take off point optimally or they will find themselves crashing. The cut step needs to be timed right so it comes down at a point that the athlete is landing on the forefoot. The tibia rolls forward allowing the hurdler to accelerate and attack forward with a distance longer than they feel comfortable with. The longer the distance the better the parabolic flight path will be and the less airtime will be present. A great cut step will create soreness on the metatarsals in the first few days of doing it correctly and the medial trail leg will feel more eccentric soreness from the femurs splitting more over the hurdles. The cut step allows for great oscillation as it times the pelvis to be in unison with the upperbody. Boo Shexnayder observes:

I am glad to have found you… someone else you apparently views hurdling as I do. While I am not famous as a hurdle coach, I have been very pleased with the results of my multieventers over the years. I feel strongly that understanding pelvic oscillation in sprinting and hurdling is half of good hurdle coaching, and few seem to address it. We will here!

As you know the pelvis oscillates (or demonstates repeated flux, to use your term) in the frontal and transverse planes during sprinting. I view efficient hurdling as not only maintaining but amplifying this oscillation during takeoff and clearance.

Since all locomotive movements originate in the pelvis, so should hurdling. Thus, the lead leg action should be intiated by the forward and upward movement of that side of the pelvic girdle.

It is a common fault for the hurdler to too quickly and abruptly flex the torso forward at takeoff (trying to get too low too early). This initiates the body’s flexion reflex, and causes the pelvis on that side to drop into a position of anterior rotation. (Basically the torso come down and the butt on that side gets stuck out). The pelvis on that side actually retreats from the hurdle rather than advancing into it. (This also seeds the old problem of prematurely extending the lead leg, because the kinetic chain’s timing is advanced).

This dropping out of the pelvis skews the pelvic oscillations for the remainder of the race. Also, because the oscillations of the pelvis are skewed, the arms go wild, lead arm coming across the body, attempting to balance and counter a disfunctional pelvic girdle.

For this reason I spend most of my time behind the hurdlers as they work, watching the belt line. As long as the belt line remains level, we are OK. But, when I see the previously described error, I see the belt line tilt downward toward the lead leg side. As I said before, it stays that way for the remainder of the race.

By the way, the other half of hurdle coaching is understanding that displacement of the core of the body into the hurdle, leaving the trail leg behind, sets up an elastic reflex that aids the recovery of the trail leg. The trail leg should be quick, but late. When I am standing behind the hurdlers, I also look for some time delay between the execution of the lead leg and the trail leg. When the lead and trail leg are not separated by time, I know they are not displacing and are usually too close to the hurdle.

A great cut step will set up the pelvic action to be fluid.How one coaches that step is the tricky part. I will be focusing on arm action and spacing of the hurdles to allow shuffling and a better cut step given the speed is realistic to transfer.
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Carl Valle

Carl Valle

Track & Field Coach
Carl is an expert coach who has produced champions in swimming, track and numerous other sports. He is one of the foremost experts in the fields of nutrition and restoration.
Carl Valle

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