What You Need To Know About The Lead Arm In The Hurdles

Less Is More With The Arm Action When Hurdling

Hurdling is sprinting interrupted by barriers. In clearing the barriers, a young athlete should aim to alter their sprinting action as little as possible and then quickly return to their sprinting action as soon as possible after clearing a hurdle.

The athlete’s arm action is crucial. When properly controlled, it will aid the maintenance of a compact, balanced action as the athlete approaches, clears and runs away from a hurdle.

Attend To The Lead Arm Action

While sprinting, a young athlete’s hands should not cross the midline of their body. The same goes for when they are above a hurdle. It is, however, common to see kids throw their lead arm and hand way over the body’s midline. In fact, when observed from behind, it is not uncommon to see a young athlete’s lead hand appear above their opposite shoulder. This can cause an over-rotation of the upper body and torso, turning it away from the running direction. In reaction, the lower body will also twist, but in the opposite direction, causing all sorts of problems to forward momentum and balance, particularly when touching down on the far side of the hurdle.

This hurdler’s lead arm is crossing the midline of the body.

A much less exaggerated lead arm action, during which the lead hand remains on its side of the midline is preferable.

This hurdler’s lead arm is not crossing the midline of the body

Learning The Lead Arm Action

As indicated above, a hurdler’s lead arm action should deviate as little as possible from their sprinting arm action. It needs to do just enough – a lifting of the upper arm and elbow to the side, and a turning over of the hand and forearm – to balance the lift and drive of the lead leg, and to allow enough of a gap to bring the trail leg through to the front. It then needs to settle back quickly into a sprinting arm action.

The hurdles lead arm needs to lift and rotate just enough to balance the lead leg action and make room for the trail leg to come through.

Quality rehearsal is often the answer when ingraining a skill:

1. Mirror Drills

Young athletes can rehearse their arm action in from of a mirror or other reflective surface, keeping watch that the lead arm does not cross the midline of the body

2. Hurdles Drills

The arm action can be rehearsed at a slower pace when performing walking, stepping or skipping drills past or over the hurdles. Try straddling hurdles over a lane line so that the middle of the hurdle is directly over the line. Young athletes can work on preventing their lead arm from crossing the line.

Over To You!

Keep an eye on young athletes’ lead arm action in the hurdles. Watch that it doesn’t cross the body’s midline. If you have any coaching cues or drills that you have found effective for developing the lead arm action, let me know by leaving a comment/reply or by using the contact details listed below.

Photos by:

  1. Pressmaster via Canva
  2. Swalls from Getty Images Signature via Canva
  3. Comstock from Photo Images via Canva

If this post helped you please take a moment to help others by sharing it on social media. If you want to learn more I encourage you to leave questions and comments or contact me directly.

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 TwitterFacebookLinkedin, or via email. Check out Coaching Young Athletes on YouTube, the Coaching Young Athletes podcast, and the Coaching Young Athletes E-Book Series.

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