7 – TO – 1

George Williams called me early this morning as I was on my way to ESPN’s WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS COMPLEX, at Disney World, for our morning weight session.

Hey Brooks, this is George. I just want to call and say thanks for the hep. The boy ran 7.70 this weekend and my other two boys also qualified for the nationals being pulled along with him.

George, that is good to hear and I appreciate the shout out.

I just wanted you to know that I appreciate your hepping me.

George, there is more to come. Just wait until they get outdoors, then the seven steps will really pay even bigger dividends

Okay man, I am going to keep looking for it and keep you updated.

Thanks George.

A couple of weeks ago George Williams ( Head Coach at St Augustine’s College in Raleigh, N.C. and 2004 U.S. Men’s Head Olympic Coach ), called me.

Hey Brooks, George Williams here,…… I need your hep man.

George,…brother, you got it.

Brooks, I got a kid heanh  who wants to do seven steps to the first hurdle. He is a real good kid and I told him I would get the low down from the best.

George, It is really not that difficult if the kid and you are really committed to it.

Look man, ….we are REALLY committed !

Okay, fine. First thing is to reverse his foot placement in the starting blocks. This is to allow him to come up on the same take off leg, taking seven as he did when he was taking eight steps. Then I want you to roll the hurdle back toward the start line at the 42 inch height and place a piece of tape where the hurdle crossbar lands on the track. Put him in the blocks and make sure the first step is close to three feet in front of the start line. If so, and he keeps his range of motion open, he should hit right at that tape, which is the take off point for the first hurdle. He may have to move his  front foot closer, and maybe even the back foot closer, to the start line at first, but if he pushes all the way though his hips on that leg he will have no trouble getting to the tape in seven.

I got it. How long does it take for him to be able to get over the hurdle with the seven steps ?

George I explained the  procedure to Tanya Buford in December at the M-F Clinic in Atlantic City in 2010. When Andrew Riley came back to school in January of 2011, after Christmas Break, she introduced him to the process and he was winning indoor meets within three weeks of  starting the process and won the NCAA Indoor Nationals that year and last year ( 2012 ) won the Outdoor Nationals as well. George……. look man the secret is for him to have success getting over the fist hurdle from the beginning. If you need to, pull the hurdle closer and start him with the hurdle down at the women’s height and gradually increase the height as he gets more comfortable with it. The biggest thing is to avoid disaster at all costs at the beginning so he does not have the temptation to give up and to revert to eight strides.

Thanks, man. I appreciate your hep.

Steve Simmons is one of the few people left that I can talk, “good old track and field days”.  By that I mean the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s. Steve has a flypaper mind when it comes to track and field. By that I mean everything he ever witnessed in the sport has stuck with him. So we can some times go back 60 years but most of the time we talk about athletes and events of the 60s and 70s.  Lately Steve has been going through  cataloging and purging things in his archives and collection of track and field memorabilia . Some of it he sends on to me. Relevant to this effort is a TRACK AND FIELD NEWS pamphlet entitled HOW THEY TRAIN, edited by Fred Wilt. Fred Wilt was a very famous distance runner in the 50s and had great 2 mile duels at the major indoor meets with Horace Ashenfelter (sp ?) . Fred was an F.B.I. agent. This was during the era when no one was a “pro” and everyone had a job or other means of support because there was no living to be made from track and field alone. But the relevant fact here is that the particular edition here was published in 1973 and at the very last page of the books it states, ” Strides to first hurdle – 7 or 8″.  It is the same for both the 100 meter hurdles for women, and the 110 meter hurdles for men. The first cognizance I had of an athlete taking 7 steps to the first hurdle was Jackie Joyner-Kersee. Later Dayton Robles took the same number winning the 2008 Olympic title in the 110 hurdle event.

Before 2008 I advised David Oliver that as one of the top American hurdlers, he too would be switching to 7 steps after the Olympics. I did not want to jeopardize his chances at Beijing by changing things. He switched for the indoor season of 2009 and had his best indoor season to date. A serious injury cut short his 2009 progress. By the indoor season of 2010 he was fully into the 7 step approach and enjoying the benefits of it. That year he ran the 3rd fastest time of all time ( 12.89 ) and become the new American record holder for the event. In 2011 Jason Richardson had made the switch and won the 2011 World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Aries Merritt made the change going into 2012 and won the London Olympics and later went on to become the new world record holder.

There are a couple of questions that we can pose at this juncture. If the 7 step approach has been known as a possibility at least  since the 1973 edition that Steve sent to me ( the first edition of the pamphlet was actually dated 1959 ), then why is it 40 year later that the idea is gaining currency ? I leave that to you to answer, but given the vivid and dramatic results, it is more than obvious something special is associated in going from 8 steps to 7 .

When John Smith( Jason Richardson’s coach ) and I were discussing the benefits of 7 steps versus 8 steps , the conversation went like this.

John, no decent athlete can sprint full range of motion and maintain a maximum acceleration curve to the first hurdle without some sort  of mitigation adjustment. By that I mean there has to be some breaking of the acceleration pattern.

Yeah, if they kept going at maximum speed, trying to take 8 steps they would crash right into the hurdle.

Yep, the natural maximum acceleration cycle puts you at 7 and 1/2 steps .

Yeah, the question is, what do you do about the 1/2 step ? Either slow or break and get in 8, or you drive and get in 7.

But there are a couple of advantages a 7 steps guy has over and 8 step guy. First of all, the aggression to the first hurdle is greatly increased because they know there is no room for feathering the oars.

I don’t know nothing about any damned feathering, but I DO know you have to really dig deep into your aggression bag. That was one of the first things Jason noticed when he switched. There is no room for any backing off.

As a result you get into the fist hurdle with a lot more aggression, adrenalin and acceleration, …….. you have more of same to carry down the track.

Yeah. you have set up a hyper aggression pattern and it is easier to carry that pattern physically and mentally down the track, beyond #5 where a lot of hurdlers start to really lose it.

It is a lot like a Post Tetanus Potentiation phenomenon.

Yeah it is definitely phenomenal !!

We both give off big guffaws.

John, I never thought 40 years after Dr. Burt Lyle introduced me to stride counting that I would using it this way.

Man, some of that old school s–t still works. you just have to know which and what ones still do it.

Yeah, I remember Evelyn Ashford taking 50 strides for a 100 and the East Germans taking 55. This is when they were juiced to the gills and turning over like a washing machine. Dr. Lyle pointed out that despite the greater strength levels and turnover by the East Germans, Evelyn was whipping their asses.

Guys like Dr. Burt leave us  too damned soon. Wilbur is right in there with him. They leave before we can get all they have to give.

I could not agree with you more. It is like what Bolt is doing to those guys in the 100 and 200. The mantra for the 100 meters is 7 steps for 10 meters. Bolt gets to 10 meters in 6 ! He takes 41-42 strides for 100 meters and Tyson, Justin and those guys are at 44-46. Giving away that much difference at that critical aspect of the race is very difficult to overcome.

None of them have done it since 2008.

That is the second big advantage of taking 7 to the fist hurdle.

What do you mean ?

For example, if the average sprinter takes 7 strides for 10 meters and Bolt only takes 6 he already has about a 14+% advantage as far as stride length is concerned. So even if he were to lose back as much as 11 – 12 % in terms of stride rate, he still has a net gain of any where between 2-4 % . That is what Charlie Francis was looking for when he gave Ben those drugs, a 2-3 % advantage. Essentially Bolt does natural what Ben and Charlie did cheating !

Yeah, I guess you can say it like that. But the same kind of arithmetic is also relevant for hurdlers taking 7 rather than 8 to the first hurdle.


Right !

Brooks T. Johnson

( 407 ) 758 – 0755

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