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Standing just nine to 18 inches tall, speed hurdles are small training tools that can make a big difference in your sprinting form.
The right drills with these little L-shaped tools can improve the mechanics of the frontside—i.e., all the movements that allow you to push off of the ground—and the backside—i.e., everything that allows you to bring your heel up after ground contact to start the recovery phase of your stride. Better mechanics mean more efficient running. Better efficiency means you'll go farther, and possibly faster, while expending less energy.
For the following three speed drills, I recommend starting with five hurdles (cones will work in a pinch). As you become more comfortable with the movements and confident with your form, add hurdles until you reach a total of 10. Perform each drill five times on your speed training days.
Wickets test and improve your backside mechanics. Here's how to perform the drill.
- Place the hurdles about one to two yards apart
- Stand tall at the starting line with your chest up and core engaged. Your head should be neutral and your eyes should be looking straight ahead
- Sprint to the first hurdle. Maintain a tall position as you move. Do not lean forward or backward. Use proper arm mechanics as you move
- Lift the knee of your lead leg to clear the first hurdle, then drive the leg back down so your foot strikes the ground
- Upon ground contact, lock the ankle with toes up and lift your heel, bringing it as close as possible to your glutes as you continue with the leg cycle. The goal is high heel recovery
- Cycle the leg back through for the next hurdle
If your foot strikes a hurdle, your ankle is not cocked sufficiently. That means you're over emphasizing backside mechanics, causing you to run more slowly than you're capable of.
If you're clearing the hurdles with ease, it's a sign that you have a good, high-heeled recovery, which is the key to great backside mechanics.
High Knee Drill
This drill teaches you to lift your knees higher as you run to improve your frontside mechanics. It also helps you learn to drive your foot into the ground with toes up.
- Start in the same position as in the Wicket Drill, above
- Run through the hurdles again, but this time practice bringing your knee up as high as possible as you step over them
- Always be mindful of your mechanics. Keep your navel in towards your spine, knees up, toes lifted and arms pumping
Lateral Shuffle Drill
Since most athletes don't just move forward and backward in a straight line, I recommend this drill, which improves lateral movement. That way, you'll be better able to run strong from sideline to sideline, too. (Watch the Georgia softball team perform the Lateral Shuffle Drill.)
- Start in the same position as in the other drills, above. Line up directly in front of the first hurdle
- Quickly shuffle to your right and run around the first hurdle
- Shuffle to your left to go around the second hurdle
- Keep moving in this pattern, passing the hurdles as quickly as you can
- Keep your hips low and chest up throughout the drill