Earlier this week we put on our running shoes, our new Änggården Singlets and headed to our local track to do some hurdle drills. As retired track athletes, we are big fans of doing hurdle drills as a way to improve your running technique. We brought our camera and thought we’d share with you a little introduction to hurdle drills.
Why hurdle drills? you might ask yourself if you’re not too familiar with the sport of track & field and hurdling. It might be tempting to conclude that only hurdlers would benefit from hurdle drills. But just like running drills, hurdle drills are a worthwhile addition to your workouts as a means to improve your running technique. By including hurdle drills in your workout schedule, you will work on your mobility, posture, strength and sense of rhythm – all of which are key components in order to improve your running technique.
Mobility: When we walk and skip over these obstacles, we use the whole range of motion in our joints and muscles. Just like we do when we run fast. By doing these hurdle drills we improve and maintain our flexibility, which is important to run faster with less effort and decreased risk of injury. When doing hurdle drills, we will primarily be working with our mobility in the hamstrings and hips.
Posture: In order to keep our balance while walking and bouncing over hurdles, we need to move with an upright and tall posture and stay on the balls of our feet. These are also key aspects of good running technique that we practice while doing hurdle drills.
Strength: While we do our hurdle drills we activate lots of muscles, both big and small, in order to keep our balance. Working up strength and stability from hurdle drills can also translate to an improved running stride and decreased risk of injury.
Rhythm: A key to good running and hurdling is rhythm. By doing challenging hurdle drills we improve our body awareness and learn to keep our rhythm and relaxation in our strides and movements, even as fatigue hits.
Moving on to the actual hurdle drills. We’ll start with the easier drills before moving on the more challenging hurdle drills.
Trail leg circles over a hurdle. Find a wall, a fence or just a tall hurdle to lean on. Lean one leg on the board of the hurdle and pull the knee forward and upward in a circle motion. Remember to keep an upright and tall posture and stay on the ball of the foot that remains on the ground. This exercise is a good warmup exercise working on our hip flexibility.
Single hurdle walkovers. Place sex to ten hurdles one after the other without any spacing in between. Walk slowly with one step in between every hurdle. Keep in mind to stay tall and use your arms as counterbalance (imagine using your arms like paddles paddling through the water). This exercise gives you the opportunity to work on your high knee lifts, as you will need those to get over the hurdles.
Hurdle over-unders. Walk over one hurdle, walk under next hurdle. Here you work on your hip mobility as you make your way under every other hurdle. A little tip: if it feels a bit too daunting to squat down deep enough to make it under the hurdles, then raise the hurdles that you will walk under to make it a bit easier.
Straight-leg side skips over hurdles. Start on the side of the hurdles and start straight-leg skipping sideways over the hurdles. To find the right rhythm, imagine you’re about to do a can-can dance! Remember to keep a tall posture while staying on the balls of your feet throughout the exercise.
Hurdle skips. Similar to the hurdle walkovers, but skipping. The key to this drill is to find the right rhythm and relaxation in the movements. In this drill, your arms will be your best friends helping you counteract imbalance.
Snake walk. All tight hips’ worst enemy! The setting: line the hurdles up next to each other so that the the boards of the hurdles form a straight line. Start by the side of the first hurdle and step “through” the hurdle going forward to the next one. Try to keep the movement smooth and constant without stopping, just like a slithering snake.
Squared lateral hurdle skips. Place four hurdles in a square formation. With the same can-can dance rhythm from previous exercises, you skip your way in to the square immediately making a 90 degree turn then skipping out of the square. Repeat, skipping in and out to the hurdle square. As this drill has no natural endpoint, it can be done as an endurance drill where the challenge lies in retaining your rhythm even as fatigue hits.
One-step hurdling. When you start feeling very comfortable walking and skipping over hurdles, add a few meters of space between the hurdles and run over the hurdles with one running step between the hurdles. The focus should be on keeping correct form and rhythm.
Some practical details: Hurdles can be found at many tracks and often in well-equipped gyms. Make sure you warm up properly before starting these drill and always start with low hurdles to minimize the risk of injury. Good luck!