Track (Video): High-Low Drill for Between-Hurdle Acceleration

Track (Video): High-Low Drill for Between-Hurdle Acceleration

Dick Moss, Editor, PE

A common mistake among beginning hurdlers is to accelerate only as far as the first hurdle, thinking that is the point where they'll reach their maximum speed. They then attempt to hold their speed as they progress through the rest of the flights.

However, in pure sprinting, nobody reaches top speed in only 12-13 meters, so that  certainly can't be the case in hurdling. In sprinting, top speed will be reached anywhere from 30-60 meters down the track, and the same should hold true in hurdling.

As a result, hurdlers should attempt to continue accelerating beyond each of the first four to six hurdles (depending on their skill level), at which point they then attempt to maintain their top speed.

Here's a drill that encourages acceleration between the hurdles by reducing the mental and physical barriers that prevent such acceleration. The drill is also effective in developing a good first hurdle (the most critical hurdle of them all) by reducing the worry about what happens after that hurdle has been taken. Finally, it's a great way to establish a fast rhythm between hurdles

Set up three hurdles with the first hurdle at the regulation distance and height. The next two hurdles are “discounted” - that is, they are lowered and placed a closer-than- regulation distance apart.

For example, if you're working with senior high school girls' hurdles are 30” high and 8.5 meters apart (in Ontario). For this drill, the first hurdle would be 30” high and the second and third hurdle could be 18” high and 8.3 meters apart.

Instructions to Hurdlers
Your instructions will be:

  • To focus on the first hurdle (which will be easier to do, since your athletes will know they won't have a problem negotiating the next hurdles).
  • To accelerate off the first hurdle and pick up speed over the next two discounted hurdles.

    Once your hurdlers are performing this drill correctly, increase the difficulty by adding the following progressions:

  1. Add a fourth hurdle at the regular height. Your athletes will be running at a faster speed than normal as they take this hurdle because of the two discounted hurdles preceding it.
  2. Add more hurdles. For example, add two more low hurdles. Then another regulation hurdle etc. (If you add enough hurdles, the drill will begin to develop speed endurance).
  3. Remove the distance-discount by placing all the hurdles a regulation distance apart.
  4. Alternate low and regulation hurdles (instead of using a high hurdle followed by two low hurdles).
  5. Set up two regulation hurdles and a low hurdle, then two regulation hurdles, etc.
To see a demonstration of the
High-Low Hurdle Drill Progression, watch the video below:

Dick Moss, Editor, PE (Spring 2010). (Dick Moss is the head coach of the Laurentian University women's track team and the founding coach of Sudbury's Track North Athletic Club).

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