How to run the 400m hurdles

The 400m hurdles is one of the most challenging events in track and field. It requires the athlete to have speed endurance, acceleration, and an explosive ability to jump over the hurdles without losing their cadence, tempo, or velocity during the race.

The race is one of the most technical events in track and field and running the race is both tactical during the running of the race, and strategic when planning how to train and peak in time for the major athletics events.

How can an athlete run the 400m hurdles?

Always lead with the same leg over the first hurdle.

Count the amount of strides that it takes for you to reach the first hurdle. You must always lead over the hurdle with the same leg. If you have an even number of strides, then it’s likely that your starting leg on the blocks will be the same one that you lead with. If it is an odd number of strides, then it will be the opposite.

Count the amount of strides that you take in between the hurdles.

Your success in the 400m hurdles depends on the amount of strides and consistency that you maintain between each hurdle. Knowing the exact number of strides will allow you to focus on accelerating off each stride, attacking the hurdle as you approach it, and accelerating off the landing off the hurdle.

It will also reduce the risk of you clipping or hitting the hurdle.

Know which leg you will lead with over the hurdles.

Ideally, you want to use the same leg to jump over each of the hurdles. Because your body will fatigue, it is easy to swap legs during the race. You want to train and have a plan of action so that you know which leg will be used at which hurdle.

For example.

Hurdle 1Right leg24 steps
Hurdle 2Right leg24 steps
Hurdle 3Right leg24 steps
Hurdle 4Right leg24 steps
Hurdle 5Right leg25 steps

Accelerate off each stride.

Because the 400m focuses on strides, you want to be as explosive as possible so that you can increase your acceleration. Focus on exploding through the ground and through your toes so that you can gain extra distance off each running stride.

Approach the hurdle straight, not on a lean.

As you approach the hurdle on the curve, you want to line yourself up to run straight over the middle of the hurdle. This is so the force from running the bend won’t throw your bodyweight to the right and off your stride and potentially out of your lane.

Hold your running technique and form during the race.

In the 400m hurdles, it’s incredibly important that your running form and technique doesn’t breakdown. Should it breakdown, it will lead to a rapid loss in your velocity, changes in your stride length, changes to the hurdle approach which may force you to jump with the wrong leg and possibly hit the hurdle, and ultimately ruin your race.

Finish the race strongly.

Once you jump over the last hurdle, maintain your form and accelerate as much as possible towards the finish line.

How many hurdles are in the 400m hurdles?

There are 10 hurdles in the 400m hurdles.

What kind of training do you need to focus on to be successful in the 400m hurdles?

You will need to focus on doing 400m training, which will focus on:

  • Speed development
  • Speed endurance
  • Stamina training
  • Tempo training
  • Explosive training and plyometrics

The athlete needs to have quick, but powerful reaction times off the ground. But needs to maintain a high velocity whilst running the event.

Tempo runs that focus on strides with and without the hurdles will form the base of the athlete’s training.

What are some other things that you should consider when training for the 400m hurdles?


Flexibility in your hip flexors is important so that when you are jumping over the hurdle, you don’t clip it. Hitting the hurdle can ruin your stride pattern and destroy your race plan. You want to focus on getting over each hurdle cleanly.


The 400m hurdles is very physically demanding on the body. You will need to fuel your body with carbohydrates and protein so that your muscles remain lean, but strong and powerful. And also have the energy sources for you to use so that you can perform in your training and on your race days.

Would you like to improve your 400m time?

Click here to learn more about the 400m program.

Need spikes for the 400m hurdles?

Click here to view the top spikes for running the 400m.

Other useful resources

The Phases of a 400m Hurdle Race

How to develop a 400m hurdler

Effective Workouts For 300/400 Meter Hurdlers

400m hurdles training videos

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