Photo source: https://simplifaster.com/articles/how-to-build-speed-hurdles-wicket-drill/
In the last year, I came across a speed drill that did a great job in showing proper leg mechanics for sprinters. Two basic skills are needed to enhance speed: increasing your stride rate and stride length. Stride rate is the number of strides in a period of time and stride length is the distance between two foot strikes. The wicket drill can help with both of these areas. If you have young athletes who are new to sprinting or have never been coached in sprinting, and need something to encourage proper sprint mechanics, this drill is for you. Also, advanced athletes who have achieved good sprint technique can use this drill as part of their warm-up. From beginner to advanced, this drill can have a place in any athlete’s training program!
The Wicket Drill: What it is
The wicket drill uses mini hurdles (or wickets) that are between 2.5-6.5 feet apart and the athlete sprints through them. It sounds simple, but it is effective nonetheless. What’s great about this drill is that it has the adaptability to cater to the athlete by adjusting the lengths of the hurdles to affect the stride length and stride rate. You can find what the athlete’s stride length is and use the wicket drill to slowly lengthen their stride. For example, if an athlete feels comfortable sprinting through the wickets at 5.5′ apart, you can progress to 6′. In addition, because the athlete is trying to not hit the hurdles while sprinting through it, they are going to keep their knees up high and effectively apply their foot strike hard and fast to hit in-between the hurdles. The result is an athlete that will show a great improvement in sprint mechanics after only a few tries.
How to set it up:
You only need two things to set this drill up: 1. A space that’s flat and long enough to sprint through like a track, gym, or a flat area of grass if a track or gym isn’t available to you. 2. A small obstacle that athletes can run through like mini-hurdles, cones, etc. If you’re starting the hurdles right at the start line, you’ll need about 10+ hurdles to get them at top speed and practice sprinting over the hurdles at that top speed. You’ll measure about 2.5′ (or 2.5 shoes if you have size 12 feet) between the start line and the first hurdle, then progress by adding .5′ (or shoes) to the distance between the hurdles up to 5′ or 5.5′ depending on the athlete’s stride length is at top speed.
For example: The distance between…
Start Line to 1st hurdle: 2.5′
1st hurdle to 2nd hurdle: 3.0′
2nd hurdle to 3rd hurdle: 3.5′
3rd hurdle to 4th hurdle: 4.0′
4th hurdle to 5th hurdle: 4.5′
5th hurdle to 6th hurdle: 5.0′
6th hurdle to 7th hurdle: 5.5′
7th hurdle to 8th hurdle: 5.5′
8th hurdle to 9th hurdle: 5.5′
9th hurdle to 10th hurdle: 5.5′
As a bonus, I set the finish line about 10-15 yards (or meters) away from the last hurdle so the athletes can try going full speed without the hurdles and try to carry over the mechanics from the wicket drill into their regular sprint. Theoretically, you can use the last 10 yards (meters) to measure 10 yd fly (10m fly) times as well. This would be a solid starting point for athletes who have never tried this drill before.
However, if you’re short on hurdles, you can set them up 10-20 yds (or meters) away from the start line and only have them set at their top speed zone. You would need to get an idea of where their steps are going to be so it can be a smooth transition into the wickets without hitting them. I’d recommend you pull out a camera and watch a regular sprint without the hurdles and quickly look to see approximately where they reach their full stride and where on the ground their feet hit and set the hurdles between those contact areas. After a few tries, you’ll get a good idea of where to put your hurdles without having to video it beforehand.
How to progress:
Part of why I love this drill is that you can progress it to keep challenging the athlete. If we use the example I mentioned earlier, one of the easiest and smoothest progressions is lengthening the final 4 hurdles by .5′ so hurdles 7-10 are now 6′ apart, which will lengthen the athlete’s stride. However, if an athlete struggles at 5.5′ apart you can also regress it to only 5′ apart at the final 5 hurdles until they feel comfortable moving up. This drill is adaptable for you and your athletes so everyone can progress at their own rate!
The wicket drill can be a staple in your program to enhance sprint mechanics in your athletes. Remember though that this won’t necessarily improve speed instantly, but it will raise the potential for increased speed when paired with a proper training program that includes sprinting, weight lifting, and plyometrics. How many reps you perform for this drill can vary–if it’s a focus for the day or if it’s part of a warm-up, a range of 3-6 reps with 1-2 minute rest in-between if you’re starting out or warming up with it and can progress to 2-3 sets of 3-6 reps with 3-5 minute rest in-between those sets if this drill is a main focus for the day. These are just a guideline and you’ll need to find the sweet spot for you or your athletes. If you need a good visual and explanation, you can go here to watch a great YouTube video on setting up the wicket drill and seeing it done with an athlete. Good luck and get fast.