I appreciate you taking the time to reply to this post. While I’ve seen other coaches warm-up/practice over regulation hurdles, I’ve struggled to see any advantage to doing so with the kids I coach.
Being candid, I’ve watch other coaches who (try to) train their kids over regulation hurdles and was underwhelmed by the results. It can be pretty ugly.
I feel we train over full height hurdles while at meets, which of course is the most specific form of training. Intensity is at it’s highest, reps are low and recovery is usually long/full.
While my goal of posting this question was to better understand the benefits of training over regulation hurdles vs. debating the merits of cheated hurdles, I’ll take a swing 🙂
In response to why I feel “cheated” hurdles are usually more appropriate (better):
1) Environmental factors – we train in hallways and gyms during our indoor season. As such the kids are in trainers/flats. Speed & acceleration qualities are inhibited – so moving the hurdles in and lowering them helps compensate for the loss of velocity vs. race velocity at meets from blocks while in spikes.
Likewise, when we finally get outdoors, we’re training in 40 degree weather and frequent winds (it’s supposed to be in the 40’s again this weekend). Despite an active & robust warm-up – the kids aren’t going to be able to produce quality runs over regulation hurdles – even my best 3 steppers. So the hurdles are moved in as much as it takes for the kids to 3 (or 4) step consistently. If the wind is behind us, it may not be much. If it’s a head/cross wind – it may be 3′. Last thing I want to see is hurdlers reaching/bounding (insuring a heel first landing at takeoff) to get to the hurdles. I see no benefit to kids struggling to run over hurdles.
When warmer weather finally sets in – we may run into the wind as as strength/endurance workout (resisted run) over hurdles – so we’ll have to cheat them in to account for the added resistance. Likewise – we may turn them around and let them run with the wind behind them as an over-speed workout where the hurdles may be on regulation spacing, but still down a notch (again – I want fast speed/rhythm and clean runs where we’re challenged to move body parts more rapidly).
2) Lack of adrenaline/intensity at practice. In my experience w/HS athletes – they’re not able to produce the same levels of intensity at practice as they will display in an actual competitive race. So hurdles are moved in to maintain and/or improve upon race touchdown times. If we’re trying to improve race performance – then I want to simulate equal or faster touchdowns. Again…I see no advantage to taking a 14 second female hurdler and having her run 1.2x or greater touchdowns when she’s going to be running 1.1x in her races.
3) Hurdle Height – Females. Even my most vertically impaired female hurdler has little trouble clearing a 33″ hurdle in a race. Quite the contrary – they are almost always too high. So I prefer to take that variable out of training and just work over 30’s to insure we get as many quality runs as possible. And while males accept hitting (and sometimes will willingly hit) hurdles – I’ve yet to have a female that wasn’t shook after hitting one – either at practice and in races.
Males- while the boys 39’s are more challenging and require the boy’s to raise their COM more than the girls (sometimes much more) – I again find I can teach better technique over the 36’s than 39’s. If they can’t hurdle a 36″ hurdle correctly (ie. running over the hurdle vs. jumping the hurdle) – then there’s little profit in raising the hurdle to 39″. Ironically – when their technique improves over the 36’s – I see a corresponding improvement over 39’s in races. And my best male 3 stepper has a minimal hurdle clearance over 39’s in races.
I guess I’ve yet to coach a “stud” (both physically & technically gifted) that was capable of running excellent technique and race rhythms (touchdowns), over regulation hurdles, repeatedly in a practice setting.
As such, my inclination is to “cheat” the hurdles to mimic the race rhythm/technique we’re after. Again, I never want to see a kid bounding/over-striding, jumping or banging into hurdles at practice. And running regulation hurdles at practice w/a slower rhythm vs. race tempo(assuming we’re working on speed)just doesn’t seem like it will have as good of training transfer to me.
Yes, some kids will never 3 step if they don’t have the speed or anthropometric’s. So we take the same philosophy if they are on 4 steps & again looking for quality. And if they are on 5, then we’re going to move the hurdles in and lower them to get them on 4 Once they get used to alternating (which is a plus for the 300H’s as well), we move them back towards regulation.
I’ll also adjust spacings for hurdle endurance work – where we’re running over hurdles (still good lead/trail & arm/leg mechanics)lowered and either spaced in (for 3 steps) or out for 4 or 5 stepping (depending on our goal – ie. training the “B” leg) – for runs in the 80-85% range.
For more speed we’ll run over H1 cheated in a bit, then space H2 & H3 for 5 stepping to increase velocity, then back to 3 steps over H4 & H5 (5533 drill).
Or we’ll run “magic hurdles” with power hurdles at 24″ for H2-H4 to help increase velocity into H5. Not surprisingly the kids will still clear those 24″ hurdles by a country mile – as the bio-motor program is pretty much established for running a hurdle regardless of height.
I guess we struggle at times to maintain quality workouts at practice over cheated hurdles, so I’m rarely tempted to run them over regulation hurdles. We will run over some full height hurdles (but again, probably cheated in a foot or so depending on weather) when we taper for Sectionals & State and are doing very low reps /but high quality work/race modeling.