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.
Sprint Performance Factors
Perhaps a review of the Sprint Performance Factors will aid in establishing the necessary components for success at the long hurdle races. The following performance factors were presented in a flow-chart by respected Coach and Clinician Gary Winckler4 in his presentation to the Elite Sprint and Hurdle Seminar.
Stride Length + Stride Frequency
Strength + Technique + Coordination & Speed
Close examination of the interdependence of the above factors to the overall performance should reinforce the importance of the above physical attributes, especially absolute speed, which is the limiting factor in all sprint/hurdle races.
The first priority of coaches in identifying long hurdle candidates should be Speed. In many cases, the best sprinters at most high schools are those that would be ideal candidates but are “appointed” as sprinters because they are the fastest athletes on the team or can score sprint points in their respective League Championships Meet. Indeed, many of the best athletes at any high school could be one of, if not the best, at almost any event or sport. The key is to identify the long term potential of each athlete and develop the proper foundation in an event where each athlete may ultimately find the greatest success in high school and, ultimately, the next level.
Another problem with identifying long hurdlers at the high school level is the “choosing” of hurdlers based entirely on technique. While at the high school level I routinely found many athletes who were picked up hurdle technique quickly or where “naturals” at hurdling but did not possess either the speed or strength or both to ever be successful performers in the hurdle races.
Even the best technician in hurdling is not capable of top performances without true sprint speed on the flat. The World’s top 400 hurdlers can run between 44.5 and 45.5 over the flat 400 meters and have 100 meter speeds in the range of 10.3 to 10.5 seconds. According to Brogoli & Krystev5 in 1975, the correlation coefficient between 400 hurdles and the 100m/400m flat times of World-Class 400 hurdlers is 0.70 while Dolgi6 found the coefficient in 1976 to be 0.77!
It cannot be overstated that hurdling, whether 400/300 or 100/110 events, is a sprinting action. A comparison of the women’s World Records in the hurdles events shows that the 400 hurdles record of 52.34 (=7.65m/s) is run at 93% of the record for 100 hurdles (12.21 sec = 8.19 m/s). Even though the duration of the 400 hurdles is 10% longer than the 400 meter flat race, the the average velocity is only 5% slower in the 400 hurdles than the 400 meters on the flat.
It should now be apparent that sprint speed is the limiting factor in identifying athletes who would be successful for the long hurdle race, however, strength, endurance, technique and mobility in varying quantities also play major roles in the development of successful long hurdlers.
In conclusion, when considering potential long hurdle candidates, the following Performance Qualities, as outlined by Scott Roberts2 may be a useful tool:
- Ability to apply force at take-off so as to move through the hurdle and minimize horizontal deceleration.
- Ability to hurdle with either leg
- Ability to maintain consistent rhythm which requires Specific Speed Endurance and Explosive Strength
- Ability to manage race distribution pattern efficiently – not too fast, too early or too slow and be out of contention.
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
 Principles of Application for Enhanced Sprint and Hurdle Performance; Gary Winckler, Notes from presentation at USA Elite Sprint & Hurdle Seminar, 1990.
 Hurdles, Distances are Related, Brogoli and Krystev; Re-printed by Modern Athlete and Coach, Vol. 15, #5-6, 1976.
 400m Hurdles: A Summary of Information, Dolji, Modern Athlete and Coach, Vol. 20, #3, 1982.