A Simple Guide For Helping Young Athletes Learn About The Lead Leg In Hurdles
Hurdles is seen by many to be a very technical event. The lead leg action, however, is pretty straightforward – literally.
What is a Hurdles Lead Leg?
The lead leg is the leg that goes over the hurdle first. It “leads” the rest of the body over the hurdle.
A young athlete doesn’t have to lead with the same leg throughout an entire race. They may switch lead legs as many times as they want or need to.
What Should The Lead Leg Do?
In a hurdles race, a young athlete needs to make it from start line to finish line as quickly as possible. Part of this skill involves interrupting the sprinting action as little as possible while clearing the hurdles, and returning to the sprinting action as soon as possible once the hurdle is cleared.
An effective lead leg action requires nothing fancy. It is, in fact just an extension of the sprinting action. In simple terms, a young athlete should use an “up, out, down” action:
1. Up: Lift the lead knee straight up towards the hurdle
- Flex at the hip to lift the knee.
- Keep the foot aligned under the knee.
- Pull the toes of the lead foot up towards the shin
2. Out: Extend (but not lock) the lead leg over the hurdle
- Keep the toes pulled back towards the shin
- The heel should be the closest part of the foot to the top of the hurdle as it passes it.
3. Down: Quickly plant the leading foot down on the far side of the hurdle
- Land on the front part of the sole of the foot (the spikes if wearing them). Landing on the heel will cause braking forces, which should be avoided.
- Point the foot in the direction you want to go – forward! This will help you to resume a balanced sprinting action.
Bonus Tips & Tricks
Try these two lead leg teaching ideas during practice sessions:
1. Narrow the Gap
Peg two halved pool noodles into the ground so that they stand up on either side of a hurdle. The noodles form a narrowed space within which the lead leg can operate, therefore helping to prevent the kids from swinging the lower leg and foot out to the side as they clear the hurdle.
2. Target Practice
Peg a halved pool noodle into the ground or sit a target in the middle of the lane a few metres safely beyond the hurdle. Instruct the kids that when they step or run over a hurdle to point their lead knee and toes at the target. This can also be done if the kids are doing drills along the side of the hurdles. Just put the target where you want the lead knee to point (see below). It’s a great external cue. Make a game out of it. Award a point for every time you judge that the target has been hit.
The quickest way for the lead leg to get over the hurdle is by moving straight ahead.
The lead leg and foot should remain in the same plane throughout lead leg action. Any deviation from this plane may lead to a loss of balance and/or forward momentum.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube.