Hurdling Technique

The Lead Leg

The lead leg is the first leg to clear the hurdle.

It is very important to keep the leg pointing straight whilst clearing the hurdle as to avoid balance problems when landing.

Much like an extended running stride, the lead leg begins by bringing the heel to the bum and performing a higher than normal knee lift. The leg extends quickly over the hurdle with the toe pointing up.

As the leg extends it is brought quickly back to the ground, in a ‘snapping’ motion, so that it lands directly beneath you. It is important that the lead leg does not land in front of you as it will slow you down in the transition from hurdle to strides.

The Trail Leg

The trail leg is the second leg to clear the hurdles.

Immediately after the back leg pushes off the ground, simultaneously bring the heel to the bum (where it shall remain for the duration of the trail leg movement) and raise the knee to the side. The thigh (above the knee) should form roughly a 90 degree angle with the ground.

When it is raised to this angle, the athlete should bring their leg from its side position back to in front of them. During this motion it is important that the ankle of the trail leg does not raise above the knee of the trail leg. This will mean there will be a slight upwards angle in the leg when it clears the hurdle.

The athlete should bring their trail leg all the way around until it is pointing directly in front of them before they begin to drop their trail leg into the first stride after the hurdle. This is to ensure they not only remain balanced but also get as much distance and speed off their hurdle stride as possible.

Here is one of many videos we have put together to assist athletes with their technique.


In between hurdles, an athlete’s arms should be as they are in a normal sprints race, with particular focus on pumping hard to maintain power and speed after each hurdle.

When clearing a hurdle, we use our arms to maintain balance and composure. As our legs are performing different and significantly ‘bigger’ movements than what they would normally do when running, our arms must follow suit to compensate.

When the lead leg goes over the hurdle, it is important to put the opposite side arm out in front of the body more to maintain balance throughout the body. The arm should maintain some of its bend from normal sprinting and should not be completely straight. Some like to call this position ‘looking at your watch’ as the wrist of this arm should be somewhere in line with the athlete’s head, creating a position that bears similarity to when one would look at a watch on their wrist.

As the trail leg comes through, this arm should be pulled back quickly and back into its normal running position. This will not only aid a quick trail leg movement, but also will maintain balance. It can be a tendency for this arm to straighten whilst its bringing back, particularly for beginner hurdlers. It is very important to avoid this as this can very easily unbalance the runner when they bring their trail leg around.


There are two main points about an athlete’s hips in regards to hurdling; height and flexibility.

In order not too lose any time spent ‘floating in the air’, it is very important to maintain a consistent hip height throughout the entire hurdles race.

It is very easy to lose time over the hurdle by jumping or striding too high over it. We move fastest when our foot is in contact with the ground as it is effectively pulling and pushing our body forwards. Therefore time spent in the air can be time wasted.

It is therefore very important to not ‘sink’ the hips when clearing the hurdle, or indeed bend over to gain momentum. This can be a misconception as the athlete should think about leaning forward and not leaning down.

In order to enable your hips to work efficiently whilst clearing a hurdle, there needs to be a high level of hip flexibility. The hips control what the legs do so flexibility needs to start here.

Learn more / further reading

  1. Hurdles Index
  2. Running a Hurdles Race
  3. Hurdle Drills
  4. Hurdle Heights and Distances
  5. Mobility
  6. Getting Involved
  7. Online Coaching



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