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As track and field continues to carry its influence in the strength and conditioning profession and into coaches’ programming, bounding has become a staple for many. Although bounding is certainly not a skill exclusive to the sport of track and field, I feel as though some of the best information regarding why, how, and when to bound has come from sprints and horizontal jumps’ coaches, most notably Boo Schexneyder.
My own personal experience in coaching triple jumpers has helped me become a better performance coach, especially with some of the gross motor skills like skips, gallops, and bounds. With this, I have also found that there are a few very specific flaws I have seen when introducing bounds to our team sport athletes that are simple fixes:
Some athletes can make bounding look effortless and natural. Most, however, do not and it takes them some time to master. Unfortunately, some of the common flaws of bounding for beginners can lead to lower limb discomfort or soft tissue injury. It’s necessary to introduce beginners to rudimentary hops and skips before even introducing a slow bounding progression.
Where I’ve found myself getting into hazardous territory with bounding volume is coincidentally when working through these learning progressions. I would often have a tendency to revisit previous progressions and work through each whenever we’d bound and, as a result, the volume would skyrocket. Volume should be very low, especially for beginners and those who have not completely mastered the technique of bounding. For my high schoolers that are not triple jumpers, I consider 4 reps of 15-20 yards sufficient.
Bounding, like skipping, hopping, jumping and galloping can have hundreds of different variations and, more importantly, different intentions driving them. A bound is a jump from one leg to another and does not in and of itself suggest an intent. Bounds can be done in place, for height, for distance, for speed, etc. The two most common I’ve seen used are bounds for distance and bounds for speed. Although one can absolutely use a hybrid of the two, they are not to be confused. Speed bounds more closely resemble acceleration mechanics and postures while bounds for distance, though they do not necessarily suggest max velocity mechanics, they do seem to be an indicator of top speed ability.
The athletes who seem to perform the best in bounds for distance are some of our top “longer” sprinters, while the athletes who perform well in speed bounds have been some of our better accelerators.
The first and largest flaw that I see our student-athletes struggle with when attempting to bound is that they lack the rhythm and patience that is necessary to perform the skill well. The athletes present something that looks more like an extended stride run than a true bound. As you’d expect, this is absolutely a cause for concern regarding soft tissue hamstring and hip flexor injuries. In addition to just misunderstanding the intent of the drill, there are a few primary concepts the athletes might struggle to grasp early on.
I’ll be honest, this is where some of the triple jump experience is good to fall back on. “They measure the triple jump in distance, not in time” is something my athletes have heard thousands of times. Although I think patience is a holistic idea for bounding, there are three areas that a cue or drill might help the athlete feel the patience we want them to feel. Ultimately, it’s something they need to feel and not something they can simply hear. The three “points of patience”:
Our athletes grow so used to sprinting and minimizing their time spent on the ground that sometimes they believe the objective of every drill is to do so. They’ve heard my cue “abuse the ground” numerous times in sprint training, now when bounding for distance they’ll hear me say “use the ground”. I’ve stolen cues from numerous coaches, so I apologize for being unable to immediately pinpoint who it was from first. The athletes should use the ground and use their time on it to create great distance between each bound instead of rushing their ground contacts and forcing rigidity. Bounding for distance should feel fluid, relaxed, and borderline passive.
Forcing rigidity or expecting to maintain upper body postures that you’d see when upright sprinting is unreasonable and faulty when bounding. I’d argue many athletes force rigidity when sprinting too, so bounding is the perfect practice of the cycle of tension and relaxation. Rotation is incredible when bounding and lateral flexion is equally necessary. I coach our kids to get their head over their foot and allow their entire body to pass over their foot through a rolling contact (to be discussed shortly).
“Let the ground come to you” is something our kids will hear me say regarding flight and their impending ground contact. Another statement they’ll hear is “a lot of time in the air, a lot of time on the ground” to stress patience and body position in flight. Almost all of our cues in bounding are directly counter to the cues I’d give in sprinting, so it’s understandable it wouldn’t immediately resonate with our students. When sprinting, I stress an active strike downward toward the ground when in bounding the violent force application will come later in the ground contact while the immediately ground contact is much more passive.
Another counterintuitive idea for the students is that bounding for distance requires a more hindfoot contact vs. more forefoot contact of sprinting. Honestly, I’ve seen just about every other flaw corrected in our students bounding mechanics when they’ve gained comfortable contacting the ground with a full-foot, rolling contact. Additionally, the athletes who do this better experience significantly less lower limb discomfort. The bulk of shin pains are experienced by athletes who attempt to bound for distance with a forefoot contact.
When athletes perform bounds with exemplary technique at low volumes, we have seen tremendous improvements in sprinting and jumping ability and I would argue that combined with our RSI data suggests improvements in change of direction ability as well. Take your time, know your intent, and coach the details.
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