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Hurdle Workouts

Article By: Tonie Campbell, Olympian

The Zone Drill

Invented by Mr. Wilbur Ross, this drill is widely recognized as the single most important workout for the elite athlete during the competitive season.

1.) To condition the hurdler to hurdling timing and technique at hyper speeds during a workout routine.
2.) To condition the athlete to crave speed in the later half of a race.
3.) Elimination of fear at top speeds.

The Set-up:
Place ten hurdles at their normal distances and heights. Remove hurdles four, five and six (blank space effectively becomes the "Zone"). Athlete comes out of the blocks obtaining full speed over the first three hurdles. Upon reaching the zone, athlete must accelerate to hyper speeds on the flat. As they approach hurdle seven, the athlete must make a choice to attack the hurdle or to bail out. The athlete who chooses to attack the hurdle must then maintain the hyper speed while securing a three-step running pattern over the remainder of hurdles.

The speed in which they take the last four hurdles is effectively what the drill is designed to improve and test. The athlete must be maintained his technique over the hurdles once exiting the zone at this new and unfamiliar speed. However, due to the increased speed in which they have assumed this task it is very difficult to obtain. The key is to take the hurdles blindly (blind faith) and stay relaxed reacting quickly and aggressively instead of defensively.

Each run should be timed. Once an athlete is able to do this drill at 100% effort, accurate race times within .28 seconds (if hand timed, add .28 sec.) can be predicted within a two-day window period.

Suggested workouts:
Do this drill during the spring season when weather conditions are favorable. Zone drills should be done within two days of competition due to the emotional benefit and psychological boost the athlete gets from this drill as well as the reaction time decay of most athletes per a given week.

Back and Forths

Mr. Jean Poquette, developing coach of former world record holder Renaldo Nehemiah, invented this drill.

1.) The purpose of the drill is to give the athlete speed plus endurance training.
2.) Creates concentration, stamina and discipline over the barriers.

The Set-up:
Set the first five hurdles at normal spacing and normal height. Set a second row of five hurdles returning (a lane apart facing the opposite direction) with a pair of blocks at the beginning of this row (must be measured for correct distance).

The athlete begins with a standing/running start for the first of the five hurdles accelerating to 100%. At the conclusion of the first five, the athlete is given a maximum :15 seconds rest (time enough to get in the blocks) and takes the second set of five hurdles. The drill is to be done at 85-90% effort. Pace and relaxation for efficiency is stressed in this drill.

Suggested workouts:
This workout is good to do when the athlete is in transition from their fall training to beginning season and can be used sparingly as a conditioning workout during the season.

A timed recovery is best for these drills (approximately 4-6 minutes) a total of five runs over the entire drill would be considered an excellent work-out.

Side steps with speed

This drill was created by Mr. John Isaac of Great Britain and used to train hurdlers like Tony Jarrett and myself.

1.) To increase leg speed between hurdles. Reaffirming the philosophy of "hurdler as sprinter".
2.) To allow the athlete to isolate a particular regions of his body.
3.) To eliminate fear of the hurdles at hyper speeds.

The Set-up:
The first five hurdles. The spacing is reduced (at coach's discretion) normally 12" or 1 foot. The hurdles are lowered 3" inches. The athlete takes the hurdle with only one side of his body (i.e. the trail leg or the lead leg) while accelerating to hyper speeds or greater than 100%.

The philosophy is to reacquaint the hurdler with the importance of the sprint in between the hurdles and proper acceleration into and off each hurdle. By lowering the hurdles, we have eliminated the athlete's concern for hurdle clearance. By moving the hurdles in closer, we have eliminated the athlete's concern of distance, giving the hurdler amble confidence in his abilities and allowing him/her to concentrate on speed.

Suggested Workouts:
Have the athlete do these workouts during competition season in place of "Zone drills" if the athlete has particular difficulty with the zone drills. However, this drill should not completely replace the zone drill or vice versa. Use this drill as a complement to the zone drills or perhaps a reward for a tough week. This drill should be done within two days of competition.

The athlete should do a minimum of five passes down each side then five over the top for a complete workout in order to yield maximum benefits from the drill.

Optional suggestions would include; when your athlete has mastered this workout but his technique still could desire more, the coach may raise the height of the barriers or increase the distance of the barriers.

By increasing the height, the athlete will develop stronger and more flexible technical abilities along with greater speeds. By increasing the barrier length the athlete will develop greater ground speed overall.


This drill was given to me by 1992 Olympic gold medallist Mark McKoy of Canada.

1.) This drill is great to use when warm-up facilities are limited and your athlete needs several passes over hurdles to warm-up.
2.) Also this is a great drill to do when an athlete is "Flat" (tired, non-aggressive, tight, sluggish) this stimulates tempo and mental alertness.
3.) Gives the athlete a greater number of hurdle passes without a large volume of distance.

The Set-up:
Set hurdles at normal distance and normal height followed by simply inserting a hurdle between each effectively having placed a hurdle at every five yards.

The athlete is to condense his steps to fit a three-step rhythm. The faster the tempo, the harder and ultimately more beneficial.

Suggested work-outs:
Can be used as a warm-up for race, setting hurdles up on a "as needed" basis.

In a workout, an athlete can set up as many as 19 hurdles making up to 20 passes during the fall training season and decreasing the load as the competitive season approaches and the athlete's conditioning increases.


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