The most important aspect of hurdling technique – Steve McGill

Posted In: Hurdles

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        rcfan2 on #18822

        “I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important aspect of hurdling technique is the lean. Why? Because, as this article will explain, the lean determines everything that happens from a technical standpoint during hurdle clearance.” – Steve McGill

        Article: Forward Lean – Steve McGill

        See Coach McGill’s website: hurdlesfirst.com

        Coach McGill has also released a DVD (Amazon): High School Coach’s Blueprint for Success: Hurdles

        Is Coach McGill’s proposed “forward lean” technique bio-mechanically sound?

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        Chad Williams on #119850

        Need to read and digest this a little more. Initially, I am not sold after reading and watching the video. The girl in the all black racing has a similar technique to what I prefer and seemed like she was starting to come on hurdlers 3, 4, and 5. She lost to Keni to the first hurdle but came back exceptionally well.

        The more you lean, the more you have to get back to upright in order to sprint.

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        rcfan2 on #119851

        Chad,

        I appreciate you taking the time to respond to this thread.

        I had to read and re-read the article to try to wrap my mind around the concepts, bio-mechanics and physics of what Coach McGill is proposing. Actually, I ended up printing the article so that I could highlight and make notes as I worked my way through it 🙂

        I look forward to your thoughts and analysis…

        KM

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        Chad Williams on #119854

        I watched the video a few more times today. I agree with so many thing he says, but it does look as though creates more unnecessary flight time. I would need a better quality video with some slo-mo available to truly give it a thorough look.

        His main argument is that his athlete is less likely to hit the hurdles with the lean. While this is true, at what cost? He does agree that the athlete needs to get back to sprinting quickly and mentions the bent lead leg comes down quicker. The lead leg does come slightly higher in this method which will create more time (although more force) for it to come back down. So while his assessment that she rockets off the hurdle will probably be backed by science, is it the best method for girls? Does the time in the air coupled with the greater force, offset what appears to be a loss of speed?

        Maybe the answer is somewhere in the middle. The athlete should lean enough so that they can have a clean clearance, but not over lean so that it takes away from speed.

        For his athlete, maybe this was the best solution to a hurdle clearance problem.

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        rcfan2 on #119871

        I probably should let sleeping threads lie… What follows is my current understanding, and as such, is subject to change 🙂

        The concept of lean in hurdling. The initial lean into the hurdle is a result of the center of mass moving forward past the take off leg foot. So this lean is from the ground.

        The flight path of the COM is determined at take off and is a result of several factors (height of COM, vertical and horizontal forces including their magnitude and vectors, etc.).

        The lean over the hurdle in flight in of itself does not create a low flight path of the COM. Rather it allows the lower body to clear the hurdle when the flight of the COM is low. Again, the flight path was predetermined at take off.

        Hurdler’s who don’t need to raise the COM or do so minimally (typically taller females) – don’t need as much lean over the hurdle to create the necessary clearances. Elite female hurdlers have much greater hurdle clearances than their male counterparts. There is a point of diminishing returns for female hurdlers where further minimizing the hurdle clearance is counter productive as it results in shortening the hurdle step which then requires lengthening the other 3 steps.

        As such, a low hurdle clearance doesn’t necessarily make faster hurdlers, but rather a fast hurdler can have a lower hurdle clearance. Slower hurdlers have to exert greater vertical forces to raise their COM to create the required hurdle step length. Hate to use a jump analogy – but like in a LJ take off – a faster athlete can jump further than a slow athlete for a given take off angle. So faster hurdlers can take off with a flatter take off angle than slower hurdlers (creating a lower parabolic flight) – and still have a similar hurdle clearance step length.

        I’m not sure if I completely understand McGill’s distinction between “downward lean” and “forward lean”. And I’m pretty sure that regardless of method – no lean in flight actually “pushes” a hurdler towards the next hurdle. Bending at the waist in flight – by lowering the torso & head effectively raises the lower body (legs) in an action/reaction (Newton). Keeping the head up while the torso is down (good, bad or otherwise) would seem to raise the COM (moving the lower body downward towards the hurdle in the flight path).

        I agree that leaving (lag) the trail leg behind (being “long” into the hurdle) will likely create a stretch reflex – helping to accelerate the trail leg forward (whip). What McGill doesn’t mention is that this extended leg behind the athlete also acts as a long lever creating a moment of inertia. This inertia would seem to slow the forward rotations (again like a long jumper) – allowing the lead leg to raise and clear the hurdle. By shortening & raising this lever (as suggested by McGill) – forward rotations would seem likely to increase earlier in the flight. McDonald’s study on angular momentum in hurdling shows that the trail leg action – specifically it’s recovery (shortened and brought forward) to the front of the body is the biggest factor in creating a rapid descent of the lead leg (even more so than raising the torso & head).

        McGill’s statement that “Forward lean is designed to propel the hurdler toward the next hurdle, so that he or she is moving faster coming off the hurdle than he or she was going into it” seems to be in conflict to every study I’ve read regarding the hurdle clearance. Simply, to raise the COM to clear the hurdle requires increased vertical forces – which inevitably means a loss of horizontal momentum. McGill’s philosophy appears to be that you can “fall forward” by “leaning forward” – ignoring the fact that gravity is vertical force.

        I also struggle to understand his claim that “A hurdler with forward lean will look “high” over the the hurdle because the butt is raised higher, so that it looks “high” when the shin is skimming the hurdle.” I’m not real sharp – but if the hurdler’s butt is raised higher – then I’d assume that the hurdler’s COM is also raised higher as well. And the butt isn’t going to be raised higher without producing greater vertical forces at take off.

        McGill goes on to state that “The combination of the knees rising upward and the hips driving forward and the torso leaning forward work to create a forward propulsion, not unlike that of pushing out of the starting blocks“. I sure hope he doesn’t believe that forward “propulsion” can be created in flight when the athlete is not in contact with the ground. He continues “..running between the hurdles becomes effortless because, instead of trying to “sprint” between the the hurdles, you’re already sprinting because of the momentum you gained in the hurdling action itself“. Again, I’ve yet to see a study where a hurdler actually increases horizontal velocity as a result of the hurdle step.

        I guess it’s redundant – but McGill again states “The purpose of our lean is to create speed off the hurdle. We don’t just want to maintain our speed; we want to be moving faster coming off the hurdle than we were going in. The forward lean enables us to create that momentum, to literally propel us toward the next hurdle.”

        He concludes with “…she looks very high. But again, she’s not. The trail leg being that high is exactly what we want because the trail leg is the leg that initially created the downhill effect when it pushed vertically off the ground“…”With the downward-lean snap down style, the upper body will often straighten up to an erect posture as the lead leg snaps down. No no no. We don’t want any of that. We’ve got to keep moving forward“… I don’t know what to say about all of that.

        I guess I’m not convinced that this is a biomechanically sound theory. McGill seems to focus on body positions rather than the underlying physics & biomechanics.

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        Derrick Brito on #119876

        I’m a big fan of Steve McGill because of his downhill hurdling article and my discussion with him about it a couple years ago. I don’t think he’s really describing proper physics, but I do like where he’s going with it.

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        rcfan2 on #119878

        Derrick,

        McGill’s website was one of the first I came across when I was looking for information on hurdling when I first started coaching. I actually found my mentor (Lee Pantas – http://www.greathurdlers.com[/url%5D through an article he posted on his website.

        And yes, I even purchased coach McGill’s DVD – High School Coach’s Blueprint for Success: Hurdles.

        To be candid – I don’t share your enthusiasm for the concept of “downhill hurdling”.

        As you’ve actually spoken with him, maybe with your educational background in exercise science, you could explain the science (physics, biomechanics, etc.) of this concept?

        It almost sounds like McGill views the flight as a slope (asymmetrical ski slope) vs. a parabola. My impression is that he thinks that by applying a big vertical impulse to raise the COM – and then having the hurdler lean forward – will result in a downhill running effect as the hurdler falls back to earth. What he seems to see with the “butt high” and the lead leg skimming the hurdle is probably the result of prematurely raising and shortening the trail leg (into a ball). This action reduces the moment of inertia of the trail leg (reducing the length of the lever and pulling it closer to the COM) – which would seem to exacerbate the inherent forward rotation of the hurdle clearance (similar to a long jumpers…). So the hurdler is rotating clockwise when viewed from the side (running left to right). This would seem to reduce the time the hurdler has to get the lead leg up and extended for the hurdle clearance. If so – then I guess I understand the need for a bent lead leg. The fact that he notes the butt is high – while the lead leg shin (calf) is skimming the hurdle would seem to support the theory that the hurdler has rotated clockwise (through angular momentum). So maybe its this over rotation effect that gives McGill the illusion that the hurdler is running down hill off the hurdle.

        I guess I struggle to see how this technique will maintain horizontal momentum (as he seems to be asking for a big vertical force to raise the COM) into and off the hurdle. Raising the COM (vertical force) comes at a cost – both in take off and in landing (as the fall has to be arrested). And if the science doesn’t support it…well…it probably ain’t happening.

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        Derrick Brito on #119880

        I can’t speak for him, and I don’t agree with his emphasis on the lean. But I can give you my perspective. To me the most important aspect of ‘downhill hurdling’ is that it’s an illusion for the athlete. The idea is that they have the feeling and perspective that they are coming ‘down’ on the hurdle rather than ‘through’ or ‘over.’ I believe it works by having either a greater takeoff distance from the hurdle or a flatter parabola. Either way, as the athlete approaches the hurdle while in flight, they are already coming down. This way, they never feel like they are ‘floating’ but always feeling like they come off the hurdle as soon as they clear it. So essentially we shift the parabola more to the takeoff side. Maybe this results in a greater raise of the COM, I don’t have the data to back that up. I personally feel an upright posture allows this illusion better and that deep leans are hard to recover from. I definitely coach athletes to lean, but my emphasis is less on it than some other coaches.

        Another note is that this method doesn’t really work with a lot of athletes. The more upright an athlete runs hurdles, the more flexible and powerful in their hips they need to be. And to get away with playing the parabola in such away, they probably need to be pretty fast and experienced already. I will say that none of my athletes have actually picked up ‘downhill hurdling’ the way I envisioned yet, but I do think it’s a viable concept.

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        W.E. Price on #119882

        …Another note is that this method doesn’t really work with a lot of athletes. The more upright an athlete runs hurdles, the more flexible and powerful in their hips they need to be. And to get away with playing the parabola in such away, they probably need to be pretty fast and experienced already…

        I certainly have experienced this with past and present female hurdlers. Of course with the barrier @ 33″ there wasn’t much of a clearance challenge for one individual (champion TJ’er as well). And yet another athlete at 5′ 11″+ lacked the acceleration characteristics to properly negotiate a model parabolic curve and re-acceleration sequence.

        I presently have one this season that pretty much reflects a “downhill hurdling” technique and acquires an immediate trail leg tuck reflex from takeoff. However she recovers poorly off the hurdle and lacks the necessary characteristics to re-accelerate with much force IMO.

        Of course, we are still learning and there is time I believe. Threads like this one are extremely helpful and certainly support skill & strength identification and levels.

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        rcfan2 on #119883

        W.E. Price

        This forum seems to be one step away from life support – so I’m glad to see that this thread has caught your interest.

        I think I understand your definition of “downhill” hurdling better than Coach McGill’s. When I read the article that started this thread – it almost seems to me that McGill views the flight not as a parabolic flight with symmetrical rising and descending slopes – but one that’s a asymmetrical – with a steep vertical rise on the rising side – and then some type of elongated downhill slope on the descent. Maybe I’m not reading him correctly. I don’t think you want to artificially raise the hurdler’s COM in the hope that gravity will accelerate them forward on landing – regardless of posture/forward lean.

        I think almost all hurdle coaches have heard the theory that the peak of the parabolic flight is in front of the hurdle and the hurdler should feel like they are coming down over the hurdle. And it seems to make sense when you factor that the takeoff foot is planted nearly twice the distance from the hurdle than where the lead leg foot will land (roughly 2 meters in front – 1 meter past).

        That said – a couple things to consider – first is that the COM is well past the take off foot (because of the inherent forward lean/drive into the hurdle) before the COM begins it’s flight. So the beginning of the parabolic flight is not where the take of foot is planted. The 2nd thing to consider is that the COM is higher when the lead leg foot touches down than where it was at toe off because of the tall vertical posture (and often plantar flexed foot). The COM continues to drop throughout the landing step…all the way through the stance phase of step 2 (recovery step). It’s only during the propulsive phase of step 2 when it begins to rise again.

        McDonald’s (Indiana w/Dapena) showed that the the peak of the COM of elite male hurdlers (US Olympic Trails) was indeed over the hurdle. While the women’s peak did occur slightly in front of the hurdle – it’s distance away was just a couple cm’s – which the authors thought was insignificant.

        There may be other studies or studies of sub-elites that are contrary to this. I’d have to see what Mann’s studies showed.

        If my understanding of the trail legs function in regards to angular momentum in the hurdle clearance (and it may be faulty) – the early shortening of this lever behind the body and the pulling it closer to the COM – reduces its moment of inertia. This would then seem to increase the forward rotation (like a forward summersault) around the horizontal axis. So the upper body and lead leg will be rotating clockwise towards the ground (when running from left to right) faster – earlier in the flight. The long, delayed trail leg action normally slows this rotation early in flight – and then increases it rapidly late in flight when the trail leg is recovered to the front of the body (which accelerates the descent of the lead leg after hurdle clearance).

        I guess I’d have to see some frame-by-frame video of this “downhill” hurdle clearance (from the side) to see the body positions in flight to compare/contrast it to the more traditional delayed/extended trail leg.

        I don’t know if my understanding is flawed – but if indeed the hurdler’s forward rotation is increased, earlier in the flight – then you’d have to wonder about their posture at landing. I don’t think the inherent forward rotation is of the same magnitude of a LJ’r – where over-rotation is common and problematic.

        Just food for thought.

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        Derrick Brito on #119885

        Of course, we are still learning and there is time I believe. Threads like this one are extremely helpful and certainly support skill & strength identification and levels.

        Along that line, this is one reason I don’t go crazy if a hurdler’s technique doesn’t look exactly the way I want them to. I have worked with some phenomenally inflexible hurdlers who can’t stand and touch their toes or even sit comfortably in a hurdlers stretch. Yet they have all seen competitive success. Certainly these things can be developed, but adapting methods to the athlete is very real.

        I think I understand your definition of “downhill” hurdling better than Coach McGill’s. When I read the article that started this thread – it almost seems to me that McGill views the flight not as a parabolic flight with symmetrical rising and descending slopes – but one that’s a asymmetrical – with a steep vertical rise on the rising side – and then some type of elongated downhill slope on the descent. Maybe I’m not reading him correctly. I don’t think you want to artificially raise the hurdler’s COM in the hope that gravity will accelerate them forward on landing – regardless of posture/forward lean.

        In this case I think you have to try to read between the lines and see if there is useful information to be had. I’m not sure Coach McGill has a complete understanding of the physics involved. But I believe the girl in his article runs mid 13s. It reminds me of some conversations I had when I still lived in Portland. One coach told his athlete that the workout was to work on ‘anaerobic threshold capacity’ which is either a mash of two terms or completely made up. Another coach butchered the word ‘endocrine’ so bad it took me a couple minutes to figure out what he was talking about. But both coaches have worked with countless champions and record holders. Clearly their understanding of science isn’t holding them back.

        That said – a couple things to consider – first is that the COM is well past the take off foot (because of the inherent forward lean/drive into the hurdle) before the COM begins it’s flight. So the beginning of the parabolic flight is not where the take of foot is planted. The 2nd thing to consider is that the COM is higher when the lead leg foot touches down than where it was at toe off because of the tall vertical posture (and often plantar flexed foot). The COM continues to drop throughout the landing step…all the way through the stance phase of step 2 (recovery step). It’s only during the propulsive phase of step 2 when it begins to rise again.

        McDonald’s (Indiana w/Dapena) showed that the the peak of the COM of elite male hurdlers (US Olympic Trails) was indeed over the hurdle. While the women’s peak did occur slightly in front of the hurdle – it’s distance away was just a couple cm’s – which the authors thought was insignificant.

        I will hold to the idea that ‘downhill hurdling’ is primarily a feeling. When I experienced the sensation as an athlete I certainly felt like I was coming down before I cleared the hurdle. It was terrifying. Whether or not my COM came down prematurely, I can’t say. Unfortunately, my hundreds of videos of high school hurdlers do not include any downhill ones. And I can’t find any of my personal videos.

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        rcfan2 on #119893

        Derrick,

        Understanding that you’ve actually spoken with Coach McGill regarding this threads topic, did you read the article itself – Forward Lean[/url]?

        He also wrote a similar article: A New Way of Hurdling

        While I understand that your a big fan of Coach McGill’s and his “downhill” hurdling theory, I hope you don’t mind me holding his feet to the fire if I’m suspicious of the validity of his theories and claims. As you’re probably aware – coach McGill has published a DVD focusing on High School age hurdlers (I have a copy if you’re interested) – along with publishing numerous self-authored hurdle articles on his website. As such, I won’t apologize for critiquing his published work. Coach McGill is also an educator – so I’m going to hold him to a high standard and expectation when it comes to the veracity of what he publishes.

        Please don’t feel you need to play the role of his apologist as I should not have to read between the lines & ignore the underlying physics of a published hurdle coach – especially one who gets paid for his theories and methods.

        I sure hope you don’t judge a coach based on the fact that he has a terrific athlete. Such athletes can succeed in spite of, not because of their coaches. And such athletes are often so gifted, that they can make gross technical errors that would doom lesser athletes. And if a coach is fortunate to run a large number of athletes through his program – the margin for error is greater and the likely hood of having “outliers” is increased. Programs can become self recruiting based on previous successes – so the talent pool can become skewed.

        My daughter ran in the USATF Junior Olympics as a 7th grader in the 100H. A very talented & gifted girl named Jasmine Stowers won that meet. Jasmine is currently one of the top ranked collegiate hurdlers in the country this year and is the SEC Champion in the 100H for LSU. Jasmine won the 2005 Jr. Olympics 100m hurdle final with a time of 14.31 FAT. I believe her PR today is 12.88 (her SB is a tick over 13 this year).

        My daughter ran a modest 17.34 – 3 stepping the 100H for only the 2nd time in 2005. Her HS PR was 14.74 (2010) – an improvement of 2.6 seconds in five(5) seasons (actually she had a stress fracture her Junior year – so make that 4). Our senior hurdler just ran a 15.35 – after running low 17’s her freshman year.

        Jasmine has “only” improved her PR by 1.43 seconds over the last eight (8) seasons. My daughter dropped from 16.9 MT her freshman year to 15.38 FAT her sophomore year – the first season I coached her. That’s 1.52+ seconds. Does that mean I’m a better coach than Jasmine’s high school and LSU coaches combined? Or is her college coach a great coach because she’s run a 12.88 and is the SEC champ after running low 13’s in HS.

        I’d rather be judged for how much I helped our weakest hurdler than how fast our best kid is. If I don’t know what aerobic threshold is nor understand that you can’t have forward momentum in the blocks before you take your first step (as McGill claims in another article on his website – “Forward Momentum in the Blocks”) just because you raise your back leg in the block – then I’m probably not responsible for the success of my athletes.

        I was hoping that as both a sprint/hurdle coach and someone trained in exercise science you could provide a critical and accurate analysis of the article that started this thread.

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        Derrick Brito on #119894

        rcfan2,

        I don’t think I was being clear in my last post. I have read both articles and I absolutely don’t mind you holding his feet to the fire. My comment about reading between the lines was really me trying not to be too harsh with my own criticisms. I don’t think Coach McGill understands the physics behind hurdling else he wouldn’t make some of the statements he does (For example, when I was emailing him he told me the lean was essential to fast running speeds, and track athletes should lean forward as much as possible all the time). And I think your understanding of the physics involved in hurdling is beyond his (and frankly beyond mine as well). I also mentioned the speed of his athlete not as a unique qualifier. McGill has worked with many great athletes.

        All that being said, is there something to be taken away from his ideas? I think so, but it has to be taken in its proper context. And in this case, the context itself might need to be built from scratch. I ‘downhill hurdled’ as an athlete, so I have my own experiences to build around. For those that haven’t experienced it, it might not be of any use whatsoever.

        As for my own critical analysis, I might disappoint you with my lack of angular momentum. But I view hurdling like this:

        -The objective is to get from point A to point B as fast as possible. This is broken up into two parts.
        –Ground speed (how fast we move in between hurdles)
        –Clearing the hurdles as fast as possible

        For now I’ll ignore increasing ground speed. Clearing hurdles is a little bit trickier. So I look at the following ideas:

        -At the most basic level, clearing a hurdle is going from the trail leg on the ground to the lead leg on the ground as quickly as possible.
        -Therefore, we could view it as a running step, hop or jump.
        -Furthermore, how long it takes to go from trail leg to lead leg is dictated by how long you are in the air. More specifically, how high you raise your center of mass (COM).
        -Finally, if the COM height determines speed, then hurdling technique is based on handling lower and lower vertical projections.

        So obviously I didn’t actually address hurdling technique with those thoughts. Because as a coach I work more with a framework than I do with a specific set of techniques, or vision of what hurdling should look like. To make a statement that sounds terrible, I’m of the rough opinion that over the hurdle technique is overemphasized, and the important thing is to come off the hurdle not off balance. Having said that, I have a few more thoughts:

        -The body is a series of levers. Shorter levers move faster.
        -Therefore, hurdling technique should try to decrease the distance that the lead and trail legs move away from the body. This means having a closely tucked trail leg and a bent lead leg.
        -To stay on balance, hurdling technique should stay as close to sprint form as possible. Thus a minimal lean is desirable. Much easier with women than men.
        -Along that line, Liu Xiang’s arm action is my favorite.
        -However, is it more beneficial to raise the lead knee higher than necessary to keep a shorter lead leg (eg Colin Jackson)?
        -A bent lead leg also allows the hurdle to fill a ‘niche’ and thus have the lead foot closer to the ground during hurdle clearance. In theory you could handle lower takeoff angles this way.

        I probably didn’t really answer your question. But the short version is I look at McGill’s ideas and ask, ‘Can those ideas fit within my framework?’ His understanding of physics is unimportant to me if it does. But I completely understand your perspective.

        As for what makes a great coach, I think that’s a great question and is the heart of what we do. I do think improvement rates are key and as with all things context is important. The girl I spent all of last year working with dropped from 19.2 to 16.2 and from 48.9 to 46.9. She hasn’t finished her season yet. A 3 second drop isn’t sustainable and assuming a one third drop off of improvement is probably not reasonable in this case. It can be hard to say, though I think a good coach will consistently see improvement and competitive success.

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        W.E. Price on #119897

        …The girl I spent all of last year working with dropped from 19.2 to 16.2 and from 48.9 to 46.9. She hasn’t finished her season yet. A 3 second drop isn’t sustainable and assuming a one third drop off of improvement is probably not reasonable in this case. It can be hard to say, though I think a good coach will consistently see improvement and competitive success.

        Can you tell me what her short and long speed performance, sans hurdles, have been for the timeframe you mentioned? What other quantitative and/or qualitative measures, if any, were utilized during that period (e.g., strength growth areas, movement screens, range-of-motion apparatus, etc.)? Other external factors applied?

        I’ve seen slightly comparable drops as well with a few of my athletes, though several external factors (weather, for example) may have contributed more lately. Confidence with clearances seemed to improve for awhile. But, as previously mentioned, adapting to a more reflexive posture has not been flawless.

        As an aside, I also found interesting the differences at the elite level of female hurdlers such as Ginnie Crawford and Dawn Harper with respective to hurdling posture. Is there a price to be paid regarding hurdle endurance while attempting to maintain certain leaning angles through the clearance phase? Perhaps I’m seeing (or perceiving) too much there!

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        Derrick Brito on #119898

        Can you tell me what her short and long speed performance, sans hurdles, have been for the timeframe you mentioned? What other quantitative and/or qualitative measures, if any, were utilized during that period (e.g., strength growth areas, movement screens, range-of-motion apparatus, etc.)? Other external factors applied?

        I’ve seen slightly comparable drops as well with a few of my athletes, though several external factors (weather, for example) may have contributed more lately. Confidence with clearances seemed to improve for awhile. But, as previously mentioned, adapting to a more reflexive posture has not been flawless.

        As an aside, I also found interesting the differences at the elite level of female hurdlers such as Ginnie Crawford and Dawn Harper with respective to hurdling posture. Is there a price to be paid regarding hurdle endurance while attempting to maintain certain leaning angles through the clearance phase? Perhaps I’m seeing (or perceiving) too much there!

        As can be inferred from her 300 time, she had some speed to begin with. She ran consistent 13.6 in the 100 last year, with one race at 13.3. This year she has run 13.0 and is pretty consistent there. It should be noted that I haven’t coached her since January, when I left Oregon. But during that time her open 300 time trials dropped from 46.2 to 45.2, and she ran a mid 44 maybe a week or two after I moved. Her 150 time trials were somewhat stagnant, but I never worked SE with her, knowing she would run a lot of races. During last summer her 60m dropped about .3 (timed by video) but I can’t remember the time off the top of my head. I would have to look through my records. Her technical problems were mostly mental, she had a lot of trouble 3 stepping despite her speed. And I pushed her limits only rarely since she would react VERY badly if workouts didn’t go her way. I did very little resistance training with her due to lack of facilities. She’s a naturally strong girl so I think her improvements would have been even crazier if she lifted a little bit. I didn’t measure her flexibility or anything like that, though she wasn’t very flexible at all.

        I think you’re on to something about extreme postures taking up more energy. This is one of the reason I’m wary of extreme leans and super straight lead legs.

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        rcfan2 on #119899

        Derrick,

        I started this thread to solicit opinions of others as to whether coach McGill’s “forward lean” theory/method of hurdling was biomechanically sound.

        “I’ve come to the conclusion that the most important aspect of hurdling technique is the lean. Why? Because, as this article will explain, the lean determines everything that happens from a technical standpoint during hurdle clearance.” – Steve McGill

        Its not coincidental that both of us coach hurdlers and know who Coach McGill is. We’ve both been to his website, so we’re both aware of the success of the athletes he’s coached. I’ve been to multiple clinics where his DVD was for sale. Its safe to say that Coach McGill is well known because of his successful athletes, website and DVD. As an author of numerous articles regarding hurdling and a DVD – he is considered an authority on hurdling (at least at the high school level).

        Again, one of the first resources I found as a beginning coach was his http://www.hurdlefirst.com website. I’m assuming I’m not the only one who found his way there under the same circumstances. I would expect coaches searching for technical advice and resources will continue to do so in the future.

        I’ll be the first to admit that my understanding of hurdling and the underlying physics/biomechanics is incomplete. I do not have a science background nor did I run track in my youth. I’m an inexperienced coach who’s only coached a handful of kids over the past 5 years. Of course, that’s probably why I’ve never written any hurdle articles nor published a DVD 🙂

        My concern is that a perceived authority on hurdling such as Coach McGill authors and publishes (even if it’s just on his website) technical articles related to hurdling that may be based on faulty concepts and science. Especially if the author implies that his concepts are factual and not just opinion (see quote above).

        I agree that achieving and maintaining maximal/optimal horizontal velocity is the key to all sprint races – including hurdling. And yes, managing vertical forces is a key factor in doing so in hurdling. And of course, we want the hurdler to land on balance and in a correct posture.

        However, I believe a coach needs to know why an athlete might land off balance, with an incorrect posture, or be unable to achieve desired horizontal velocities. Athletes end up off balance or in a poor bio-mechanical posture for a reason – so an understanding of where these errors originate is critical to teach and coach hurdling. I don’t think it’s effective coaching to tell a hurdler to stop flailing their arms in flight, or to tell them they need to run “linear”…and I’ve heard coaches (including college) tell hurdlers this.

        And if a coach has faulty foundational technical concepts – and takes those faulty concepts and applies them to his athletes in practice – then I struggle to understand how such a coach can be effective and considered successful.

        If you think your hurdler will be going faster coming off the hurdle than they were prior to the hurdle clearance, then I’m going to be suspicious of your understanding. If you think raising the COM in the hurdle clearance effectively makes you taller and allows you to hurdle downhill, I’m going to question your understanding of the event.

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        Derrick Brito on #119904

        Derrick,

        I started this thread to solicit opinions of others as to whether coach McGill’s “forward lean” theory/method of hurdling was biomechanically sound.

        I apologize if I’m derailing your thread. I agree with everything Chad Williams said, and I do NOT believe the forward lean is the most important aspect of hurdling. I believe that for the reasons Chad stated, you stated, and the ones I stated as well. For what it’s worth, I believe knee drive is the most important aspect of hurdling (in both legs). I do believe the lean is important to get a flat trail leg in all but the most flexible athletes though.

        I’ll be the first to admit that my understanding of hurdling and the underlying physics/biomechanics is incomplete. I do not have a science background nor did I run track in my youth. I’m an inexperienced coach who’s only coached a handful of kids over the past 5 years. Of course, that’s probably why I’ve never written any hurdle articles nor published a DVD 🙂

        If you have high 14 and low 15 second athletes without running track or having formal education, I’d say you’re doing pretty good! Actually, that’s good for anyone!

        My concern is that a perceived authority on hurdling such as Coach McGill authors and publishes (even if it’s just on his website) technical articles related to hurdling that may be based on faulty concepts and science. Especially if the author implies that his concepts are factual and not just opinion (see quote above).

        I understand your perspective completely. I will ignore McGill’s reasoning at times because oftentimes people come with great ideas not knowing why they are great. About 10 years ago a logic class beat the concept into my head that truth is independent of its source. In this case, maybe truth is even independent of its reasoning. Though as I said before, I don’t subscribe to the idea that the lean is the most important part of hurdling.

        I also don’t think we understand hurdling technique as much as we think we do, even with all the science. Hypotheses need to be able to be tested and limited coaching/athletic ability prevents true testing of different techniques in most cases. We can describe what happens, but why can easily elude us. Thus, I can look at the angular momentum of the trail leg causing a downward reaction in the lead leg and easily see gibberish. There are so many different hurdling techniques it’s crazy. Everything from Liu Xiang’s axe chop to Aries Merritt dunking a basketball. Among record holders even the lean isn’t constant. Nehemiah barely leaned and among elite hurdlers this is not as uncommon as one might think. Today I witnessed some very fast and very atrocious hurdling at our league championships. I think I will try and video the district meet next week and show some of the crazy ways athletes run fast.

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        rcfan2 on #119906

        Derrick,

        I appreciate your thoughts and observations. While the science can be challenging (at least for me), I don’t know that a coach can troubleshoot faults and give responsible feedback without a fundamental understanding of the event.

        Does it help if a HJ coach understands angular momentum? Does it help if the coach looks at the HJ as a twisting forward somersault? That there is rotation on 3 axis. That there is a double hinged moment – with both forward and lateral angular momentum – which are a result of backward or inward lean? That inward lean is a product of the turn radius and velocity? If you don’t know that – how do resolve a lack of rotation over the bar?

        Does it help a long jump or triple jump coach to understand angular momentum and rotations…and how to counter them? Ever hear a long jump coach tell a kid to keep his legs up longer and not to let them drop after the kid’s face planted in the sand?

        Hurdlers have angular momentum on 3 axis as well. Is it any less important for a hurdle coach to know this than a HJ or LJ/TJ coach? Especially if the kid is tilted on the vertical axis, lands with a backward leaning posture, or lands with the lead leg clear on the trail leg side of the hurdle?

        Why does a kid appear to float over the hurdle? Why does the lead leg drift? Why does a kid appear twisted/turned as he runs off the hurdle? Why does the hurdler lead leg collapse on landing?

        Luckily kids are resilient – and the body often times finds its own way. I’ve witnessed plenty of fast hurdlers with hideous technique. Great speed and average technique will beat great technique and average speed most any day.

        That said – any hurdler will get faster if technique is improved. Send us the fast kids and we’ll make fast hurdlers…but probably not because they have forward lean and hurdle downhill.

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        ex400 on #119909

        I don’t meant to stray too far from your discussion, but maybe you guys could help me a bit. I have a 17yr-old girl in her first year of hurdling. She is doing quite well (15.45), but I am observing something whose cause and cure I am unsure of. At touchdown, intead of being essentially upright, she is not fully unfolded. I.e. her butt is behind her COM while her shoulders are ahead of COM. Do you have ideas on why this occurs and, more importantly, how to fix it? Thanks!

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        Derrick Brito on #119910

        I don’t meant to stray too far from your discussion, but maybe you guys could help me a bit. I have a 17yr-old girl in her first year of hurdling. She is doing quite well (15.45), but I am observing something whose cause and cure I am unsure of. At touchdown, intead of being essentially upright, she is not fully unfolded. I.e. her butt is behind her COM while her shoulders are ahead of COM. Do you have ideas on why this occurs and, more importantly, how to fix it? Thanks!

        Don’t you coach in Washington too? If so, no there is not a solution. 😛

        In all seriousness, I would look into the idea that she might be over-leaning as discussed in this thread and/or having a leaning posture while running between hurdles. This could start as early as the first hurdle if it’s a running posture problem. If the problem is as I envision it I would try do lead leg one step drills with a focus on high knees and erect posture. I would also do 3 step (6-7 yards apart) and 5 step drills (8.5m apart) with the hurdles at 30″ and once again focusing on an erect posture. Of course, if districts and state are coming in the next two weeks it might be hard to make a change. How tall is she? And of course video would tell us a lot if you have it.

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        Roswell on #119911

        I also don’t think we understand hurdling technique as much as we think we do, even with all the science. Hypotheses need to be able to be tested and limited coaching/athletic ability prevents true testing of different techniques in most cases. We can describe what happens, but why can easily elude us. Thus, I can look at the angular momentum of the trail leg causing a downward reaction in the lead leg and easily see gibberish. There are so many different hurdling techniques it’s crazy. Everything from Liu Xiang’s axe chop to Aries Merritt dunking a basketball. Among record holders even the lean isn’t constant. Nehemiah barely leaned and among elite hurdlers this is not as uncommon as one might think. Today I witnessed some very fast and very atrocious hurdling at our league championships. I think I will try and video the district meet next week and show some of the crazy ways athletes run fast.

        I think that this is a key concept to keep in mind when discussing hurdles especially. In events like the 100m, it’s easier to make overarching blanket statements such as “lowering ground contact time is important” and “backside action is bad.” In the 100m, lever length does come into play, but it has much less of an effect than in the hurdles.

        As stated by Derrick, there have been many successful hurdle champions that have extremely different techniques. Additionally, until perhaps last year, they all have been running very similar times for years.

        On some other topics raised in the thread: from personal experience, downhill hurdling is a feeling stemming from a raised COM. For me, I emphasize that feeling because my hips sit too low during sprinting to hurdle efficiently without raising my COM beforehand. Again, a situation rising from my particular lever lengths.

        I don’t meant to stray too far from your discussion, but maybe you guys could help me a bit.  I have a 17yr-old girl in her first year of hurdling.  She is doing quite well (15.45), but I am observing something whose cause and cure I am unsure of.  At touchdown, instead of being essentially upright, she is not fully unfolded.  I.e. her butt is behind her COM while her shoulders are ahead of COM.  Do you have ideas on why this occurs and, more importantly, how to fix it?  Thanks!

        My initial reaction to this is that it’s not very good to snap straight upright after hurdle clearance, as it drastically slows momentum. Video would help.

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        ex400 on #119913

        Thanks Derrick and Roswell. Yes, I coach in Washington. I have retired from HS coaching, and the girl in question is one I coach in the off-season, so I couldn’t alter anything right now even if I wanted to (which I don’t, this close to end-of-season). She is 5’8″ and proportional, so leg length is excellent for 100H.

        I would love to post video, but the only video I have is from a Flip and since it went out of business and Cisco abandoned it, I cannot seem to upload vids anywhere. I have stills of top hurdlers at touchdown (e.g. Pearson, Donkova as well as the girls who are beating my girl) and they all touchdown nearly upright, putting them in a better sprint posture. My girl definitely does not lean too much over the hurdle, but she has always leaned too much when sprinting.

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        W.E. Price on #119914

        …My girl definitely does not lean too much over the hurdle, but she has always leaned too much when sprinting.

        Have a similar situation with one as well. Some drills with front-side emphasis were introduced simply to sense a more efficient sprint posture.

        I believe excessive anterior pelvic tilt is an issue with her. Though I’ve been slow to improve the strength training that might be required for that region.

        https://vimeo.com/39174096

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        ex400 on #119915

        My girl’s posture at touchdown looks a lot like Colleen’s except mine is even a little more bent over. Incidentally, I found what seem to be Colleen’s marks. I find it hard to believe she could be at 19 seconds!

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        Christopher Glaeser on #119916

        I would love to post video, but the only video I have is from a Flip and since it went out of business and Cisco abandoned it, I cannot seem to upload vids anywhere.

        I did a quick Google search and this looks promising. Have you tried Flipshare Support[/url]

        Best,
        Christopher

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        ex400 on #119917

        Thanks, Christopher. I’ll see what I can do.

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        W.E. Price on #119919

        My girl’s posture at touchdown looks a lot like Colleen’s except mine is even a little more bent over. Incidentally, I found what seem to be Colleen’s marks. I find it hard to believe she could be at 19 seconds!

        Colleen only does T&F during the spring. Hurdle work has improved over the years. However with postural issues combined with unnecessary steps between hurdles…it has been difficult.

        Discount hurdling, 3-5-3’s, artificial barriers, sprint gates, etc, with limited availability, has shown little in the way of on-track performance. However they have worked somewhat with the following young lady.

        https://vimeo.com/59540944

        Though again I wonder how far she would’ve progressed with a training period greater than eleven weeks in each of the last three years. I know Coach…we don’t have the greatest of training facilities during the winter period!

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        Derrick Brito on #119920

        I would love to post video, but the only video I have is from a Flip and since it went out of business and Cisco abandoned it, I cannot seem to upload vids anywhere. I have stills of top hurdlers at touchdown (e.g. Pearson, Donkova as well as the girls who are beating my girl) and they all touchdown nearly upright, putting them in a better sprint posture. My girl definitely does not lean too much over the hurdle, but she has always leaned too much when sprinting.

        If it has a USB port, shouldn’t you be able to drag and drop the files? I’ve never used the flip, but the girl mentioned in my other posts did send me videos of her hurdling that were taken on her Cisco camera.

        I will add that my progression into ‘downhill hurdling’ as an athlete was an attempt to solve the problem I believe you are describing. I ran with too much forward lean, which made any additional lean over the hurdle extremely hard to recover from. For two weeks I focused on standing tall and coming down on the hurdle, and then my times in the 110s dropped a second.

        I think that this is a key concept to keep in mind when discussing hurdles especially. In events like the 100m, it’s easier to make overarching blanket statements such as “lowering ground contact time is important” and “backside action is bad.” In the 100m, lever length does come into play, but it has much less of an effect than in the hurdles.

        A fun story I like to tell people is of a triple jumper from the school I coached at last year. The kid was slow as sin, and had no landing technique whatsoever. He just popped into the air… and sat on his butt. No matter how much coaches tried to change it, he just wouldn’t. Yet he went 22-11 in the long and 46-2 in the triple, winnning state in both. Looking back, I think he unwittingly solved the physics problem better than the coaches! I’m no jumps coach, but I’m pretty sure I learned a valuable lesson from that.

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        ex400 on #119921

        I think I now know how to upload to email or to youtube, so I will try one or both tomorrow morning. Then I’ll hope for some comments from you guys. Derrick, I have four young grandchildren and it is fascinating to see how a 1 or 2-yr old solves basic movement problems without instruction. As coaches, I guess we instruct/correct in technique but ultimately the kids are going to work it out in the way that feels right for them.

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        ex400 on #119929

        Well I can’t seem to figure out how to get a vid onto youtube, but I can email. So if any of you would be willing to view and comment, please email me at vedettes_mj at hotmail.com
        Thanks

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        Derrick Brito on #119930

        I took some video from yesterday of some hurdlers with interesting technique. I’ll try and post it online soon as well.

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        RussZHC on #120041

        it almost seems to me that McGill views the flight not as a parabolic flight with symmetrical rising and descending slopes – but one that’s a asymmetrical – with a steep vertical rise on the rising side

        I am way late but…I am a bit confused by this quote…the way I am reading it, you are viewing the air time hurdling as a parabolic flight?

        Apologies if that is not what you are saying but based on other replies, it seems as though the discussion is about parabolic flight. And this confuses me, since by quick definition, a parabola is a mirror-symetrical curve and I was never taught that it was such a curve.

        My understanding is the path is more 1/2 “tear drop” shape, with the “point” of the drop the incoming side and, very roughly, the incoming being 50% longer, in terms of ground distance, than the outgoing side, with the maximum “thickness” being, supposedly, directly over the hurdle (studies I have seen from worlds seem to indicate, regardless of what the pure science would dictate, actual is that max height from ground occurs just on the incoming side of the board male or female). This would mean a slower vertical rate of rise incoming compared to the rate of fall/drop on the outgoing.

        Not that it matters, because it is not really on topic, but the first thing that struck me regarding the two videos is the position of the trial knee relative to the position of the trail foot…the foot, just prior to clearance, is actually, vertically, above the height of the knee…I was taught/under impression, the knee needs (ha, ha) to remain “above” the foot from take off until the board is cleared [the collapsed body positions IMO are them trying to self correct to maintain balance from that “flicking” action]

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        rcfan2 on #120043

        Russell,

        The flight is indeed a parabola – as are all jumps. Once the center of mass (COM) is in flight – the path is unalterable. Yes, the body segments can be moved relative to the COM – but the COM flight is a constant parabola.

        The misconception seems to come from the fact that the take off distance before the hurdle is approximately twice the landing distance from the hurdle. But keep in mind that the COM is not into flight until toe off of the plant/take off leg. If you consider the classic hurdle takeoff – with the athlete leaning well into the hurdle – the COM is well beyond the takeoff foot and much closer to the hurdle. So the actual flight of the COM is much shorter than the take off to touchdown distances.

        Not sure if it’s folklore or just because its been repeated so much (that the hurdler is coming down over the hurdle) – but most studies show that the actual peak of the COM is just in front of the hurdle. While not actually over the top of the hurdle – its only a few inches/cm before it – with the difference negligible.

        McGill’s description of his proposed technique implies that the flight has a rapid vertical rise and a gradual descent…which isn’t supported by physics. I won’t get into the horizontal velocity loss required to rapidly raise the hurdler vertically.

        KM

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        RussZHC on #120046

        Thanks for the correction…that solves more than the occasional difficulty from past and current in terms of, from the athlete “…just does not seem to work…”, but in a way adds another problem.

        It is an aside from this thread but what I mean is that take off angle/lean now has to be added to the list of things that require consistency (it is an aspect I have often talked about but rarely, if ever, in terms of consistency).
        Since, unless I am misinterpreting again, a given shape of parabola at a given athlete velocity will only result in a particular touch down point if the COM starts that given parabolic path at the “exact” same vertical and horizontal point (relative to the hurdle say)and with the athlete taking off at the same lean angle. And, since the athlete hurdling is rarely at the same velocity (they are either accelerating or decelerating relative to some velocity, “X”) each parabola should be different (i.e. each flight of hurdles). Or, if the shape is the same, the flight time has to change?

        I know that is just restating and its not really “another problem”, but still correct?

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        rcfan2 on #120047

        Russell,

        I guess I should have added (and it may have been mentioned previously in this thread)is that that the COM is lower on the ascending slope of the parabola (because of the inward lean, etc.) when the parabolic flight is initiated at take off than on touchdown. On touchdown, the athlete is in a much more vertical (tall) posture – with the lead leg fully extended (give or take) – with the foot often plantar-flexed – which means the COM is higher on the descending slope of the parabola at touchdown.

        Also – studies (McDonald) have shown that the COM continues to drop through out the first step well into the 2nd step – where the COM finally begins to rise again.

        Makes you re-think/re-visualize the parabolic flight…KM

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