Hurdling Mechanics with FIU

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Becoming an elite hurdler doesn't happen overnight, nor is it based solely on the ability to clear a hurdle. In fact, before you even begin to work on getting over those lane blocks with perfect technique, you first need to learn how to run properly. "I usually start my teaching progression with speed development and proper sprinting mechanics, before even introducing the hurdles," says Eric Campbell, head track & field coach for Florida International University. He adds, "Efficient, tight sprint mechanics produce more efficient, tighter hurdling mechanics."

According to Campbell, poor sprinting mechanics hinder hurdlers by:

• Reducing speed and velocity between and through the hurdles
• Forcing you to take off too close or too far away from the hurdle
• Preventing you from clearing a hurdle successfully

"Once running technique is perfected, we shift focus to maximizing horizontal speed, which includes a flawless takeoff, clearance and touchdown between each hurdle, without deceleration," explains Campbell, a former Big East Conference and NAIA triple jump champion.

Here, Campbell offers advice on what he considers the biggest difference-maker between hurdling success and clumsy failure: executing a sound takeoff. Practice it, and maybe your hurdling dreams will become blue ribbon reality:

• Depending on your height, begin takeoff between 6'4" and 6'10" in front of hurdle
• Bend lead leg at knee so it is at 90-degree angle and toe and heel are up
• Drive top of thigh up to chest, keeping body tall at hips
• With lead arm flexed and moving forward, bring hand to midline of body, stopping hand at shoulder height
• Opposite arm should be flexed at elbow and driven back, with wrist at waist level

Campbell's Coaching Corner:

• Avoid moving your arms and hands too far across body
• Don't move your chest down to your thigh
• Lean into hurdle with your knee first, not your foot
• This is a sprint event. Spend more time on the ground than hanging in the air All-American Seminole Buster Posey threw out 41 percent of attempted base stealers last season. Efficient flip-turns have been key to helping Olympian Michael Phelps [pictured] earn his six gold medals.

Campbell's hurdle clearing tips:

• Main objective is to realign limbs to get into good sprinting position for next hurdle
• Drive leg should be flexed at knee
• Foot needs to be dorsal flexed up
• Ankles should remain tight with toes turned out just slightly
• As you clear the hurdle, keep slight bend in knee
• After clearing hurdle, take foot and "snap it" back down to the ground as fast as possible

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock