The Art of the mini-hurdle must have struck a chord with some of the coaches who have been out to watch my practices of out to my facility.
They are claiming I left out the other half of why I use the mini hurdle drill. I am holding back. They are right. I use the mini-hurdles for other reasons as well. I use them to develop lateral strength as well.
What usually goes hand in hand with the push runner who has an extended leg out back and low knee drive is also the characteristic of having a cross over gait. Dr. Shawn Allen of The Gait Guys and I began investigating this concept of cross over run years ago when we were woodshedding it back in the day. We watch film clip after film clip of runner, trying to determine what we could do to not only prevent injury but also get athletes to run faster. And we were stuck at watching people from the side. Then one of Dr.Allen’s clients had a youtube clip of her running. It was in a local advertisement. And all it took was a glimpse from the front where we came upon the crossover gait. She was having chronic hip and knee pain and we watched as she took 3 strides down the line on the side of a country road. All 3 of the strides crossed over the line and landed on the wrong side of her body. Sirens wailed, lights flashed and the world changed. We started filming as many people as possible from the front and breaking down the film. Dr. Allen had the ability to test muscles to match what the runner’s gait showed and we could deduce what was going on. We looked for other research on the issue and found very little. So, we started to play. Youtube was helpful in watching top sprinters run. Every one of them had a foot that landed directly under their hip. The slower the athlete, the more the hip drifted toward the middle. This was consistent with both distance runners and sprinters. We were a thermometer and could identify the problem. We needed to be a thermostat and change things. Crossover crossover 2
If we knew that crossing over was causing problems, we needed to design some exercises to improve the condition and change form. We played with basic side planks but didn’t feel they built the strength necessary to hold the hip in place as the weight of the body, doubled, crashes down. Hip hikes on a Swiss ball were an improvement because the foot was now in contact with the ground. But it still lacked the force. So, I painted a line down my very long driveway and started to have my athletes run down the line, focusing on where their foot placement occurred. And sure enough, the athletes felt the stress on their hips. To help them space out their stride and get them to focus on getting their knees up, I put my 6 inch mini hurdles at 1.5 and 1.7m intervals and had them run. I could really see them start to improve. From the Bosch video, which I watched again after this revelation, he talked about foot placement in relation to the hips. Bosch said to stress the hip even more, fully extend the athlete’s arms over their head. I tried it and it worked. I figured at this point, using my old school strength coach/American mentality, if I add more, it will be better. I found myself at the junk yard looking for weighted poles to run with. I found 10, 20, 30 and 35 lb iron bars that I tried with my athlete’s to run with over their head. And, it worked. I saw noticeable difference in my athletes after training in this fashion. I don’t add more than 10 pounds for quite some time. I look for quickness off the ground first. Then, I start to spread out to 1.7 and 1.9m. When they look good at 1.9m, I allow them to start to add weight. My fastest runners are able to handle the heavier weight. To add even more stress to the lateral sling, I put pieces of track, approximately 1/4 -1/2 inch in between the hurdles. That added amount creates more stress when hitting the ground. When you add speed through the hurdles and short distances between the hurdles, it really creates a challenging environment. But this is a progression. A coach can wreck an athlete if they jump to the coolest exercise. Patience is the key.
The mini-hurdle. What a great drill. Not only does a coach get to work on perfect timing but he also gets to work on lateral strength as well, both attributes that every fast, efficient injury free runner displays.
How I got my best summer results ever
Every coach is looking for the panacea of workouts to make someone faster. The Holy Grail of workouts. I am not just talking about something that works for someone who is a young training age. 1-2 years. Fly 10’s alone can help that athlete. I am talking about something that works when the basics have stopped working. I know this really does not exist. There are way too many factors that go into play when creating a workout for anyone. It is more difficult especially for an advanced athlete. A coach can look at raw date from anyone of the myriad of tests, ranging from Omegawave, to a quick vertical jump or even the basic tap test on a iphone. Then there is the art of coaching. What is a coaches’ feel for what is going on with the athlete. Where does the flow of the moment lead? Then there are external factors, like the weather. This summer in Chicago, it rained most days and was cool. Additionally, a builder bought three house on my block and knocked them down to build 3 new house, simultaneously. My house was the middle of those 3. That meant for 4 weeks of the summer, heavy machinery was going back and forth in my street, which is really my track. There was dirt, mud and pebbles everywhere. The surface was not prime for sprinting, to say the least. And, I don’t know if I want to find the Holy Grail of sprint workouts. Remember, Galahad died after he found it.
But, this summer, I had a perfect storm. I had 5 veteran athletes who had a training group together. By veteran, I mean more than 3 years of training experience with me. They are all very accomplished athletes in their sport. Most of them went to see Dr. Kerry Heitkotter for her ability to design programs for their cellular health and to oversee how they were dealing with the stresses of training (more on this later). Dr. Kerry Egan was playing with light, color and sound to make sure those systems were optimal (again, more on this later as well). I stayed on top of the physically with Douglas Heel’s Be-Activated work. And, I had the newest and coolest of the latest and greatest of toys. I had my 2 exxentrics Kboxes and my Sprint 1080.
The constant in the workouts was my ankle rocker circuit. We start with our various ankle jumps cycled in with some velocity based training on my Hammerstrength Deadlift machine. We would use the gymaware to monitor the speed of the lift. We would add weight as long as the athlete could keep the bar speed over 1.5 m/s. Reps would be limited by bar speed. And we do single leg jumps on the Shuttle MVP, focusing on ankle rocker from the jump. And the last part of this French contrast (thanks to Cal Dietz’s at XLAthlete.com) are rubberband supported jumps (hang the bands for the ceiling which assist in the jump). We would do 2 sets of half squats on the kbox before we went out.
From there, I rotated 3 blocks. Block 1 was our acceleration block. This consisted of 40m runs with the Sprint 1080, which waved between variable resistance run and regular pulls, the heaviest being 12 kg of resistance. From there athletes would go to a single leg squat on the kbox. Again, waving the sets between on their own and one where I pull up and they have to catch and go up on their own. Usually we would make it through 4 sets before there was a substantial drop in output on the kbox and sprint 1080. Both pieces have elaborate monitoring systems. The sprint 1080, I can track every step in a run.
Block 2 was an overspeed session. We started with some mini-hurdle work. Normally, with the more advanced athlete, I used longer distances. But this summer, for some reason, I felt like keeping the hurdles short. 1.5m. What I found was that by keeping the hurdles short and having them run through at a higher speed, It actually trained them to get their feet off the ground faster. For 2 of them, there was a dramatic improvement in form. Our overspeed session were interesting. With the dirt on the street and truck traffic, we improvised to start in my neighbor’s front yard across the street and into my driveway. It is actually a 70m run. It got frightening when one athlete was across the street with 70m of cable out and a rogue dump truck appeared…quickly. I thought all was lost and was waiting for either a snap in the line or my machine to take off across my yard. Luckily, the athlete darted in front of the truck and got the line off the street. I digress. I would measure their max velocity on their first free run and add 3% that that speed, which was the speed that they would be towed at for whatever distance I set, which in this case 30m. They would have a 30m fly in before the Sprint 1080 would start to tow. After, 3 reps, they were toast. What was cool about tis workout, is that everyone’s numbers in the basement, power output and jump heights had big increases after these workouts. 3 guys Vertical Jumped 37 inches. I need to look into this more.
Block 3 was our fly day. We did fly 10’s on the slick, dirty street. We ran fly 10’s and paired that with KBox RDL’s. The RDL’s would also be assisted. I would pull up with them and they would stop it and bring it back up. We usually stayed on 2 legs, although, I do like the single leg version.
The end result was that all guys broke1.0 in the fly 10. I had a girl go 1.07. I had 3 guys run .96 and 1 go .98. For three of them, that was a .05 improvement in 4 weeks. The day we ran them, Peter Holmertz of Motion 1080 was there and filmed one of the .96’s. The all-time best on the street is .947. But the surface was different8 years ago. The village just repaved the street and it gave good traction. Now, the street is slick. I try to run fly on days when the temp is over 85 degrees, so the records will not be temperature dependent. That made it hard this summer in Chicago. We had 2 days over that temp in July. We ran our fly 10’s on both of those days.
Can I replicate it again? I don’t know. I will have to wait until next July.The equipment will always be there. The docs will hopefully be there as well. But, weather changes quickly here. It will be in the 40-70 degree range in September and it is difficult to run fast if it is cool. My track space when it gets cold out, is not as long as I have in my yard and will need to get creative to do overspeed. Even in April/May it stays cool and I don’t know what impact cold has on overspeed training or spikes for that matter.
I guess, like everything else in life, savor the moment. It probably will never happen the same way again. And remember, Galahad only saw the Holy Grail. He never touched it.