Speed Endurance for the Sprint Hurdles

Posted by Tony Veney

Every sprint race has a period where the ability to hold off the effects of fatigue hurts overall performance.

In the 100 meter and 100 meter sprint hurdle races, the transition from acceleration, to top end and speed endurance are almost identical. Both races hit max velocity at almost the same location in sub-elite and elite sprinters/hurdlers. But I am not talking about hurdlers we may never see in our careers. I am talking about “Billy Bang a Barrier” and his female counter-part, “Hilary hit a Hurdle”, who both run between 14.5 and 16.0. Each one of these hurdlers is going to hit their max velocity earlier and earlier as their overall time slows.

A 14.5 kid will hit top end around hurdles 4-5-6 while the 16.0 kid hits the same area of max effort a hurdle or two sooner. Regardless of where this occurs, the need to develop max speed endurance is critical to your hurdlers training.

I have always been taught by my mentors to observe the event and the problem, and then attempt to create a condition at practice to address it. The slower, 16.0 hurdlers must endure for sometimes 3 to 5 hurdles longer than the faster, 14.5 kids. But how can we improve their endurance under duress? Most coaches already run 12 hurdle routines, and even run the 12 hurdle set with the sticks low and close, but somewhere in the run, fatigue is still a problem they must overcome.

Hurdling is an event where “rhythm endurance” is of primary concern in the later stages of the run. So how can we keep the integrity of the rhythm when fatigue is trying to inhibit the quickness and shuffle mechanic? This is how the 12 hurdle routine I use is set up:

Have a hurdler that can do both the sprint hurdlers and the mid-distance hurdles? Coach Veney can help: Coaching the Dual Hurdler

For girls, 12 hurdles are set up 8 meters apart and resulting in a 110 total run after the touchdown off hurdle 12. Hurdles 1 – 5 – 9 are set at 17 to 20 inches high. If you don’t have the scissor hurdles then string some tape, or yarn from hurdles in the side-by-side lanes. Hurdles 2-3-4, 6-7-8, and 10-11-12 are all set at 30 inches. The boy’s hurdles are set at 30 inches for barriers 1-5-9 and the other sticks are set at 36 inches. The distance between the hurdles is 8.5 to 8.8 meters.

Always run low and close at practice to assure the quickness and speed of the rhythm can be maintained, as well as giving you an opportunity to see your hurdler get in enough reps to produce adaptation to the drill.

The reason you run the first hurdle so low is to generate top end velocity between hurdles 1 and two. The young hurdler usually cannot generate enough speed to make the race manageable until 3 or 4 hurdles have been cleared. But by then, fatigue is already becoming a factor (especially for the slower hurdler). How much better do you think your hurdler would run if off hurdle 1 they were already as fast as they needed to be? As they run over hurdles 2-3-4 they can feel how quick they have to be and just before the fatigue starts to slow them down….BAM! Another 20 inch hurdle pops up and they run over it and return to top end race “quickness”. Again after they clear hurdles 6-7-8….BAM! Now they have the speed you want them to have so they can feel how great it is to run fast at the end of the race.

Since hurdling is rhythm running, most young and inexperienced hurdlers don’t run fast enough to feel race rhythm in a state of fatigue. CAUTION! Don’t run this workout if you have two meets (a dual and invitational) in the same week because it will fry their legs. Run this hurdle workout 2-3 weeks out form the biggest meet your hurdler can qualify for.

Adding a twist to the workout can have you cut the distance between the hurdles by 4-5 inches every set of three hurdles. Below is an example for a girl’s flight and you can change the run to a boy’s flight by using the distances earlier outlined.

13.0/20” H1
8.0/30” H2
8.0/30” H3
8.0/30” H4
8.0/20” H5
7.9/30” H6
7.9/30” H7
7.9/30” H8
7.9/20” H9
7.8/30” H10
7.8/30” H11
7.8/30” H12

Now here’s where this stuff really pays off, and if you share this with anyone I will have to kill you! What scares the young hurdle is the height and the distance. If you can give them the sensation of speed for 12 hurdles the height can be eliminated as being scary. So here is the tip:

  • When your hurdler gets to hurdles 6-7-8, put them at 33” and since they have just received a boost from hurdle 5, they will run over the hurdles like they were lower, and then return hurdles 10-11-12 to 30” so they can finish the drill fast.

As you can see, once you know what your hurdler needs in order to run faster you can configure this drill to suit you. Good luck and Good Hunting!

And more hurdle information – Don’t miss Coach Veney’s Preparing the High School Sprint Hurdler


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Tony Veney - Tony Veney is entering his ninth season at the helm of the Pirates' men's and women's track and field teams, his 10th at Ventura College. He brings over 40 years of extensive track and field coaching and teaching experience from all levels of competition, and is a nationally certified instructor and lecturer. In the fall of 2017, Veney was awarded the Fred Wilt Coach/Educator of the Year Award by USA Track & Field. Coach Veney is a USATF Level I-II-III instructor with a master of coaching certificate. He is a regular speaker at national track and field clinics, and has produced and published several videos and books related to the specialized areas of sprints and hurdles. Veney is a 1976 graduate of UCLA with a degree in History. He was the former 800 meter record holder for the Bruins, and was a member of two NCAA outdoor track and field championship teams. He received his Master's Degree in physical education from Azusa Pacific University.

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