Maintaining Forward Momentum

Heading into the World Indoor Championships this weekend, it looks like one of the favorites in the men’s 60m hurdles is American Terrence Trammell. You could make an argument for Trammell being the greatest indoor hurdler of all time, and he is in the midst of another stellar indoor season here in 2010.

While there are certain things about Trammell’s hurdling style that I don’t prefer, there is one thing he does better than anyone else anywhere: he maintains his forward momentum. Yes he has a killer start, and yes he has world-class speed, but it’s his ability to maintain his forward momentum throughout the entire 60m race that makes him virtually unbeatable indoors.

While it’s important to stay forward all the time, the two places where it’s easy to mess up and stand too tall are when rising toward the first hurdle, and then when landing off of hurdles. In regards to rising toward the first hurdle, a lot of hurdlers pop up – not out of the blocks, but at step three or four, when they first get their eyes on the hurdle. As for coming off of hurdles, that’s where a lot of guys stand up erect due to the force of the lead-leg snapdown.

Once you’re running with an erect posture, it’s harder to get over hurdles because you don’t have as much forward momentum to carry you over. Your groin and hips have to do a lot more work. When clearing hurdles, the lean is never enough, even if you do lean deeply, because you’re leaning from being straight up and down as opposed to leaning from running with the chest pushed forward.

Also, because you lose momentum, you lose speed. Someone like Trammell is increasing speed as he clears each hurdle.

So, with every stride, not just over the hurdles, you want to focus on staying low and pushing the chest forward. Hurdlers who puddle-hop from hurdle to hurdle without focusing on their running posture between each hurdle don’t realize that what they’re doing between is effecting their ability to do execute effectively on top.

In the footage of the race below, which is from the finals of the USA Indoor Championships a couple weeks ago, compare Trammell to the other hurdlers as they descend off hurdle one. See how the others stand up, whereas Trammell stays forward. For five hurdles and through the finish line, Trammell never stands erect. I think that’s where being a sprinter and having a sprinter’s mentality helps him. Sprinters are taught to drive for as long as they can. Thirty, forty, fifty meters. Hurdlers who don’t have a sprinter’s mentality stop driving as soon as they clear the first hurdle. That’s what we’re seeing happen in this race.

© 2010 Steve McGill


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