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Specific Flexibility In The Hurdles

 

By Gunter Tidow, Germany

 

   The statement that specific flexibility is a must for high hurdlers is probably accepted by everyone (cf. Gambetta & Hill 1981; Bush 1984; Pereversjov, et al. 1984 ). The question, however, as to what degree of flexibility is needed precisely could---up to now---only be answered subjectively by analyzing the movement behavior of world class athletes.
     Doing so it is quite obvious that within the split phase (Fig. 1) the knee flexors of the lead leg as well as the hip flexors of the trail leg are highly stretched. On the other hand, within the bar clearance (Fig. 2, F) and especially within the preparation for landing phase (Fig. 2, G), considerable specific flexibility of the abductors of the bent trail leg is indispensable.

 

 


     Whereas corresponding range of motion in the respective joints is a prerequisite for hurdle specialists, conditions are sometimes quite different with decathletes and sports students. Apart from this, even certain flaws of top hurdlers might be traced back to flexibility deficiencies.    This is why in my opinion a testing apparatus was needed to assess hurdle-specific flexibility and to make available set values that flexibility training can be directed to.


     Experts would remark here that the hurdle sit table test (HSTT) has already been available for several years (cf. Grosser 1972). This is a definitely true. Our main objective, however, was to mirror the above- mentioned phases of the hurdle stride as close as possible during testing. Furthermore we felt that spreading and abducting abilities are different demands needing different tests.
     These considerations led to the construction of the "hurdle-fleximeter ," by means of which the "Abduction Test" (AT), as well as the "Split Test" (ST), can be performed (cf. Tidow 1983). The hurdle-fleximeter (Fig. 3) consists of a wheeled upright with a T-shaped top. The top is closely connected to the upper end of an aluminum pipe with a yardstick on it. This measuring pipe slides vertically within a second pipe. If you lift the top, the vertical distance from the T-level to the floor is indicated at the upper rim of the guidance pipe.

 

 

    The Abduction Test is performed as follows (Fig. 4). After making sure that the subject remains in a vertical posture and having fixed his trail foot to the T bar by means of a belt, he is asked to raise his bent and abducted trail leg as high as possible and to hold the end position for at least 2 sec. A test result of 97, for instance, indicates that the inner part of the ankle was 97cm above ground. Dividing 97 by the leg length (e.g., I00 cm) which was measured before hand by means of the hurdle-fleximeter, too---the "AI," i.e., the "Abduction Index," can be computed. An index of .97 implies that the subject has raised his ankle up to a level equal to 97% of his leg length.
     To perform the Split Test the hurdle-fleximeter has to be rearranged in the following way (Fig. 5):At first the T -bar is fixed at 3ft. 6in., i.e., at high hurdle bar level. Then, a tape measure, that is kept in a permanent stretched state by means of a counter weight is connected with a little platform the subject is standing on. The subject is asked to place his lead leg heel on the T-bar and to grip his lead leg shank near the ankle with his counter arm (Fig. 6). For stability/safety reasons the other hand should glide along a bar parallel to the extended lead leg. Finally, the tester controls the advance of the wheeled fleximeter while the subject increases the spreading distance between supporting and leading foot by shifting body weight in the direction of the latter (Fig. 6).

 

 

 


     When the spread maximum is attained, the tester can read the corresponding result on the tape measure immediately. The tape glides over one of the two rollers connected to the T-bar, thus in plain view of the tester.
     The "Split Index" (SI) is calculated by dividing the test result of, for instance, 190cm by double-leg length (including the additional "lift" caused by the plantar flexion of the trail foot). Thus an SI of .85 indicates that 85% of the anthropometrically limited distances has been attained.
     Comparison between body positions during the tests with the corresponding phases of the hurdle strides how the main requirements of the tests mentioned above have been fulfilled, at least to a certain degree (Fig. 7 and Fig. 8).

 


     In all, 100 male subjects took part in the tests: the (national) best 51 junior decathletes, 44 sports students and 5 high hurdlers, among them the FRG (West German) champions (youth and men).
     The main results are presented in Table 1.

 


     As could be expected, the specific flexibility of high hurdlers was far superior in both tests. This is why their arithmetic means functioned as "set values" to assess stretching capacities of the other groups. The (average) results of the best junior decathletes and of the sports students did not differ significantly.
     While the arithmetic means--representing central tendencies--given in Table 1 may appear to be acceptable, they tend to "conceal" individual val- ues. These individual results may be either advantageous or limiting to the high hurdle technique. The identification of individual flexibility deficiencies was, of course, the main objective of the tests introduced here.
     A comparatively low correlation of .62 between ST and AT results imply that flexibility is not a general ability. This is why we suggest that Grosser's Hurdle Sit Table Test (HSTf), which was also performed (but only by the sports students) and which correlated far more closely with the Split Test (r=.75) than with the Abduction Test (r=.41), should be applied primarily when there is lack of time or for a more complex assessment. For differential diagnosis either ST and AT should be performed separately.
     Referring to technique the following consequences can be derived from
limited specific flexibility:

 

1. Poor Split Test Results:

2. Poor Abduction Test Results:

         REFERENCES
Bush,J.(1984):Hurdles-Technique andTraining.1984 US Olympic Trials Clinic. University of South. Calif., L.A.
Gambetta. V., Hill. D. (1981): Hurdling. In: Gambetta, V. (Ed.): Track and Field Coaching Manual. West Point.N.Y.:72-78.
Grosser. M. ( 1972). Die Zweckgymnastik des Leichtathleten. Schorndorf.
Pereversjov, E., Tabatchnik. B., Chalilov. v. (1984): Zur Erfasung von Talenten im Hiirdenlauf. In: DLV-Lehrbeilage 110:15-22.
Tidow. G. (1983). Wege zur Leistungsdiagnostk und Talentselektion im Mehrkampf-Dargestellt am Beispiel derDL V -Zehnkampf- Testbatterie 1982. In. DLV.Lehrbeilage 48:19-26; 49: 21-24.

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