Latest Blog Posts

The Phenomenal Hurdling of Omar McLeod

May 15, 2017

Omar McLeod’s performances at the Olympic Games last year and in the early part of the outdoor season this year has got him turning heads. It’s not even June yet, and McLeod has already run sub-13.10 twice, and seems poised to go under 13.00 on a regular basis once the summer gets here. Whenever a hurdler is on a roll like McLeod has been on for the past two years or so, you have to ask, What is he doing to run so fast?

In the case of McLeod, because he is so fast with his sub 10.00 100m speed, the answer seems to be simple: his speed can carry him through mistakes, so even if he doesn’t have perfect technique, he’ll run in the 13.0 range regularly with that kind of speed.

While there may be some credence to that viewpoint, I would argue that it represents an oversimplification. McLeod is a very good hurdler. You can’t run hurdles the way he does on speed alone. In a lot of ways, what he is doing is nothing short of phenomenal. He’s only 5’10”; he’s supposed to be smacking hurdles right and left. He’s supposed to be too short for this race. He’s supposed to be breaking down in the second half of races. But he’s not. He’s also at a disadvantage because he’s eight-stepping to the first hurdle while all of his opponents are seven-stepping. But that’s proving not to matter at all. Why? How is McLeod able to run over these 42-inch barriers so quickly and efficiently? Here are a few things I’ve noticed:

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Similar Styles of Harrison and Pearson

April 18, 2017

One thing I’ve always had a fascination with when it comes to the hurdles is comparing the styles of the top hurdlers and noticing their similarities and differences, their strengths and weaknesses. In a blog post three years ago I compared the hurdling style of David Oliver to that of Roger Kingdom (http://hurdlesfirstbeta.com/2014/04/20/d-o-kingdom-comparison/). Though a generation apart, their styles, and their body types, were so similar that it was almost eerie. Turns out that Oliver said Kingdom had been his favorite hurdler growing up, and that he had studied his style closely in his fledgling hurdling years.

In Keni Harrison’s last two years of high school, when she first took up the hurdles as her athletic focus, I was her private hurdles coach. When it came to discussing professional hurdlers to model her style after, I brought up only one name: Sally Pearson. “If you really want to learn how to hurdle,” I told Keni, “watch Sally.” As Keni has moved on and moved up the ranks – first as a collegian, then as a professional, and now as the current world record holder – she has refined her style to the point where it can be said that she is the equal of Pearson when it comes to technical efficiency.

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Alternating Drills

April 16, 2017

In last week’s practice with my athlete Scout, we did a lot of drills. Her lower back was tightening up on her, so we decided not to risk injury. Instead of going full speed out of the blocks, we repped some drills to help with her 4-stepping, since she is still 4-stepping most of the 100m hurdle race. The alternating drills always also help with the 300m hurdles as well, since alternating in that race can be so important in maintaining rhythm and maintaining an optimal take-off distance from each hurdle.

We did three drills, all of which are represented in the video at the end of this post. The drills appear in the video in the following order:

1. 4-stepping at a moderate speed over 36” hurdles with the hurdles moved in three feet from the race marks.
2. 3-step high-knee marches over 30” hurdles with the hurdles 12 feet apart.
3. 4-stepping eight 30” hurdles with the hurdles moved in three feet from the race marks (this drills is designed more specifically for the 300h).

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