Sports Coach Logo Sports Coach Training Principles Fitness Components Sports Coach Logo



text Translator



site search facility





Sprint Colin Jackson (UK) Hurdles

Hurdling is, because of its technical and energy demands, an exciting and challenging event. The technical component of hurdling is clearly much greater than in sprinting, yet the concept of the hurdles race must be one of a sprint, with adjustment for each hurdle. The stride pattern for sprint hurdling is a 7 to 8 stride pattern to the first hurdle followed by a 3-stride pattern between the hurdles. Appropriate drills can be used to help develop the athlete's hurdling technique.

Sprint Hurdling Technique

The Start and Approach

In sprint hurdling the first hurdle is only some seven or eight strides away so the athlete must come upright at the 3rd or 4th stride, much earlier than the sprinter. To enable this to happen the block spacings will have to be slightly altered. When using an eight stride approach the take-off foot is placed in the front block.

Hurdle Clearance

The athlete must attack the hurdle and aim to clear it, by approx. 17 to 18 cm, as quickly and efficiently as possible, raising their centre of gravity only a little more than in a normal sprint action.

Leg action

Leg Action

The last stride of the approach to the first hurdle is shortened in order to allow the take-off leg to move rapidly under the hips. This ensures that a fast-effective drive can be made across the hurdle. [1] The take-off distance is 1.98 metres to 2.29 metres (6½ to 7½ feet) from the hurdle. The body's centre of gravity is ahead of the foot on take-off. [1]

The action of the leading leg:

  • The knee must be picked up fast [1]
  • The knee is driven at the hurdle [1] & [2]
  • The lower part of the leg is left low and extends once the knee reaches the height of the barrier [1] & [2]
  • The knee must be picked up in line with the vertical centre line of the body.
  • There should be no tendency for the knee to be pulled across the body or for the lower leg to go out and round.
  • The foot of the lead leg reaches its highest point some 15 to 30 centimetres (6 to 8 inches) in front of the hurdle rail.
  • As the heel of the lead leg passes the barrier it must be pulled down and back to land under the body [3] & [4]
  • There is no necessity for the lead leg to be straight over the top of the hurdle [3].
  • The leg straightens as it descends towards the ground [4]
  • The foot of the lead leg grounds at 114 to 137 centimetres (3¾ to 4½ feet) beyond the hurdle.

The action of the trailing leg:

  • The trailing leg drives the body at the hurdle as the lead leg rises [1]
  • The recovery of the trail leg must begin from well behind the body if the drive is to be completed
  • The athlete should feel the trailing knee sweeping wide and flat over the hurdle [4].
  • As the leg crosses the hurdle, the foot must be cocked at the ankle so that the foot does not hit the barrier [4]
  • After crossing the barrier, the knee continues to rise and comes around in front of the body [5]

Many young athletes tend to drop the trail leg off to the side after it has crossed the barrier. This has the effect of making the first stride short and pulling the athlete off balance. The trail leg must be pulled through high and fast so that the first stride is fast [5] & [6].

Arm Action

As in sprinting, the arms act to balance the body and counter the rotations produced by the legs. The arm opposite to the lead leg actually leads the action into the hurdle and pushes/dives forwards as the lead leg rises [1]. The other arm should be taken back in a normal sprinting action. As the trail leg comes around the leading arm swings back and wide to counter the rotation of the trail leg [4].

Running Between Hurdles

Three strides are used to cover the ground between the hurdles. To achieve this, the athlete has to modify his sprinting technique to make it fit the gap. A fast leg cadence and a shorter stride length are needed. The athlete may have to use a lower knee lift than in normal sprinting with an emphasis on leg speed. The correct range of movement and speed can be achieved by training over hurdles that are slightly closer together than normal.

Key Hurdling Points

The athlete is leaning towards the hurdle and driving the right knee at the hurdle. The leading arm is driven forward and up (ideally to forehead height).

Key Points 1

The athlete is leaning towards the hurdle and has now lifted the leading (right) foot to clear the hurdle.

Key Points 2

The leading (right) foot is now being pushed down to the track.

The knee and foot of the trailing (left) leg are pointing out to the side (towards the camera) in order to clear the hurdle.

Key Points 3

The left knee is driven forward and up once the foot has cleared the hurdle and the toes of the left foot are dorsiflexed.

The right leg is straight with the ball of the foot contacting with the track underneath the hip, the left arm is driven back, and the athlete is still leaning forward.

Key points 4

The left knee is quickly pulled high into the stride away from the hurdle.

The right leg remains straight, the hips stay high and the heel of the right foot does not touch the track allowing the athlete to sprint away from the hurdle.

Key points 5

The ratio of the distances from the hurdle for the takeoff point and landing point is approx. 3:1. e.g. the athlete takes off 3 metres from the hurdle and lands 1 metre past the hurdle.

Have a look at the Sprint Hurdles Photo Sequence of a young Colin Jackson and see if you can see the same key points.


Hurdling is dangerous on wet grass or any other slippery surface. It is also dangerous for children to run over hurdles in the opposite way to the correct running direction (i.e. with the feet of the hurdles on the far side).

It is important to help the athletes in the learning situation, by using adapted equipment, lowering the hurdles and altering the distance between hurdles.

Hurdles Touchdown Times

The following facility will provide you with some checkpoint hurdle touchdown times that can be used when aiming for a particular time goal for 100m Hurdles for women, 110m Hurdles for men and 400m Hurdles for men and women.

The calculations are based on the touchdown times of the top hurdlers at Olympic games. For a given finishing time the % of that time for each hurdle has been calculated and then averaged for a number of top hurdlers.

Enter the target time, select the event, select gender and then click on the "Calculate" button.

Target time secs   Hurdle Event   Gender  

Hurdle   1   2   3   4   5
Time (seconds)          
Total Distance (metres)          
Hurdle   6   7   8   9   10
Time (seconds)          
Total Distance (metres)          

Training Programs

A training program has to be developed to meet the individual needs of the athlete and take into consideration many factors: gender, age, strengths, weaknesses, objectives, training facilities etc. As all athletes have different needs, a single program suitable for all athletes is not possible.

The following is a basic annual training program for the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and the Sprint Hurdle events.


The specification for the hurdle height depends on the event distance, gender and age.

Gender\Age 11-12 13-14 15-16 17-19 20-34
Male 75m (76.2cm) 80m (84cm) 100m (91.4cm)
400m (84cm)
110m (1.067m)
400m (91.4cm)
110m (1.067m)
400m (91.4cm)
Female 70m (68.2cm) 75m (76.2cm) 80m (76.2cm)
300m (76.2cm)
100m (84cm)
400m (76.2cm)
100m (84cm)
400m (76.2cm)

Gender\Age 35-49 50-59 60-69 70-79 80+
Male 60m (99.1cm) 60m (91.4cm) 60m (84cm) 60m (76.2cm) 60m (68.5cm)

Gender\Age 35-39 40-49 50-59 60-69 70+
Female 60m (84cm) 60m (76.2cm) 60m (76.2cm) 60m (68.5cm) 60m (68.5cm)

Evaluation Tests

The following evaluation tests can be used to monitor the sprint athlete's development:

Rules of Competition

The competition rules for this event can be obtained from:

Free Calculator

Page Reference

If you quote information from this page in your work, then the reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (2001) Sprint Hurdle [WWW] Available from: [Accessed

Related Pages

The following Sports Coach pages provide additional information on this topic:

Associated Books

The following books provide more information related to this topic:

  • How to Teach Track Events, M. Arnold
  • Sprinting and Hurdling, Peter Warden