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Wickets, also called mini or speed hurdles, are short rectangular-shaped training tools. They’re much smaller and more forgiving than the hurdles track athletes race over. Competitive athletes and coaches alike praise them for improving force production, ground contact time, speed, and form, using them in wicket track dills.
As a fifth-year senior at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan, Morgan Fuerst liked training with wickets because they’re quick to set up and a simple drill that can help improve running technique. She was introduced to wickets as a 200- and 400-meter sprinter, but still touts the benefits since she’s moved up in distance. Fuerst qualified for the 2021 NCAA Division II track and field outdoor championships in the 1500 meters and the 4 x 400-meter relay.
“Using the wickets helped me reach my desired leg cycle,” she says. “They helped with a higher knee lift and more effective cadence. I felt more confident in my stride come race day and felt I was using my leg cycle more effectively.”
Wickets can be used for a variety of drills including running, hopping, and jumping, but a common method, popularized by sprint coaches, is the wicket drill. In this drill, the focus is max velocity, emphasizing what happens between the hurdles (stepping down) rather than over the hurdles.
Angelina Ramos, University of Nevada Las Vegas cross-country and track coach, uses mini hurdles with any athlete who hasn’t been formally taught running form. “A lot of distance runners, especially marathoners and ultra marathoners, because we tend to not have as exaggerated of a forward lean, it’s easy to lose front-side mechanics, and easy to fall into overstriding and heel-striking. We lose the efficiency of our footstrike, of our free elastic energy.”
She uses wickets to encourage runners to decrease ground contact time, boost footspeed, and improve front-side mechanics, like your knee lifting up and in front of you, not just hanging out below your hips and behind you.
“The less time we can spend on the ground has to do with balance, glute swing through, hip extension, proper form,” Fuerst says. “The more you can decrease the time you’re on the ground, the less chance you can have for injury.”
Try the Wicket Track Drill
Ramos recommends including wicket drills consistently during at least one annual training cycle, sprinkling them in a rotation of other neuromuscular and speed training tactics (such as short hill sprints, staircase or stadium runs, box jumps, or single-leg hurdle hops). Include them as part of a warm-up or as supplemental work at the end of a workout, one to three times a week.
Start the drills at about 70 percent effort, working up to 95 to 97 percent. Initially, do a few repetitions, progressing frequency and intensity with each session. You might even want to start without the wickets, using athletic tape or another flat marker to familiarize yourself with the drill and to adjust your spacing.
The first few times using the wickets can feel uncomfortable, until you learn how to do them correctly. No biggie if you knock a wicket or three over. It’s all part of the process.
- Equipment: Measuring tape, something to mark distance with (athletic tape, cones), wickets, wicket spacing charts (available widely by searching “wicket spacing charts” online—start with “high school” or “beginner”), optional phone video camera to assess form
- Location: Try to find a smooth, clear runway of at least 80 meters (a track straightaway, long flat street or trail, or similar).
- Set up: Mark “0,” for the first wicket. Then, referring to the charts, mark off each wicket distance.
- Mark the run-in steps: Mark half way between the first wicket pair with athletic tape, another “0.” From there, move backward, marking off each wicket distance with tape.
- Place wickets on their marks.
- Warm up; then run in (about six strides, or approximately 10 to 20 meters, or 4 to 5 seconds) to the wickets.
- Run through the wickets, aiming to land between each with good form. Run out up to 30 meters (or 5-plus seconds). Recover for a minute or two, then repeat.