This 3 part series article is guest blogged by Jim Hiserman, author of the books Program Design Method for Sprints & Hurdle Training and Strength and Power for Maximum Speed. Part 2 will discuss the 3 groups, and Part 3 will look at Sprint Performance Factors.
Identifying Potential Long Hurdlers
Identifying athletes who may have the potential for success in the 400/ 300 Hurdles begins with examining the physical attributes of athletes to see if they have the Bio-Motor factors required for success in the long hurdle races. The long hurdle races require much more than Speed Endurance and modest hurdling skill.
An examination of research and literature reveals that the same Bio-Motor abilities required for high level sprinters and jumpers is required for both short (110m and 100m) and long hurdlers. Elite long hurdlers display a rare blend of the Absolute Speed of a sprinter, Dynamic Mobility (especially in the hips) of a High Hurdler and Speed Endurance /Special Endurance of 400/800 runners. In addition, they have the innate steering abilities required of high level horizontal jumpers as well as the ability to maintain a consistent rhythm and efficient speed distribution pattern throughout the race distance.
In describing the physical and mental characteristics of successful long hurdlers, veteran 400 Hurdles Coach Ralph Lindeman states that the event “requires a combination of speed-endurance and hurdling skills along with a unique stride pattern between hurdles that requires special concentration throughout the race”.1
Physical and Mental Attributes Of Potential Long Hurdlers
Scott Roberts, Women’s Sprint/Hurdles Coach at Alabama listed the Attributes, Selection Criteria and Performance Qualities of potential long hurdle competitors in his recent clinic notes2. Among the physical attributes at the top of his list were:
- strength of an 800 runner,
- hurdling ability of a sprint hurdler and
- visual steering ability of a horizontal jumper.
He points out that successful competitors have come from sprint, hurdle, jump and middle distance athletes. Thus his Selection Criteria included the following:
- Sprint ability. SPEED is the primary limiting factor in any speed/power event.
- STRENGTH, with a mix of Absolute/Maximal Strength and Strength Endurance.
- Dynamic Mobility with special emphasis on the hips for efficiency in the hurdling movement.
- Aggressive Mental Attitude required to maintain concentration need to maintain the stride pattern and race distribution patterns throughout the race effort.
Polish coach and researcher, Janusz Iskra3, divides potential long hurdlers into three groups for the purpose of devising training programs specific to the various individual physical attributes. He feels that by dividing the hurdlers into 3 groups:
- Motor (speed or speed endurance),
- Technical (400H or 110/100HH)
- Somatic (short or tall)
… he can best structure their training programs for specific strengths and weaknesses. In his view the ideal type of elite 400 hurdlers is hybrid of three different Bio-Motor abilities: Speed, Endurance and Rhythm although he states that this is, in theory only, as even the best 400 hurdlers do not show equal abilities in both technical and motor abilities.
A good example of different 400mH is comparing Edwin Moses (76, 84 OG, 47.02 former WR) and Kevin Young (92 OG, 46.78WR). Moses was the first hurdler to successfully run the entire race on a 13 stride pattern. Young was a 110mH walk-on at UCLA who switched to the 400mH and perfected a 12 and 13 stride pattern through various parts of the race.
And then you have 400mH like Angelo Taylor (47.25) or Kerron Clement (47.24) who can run the open 400 meters in low 44 and are often in the 4x400m relay pool.
About the Author
Jim Hiserman’s is the author of the Program Design Method for Sprints & Hurdle Training and Strength and Power for Maximum Speed. His other published articles on this site include:
- A Total Sprint-Training Program for Maximum Strength & Power, Core Strength, and Maximum Sprint Speed (5 Part series)
- A Sprint & Hurdles Program Design Overview
- Training for Development of Maximum Speed
- Basic and Advanced Technical Models, including Proper Execution of Key Drills
- Speed throughout the Training Year
- 400 Meter Training: Greater Strength = Faster Times (3 Part Series)
- 400 Meter Training- Blending Short-to-Long and Long-to-Short Methods (2 Part Series)
- Speed Training: Developing a Sound Philosophy
- How to Improve Acceleration Part 4
- Summer Sprint Training: Important Variables to Consider
 400 Meter Hurdle Theory, Ralph Lindeman, (US Air Force Academy/USATF Men’s Hurdle Development Coordinator), Track Coach #131, 1995, re-printed in 2007 by USTCCCA Magazine.
 Theory & Training for the 400m Hurdles, Scott Roberts (Univ. of Alabama), Notes from: Presentation for the Illinois State T&F Coaches Clinic, Jan. 2010.
 Principles of 400m Hurdle Training, Janusz Iskra,et. al, Presentation for 13th Commonwealth International Sport Conference, Melbourne, Australia; March 2006.