If I had to choose two exercises to assess the overall athleticism of an athlete, I would look no further than observing a 10-meter fly and 30 meters of double arm bounding for distance. The 10-meter fly paints a wonderful picture of acceleration and maximum velocity capabilities, but it is not a catch-all.If I had to choose two exercises to assess the overall athleticism of an athlete, I would look no further than observing a 10-meter fly and 30 meters of double arm bounding for distance. Click To Tweet
I have had the privilege of coaching some amazing athletes during my time as the jumps coach at Homewood-Flossmoor High School. In four years, we have had four different athletes long jump over 23 feet, and another who was just under. The interesting part of this? NONE of the five were part of our 4×100 meter relays.
A huge part of this is that we have never been faster in our school’s history. Over the past three years, the relay has consisted of three or four athletes who were sub-11 seconds in the 100-meter dash. The five long jumpers mentioned were all fast (1.00-1.06 in the 10-meter fly), but none of them ever broke 1.0 like our 4×100-meter athletes. To go along with their excellent, but not elite, top-end speed, they had the ability to recycle free energy extremely well (elasticity). This was immediately apparent when watching them bound.
Video 1. Two of the aforementioned long jumpers are shown here. It does not take an experienced eye to see their elasticity. The key was how to use it. Long jump was one way. In addition, the first athlete was also a talented long sprinter (in our 4×200 and 4×400 relays), and the second was a state-champion triple jumper.
The goal of this article is to provide options for utilizing bounding within a program. While the focus will be through the eyes of a track and field jumps/sprints coach, much can be applied within the field/court sport sector.
Narrowing the Scope
To start, I must first discuss term definition and training age. In this article, bounding refers to a stride variation where the R-L pattern emphasizes air time (vertical or horizontal), often in a continuous rhythm.1 I address this because various “bound complexes” (often a combination of bounding and hopping) exist, but here I will only address patterns where the ground contacts are made by alternating foot contact. Also, while I will present many variations that are appropriate for athletes of any age, others are not.
Before moving into advanced variations, it is essential that an athlete have a broad plyometric background. Responsible coaches milk every last drop out of a stimulus before progressing because they know it is the best way for an athlete to maximize what they have been given in the future. As a high school coach, my hand has definitely been forced because of what an athlete has done outside of our program. In this situation, there is not much you can do besides adapt and make the needed exceptions so the athlete can still find success.
In an ideal world, very few athletes should make it through the full spectrum of our training progressions. At the high school level, in particular, athletes should leave us with stimuli still on the table.
Even with narrowing the focus of an alternating contact pattern, there are still many constraints to consider when utilizing bounding in training. These, of course, are based on the desired result.
The foot can be cued to contact rolling from heel to toe (rocking chair action), flat, everted, or inverted. The first two would be more focused for athletes who jump often, the last two for those whose focus is sprinting.
Video 2. The video shows three different emphases for foot contact. In the first clip, I attempt to evert my foot to land near the head of the first metatarsal. In the second, I try to invert my foot to land near the head of the fifth metatarsal, and then roll across to the head of the first. While the first two may not look that different from one another, I could definitely feel a difference. The final clip shows an emphasis on a flat-footed landing where the heel hits the ground. I will address where these variations fit best later in the article.
When bounding is mentioned, most people assume that the goal is maximum distance, speed, or height. This simply does not have to be the case. One common circuit for my athletes is to undergo the “phases of life bounding circuit,” which consists of baby, toddler, child, teenager, young man, and athletic prime bounds. We stop there because I do not need to see any old man bounds.When bounding is mentioned, most people assume that the goal is maximum distance, speed, or height. This simply does not have to be the case, says @HFJumps. Click To Tweet
I’ve found using these terms is more effective than saying “do the first rep at 80% and the next at 90%.” I see a difference in reps using the “phases of life” terms that I do not see when I use percentages.
- Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, I had begun to implement going through all the “phases of life” in one repetition. This was inspired by having the MuscleLab Contact Grid and utilizing the Scandinavian Rebound Jump Test.
Single arm, double arm, no arms, arms out, arms up, arms forward, one arm. Single arm is common for speed bounding, double arm for power bounding. No arms causes the athlete to focus on the type of ground contact being addressed. Arms up and arms out places a greater demand on the lateral chain. Arms forward changes the location of the center of mass. One arm has the athlete only swinging one arm, which is a significant challenge to balance and maintaining rhythm.
Once foot-loose occurs, heel recovery patterns can be low (most common) or higher. The latter correlates more to maximum velocity sprinting.2
Video 3. Here the athlete utilizes a double arm technique with a low recovery pattern. (Notice how the swing leg nearly grazes the ground.) The clip also shows data given from the aforementioned MuscleLab Contact Grid. Utilizing the grid for plyometrics is the equivalent of electronically timing sprints—instant intent enhancer!
Height, distance, speed, minimize ground contact time, and variable. The first four are self-explanatory. Variable is often paired with distance through setting up a bounding course with small cones or mini-hurdles. The distance between objects would be variable, which challenges an athlete’s coordination through assessing the effort needed to land in the desired location.
Video 4. Here the athlete was instructed to complete a double arm bound while getting through the timing gates as fast as possible. Similar to this, my favorite “problem-solving practice” is to set up a distance that athletes will be timed through while bounding. Since I coach jumpers, most begin with a double arm action, but eventually someone will try the single arm style and see that it is faster.
Sagittal, frontal, transverse, combination, scissor, pencil. Sagittal is standard linear bounding. Frontal examples are skater bounds, diagonal bounds, or Polish bleacher bounds. Transverse would have the athlete bound over a curve (such as a soccer circle) or through a serpentine course. One recommendation I often have for coaches is to ensure their training has an emphasis in all three planes. Obviously, sprinters and high jumpers run on curves and field/court sports involve curvilinear running, but more importantly, sagittal motion itself incorporates all three planes. Utilizing exercises that emphasize each can assist in creating a bulletproof athlete.One recommendation I often have for coaches is to ensure their training has an emphasis in all three planes, as this can assist in creating a bulletproof athlete, says @HFJumps. Click To Tweet
Combination bounds include more than one type within a repetition. Scissor bounds are also referred to as straight leg bounds. Joel Smith of Just Fly Sports gives a great demo that can be found here. Pencil bounds are a phenomenal foot/ankle exercise (implemented in our program by Chris Korfist) where the athlete keeps the hip and knee locked, posing a greater challenge to the lower leg.
Video 5. A linear-diagonal combination bound is shown (3). A variety of bound types help create a more resilient athlete and assist with the development of proper sprint and jump technique.
Fluid or segmented. Fluid bounding helps to develop elasticity, while segmented bounding works on force absorption and power generation.
Video 6. The emphasis in fluid bounding is on developing elasticity. Segmented bounding targets force absorption and power generation. Those involved in basketball can appreciate the correlation to the Euro step. Our athletes like to call these “Frozones” based on the character in “The Incredibles.”
Will the athlete begin bounding from a static starting position or take steps prior to the bounding? In a standard linear bound for maximum distance, a static start will correlate more with acceleration due to the forward angle that will be present at the torso. However, negative foot speed is usually not present heading into ground contact, and the contact times are much higher, which makes this a generation or two removed from true acceleration mechanics. When the athlete has an approach prior to beginning bounding, their posture is often upright during the bounding. This can have greater transfer to maximum velocity mechanics, especially if the heel recovery is higher.
As a coach, I like to be like Egon Spengler and avoid “crossing the streams.” While I think bounding from a static start has positive benefits for sprinters and team sport athletes, I do not like using the variation for track and field jumpers. I train most like they will eventually be a triple jumper someday. A huge component of being a successful triple jumper is posture preservation.
One of the biggest problems seen in novice triple jumpers is excessive forward rotation through the phases. I personally do not want the jumpers I coach to feel forward rotation while hopping or bounding because I do not want that feeling to be acceptable if they end up triple jumping. Therefore, you will not find them bounding from a static start or completing a standing triple jump. We will always be upright prior to beginning bounding. If I want to give a different stimulus to train acceleration, I provide resistance to a sprint start via a harness, sled, rope through a figure eight descender, rubber bands, Exer-Genie, or 1080 Sprint.
Video 7. Here the athlete takes one step prior to bounding. You can see that his posture does not become upright until he is between the first two boxes. Despite the initial forward posture, there is no negative foot speed as would be found in acceleration. In general, you can use barriers for athletes to bound over, but be sure they do not cause the swing leg to become overactive. Swing leg mechanics should be reflexive. When an athlete focuses on trying to get it to end in a higher position, the result is often anterior pelvic tilt, creating poor posture and the snowball of forward rotation (4).
With all the different components that make up a bounding rep addressed, we can now proceed to the specific quality we hope to improve. We will assume that any variation of bounding is being used to enhance common training goals such as improving strength, speed, power, coordination, and tissue resilience. I feel we can break the additional desires into the development of three categories: acceleration, maximum velocity, and jumping.
In the initial phases of sprinting, eversion of the foot occurs, and ideally the athlete will contact the ground on the ball of their first-second metatarsal. Therefore, bounding in which this type of foot contact is used can be a wonderful way to strengthen this part of the foot. Combining a pencil bound with foot eversion nails this. Keep in mind, if the brain does not believe the athlete can be stable in this position it will find a work-around, which is just about guaranteed to be less powerful.
If you watch great accelerators, whether in track and field or field/court sports, a commonality they all possess is excellent shin drop. Shin drop occurs after initial foot contact—the knee rotates forward, making the angle the shank forms with the ground more acute. From the field/sport perspective, shin drop often occurs after a full foot plant (a running back or point guard about to change direction). In addition, football linemen who can keep their shins and torso parallel (via shin drop) are able to harness all of their power.
Shin drop is also present in various forms of bounding, as seen in Video 7. Work from J.B. Morin’s group shows elite sprinters have ground reaction forces (GRF) that are oriented in a more horizontal direction for a longer period of time. Utilizing bounding as a way to teach the body to be comfortable with shin drop can carry over to a sprinter being able to delay the onset of maximum velocity through a GRF that has a greater horizontal component for a greater period of time.
As alluded to earlier, beginning from a static start and bounding over a short course (~20 meters) is not perfectly aligned with acceleration, but there are commonalities. The force vectors can be more horizontally aligned, swing leg recovery is usually low, and, generally speaking, the athlete is accelerating (although the velocity will top out much sooner than in a sprint).
Video 8. While not a bound variation, one of the key components this Chris Korfist special shows is shin drop.
As an athlete shifts into a more upright posture, foot contacts will change to an inverted foot, with initial contacts taking place on or near the ball of the fifth metatarsal. Pencil bounds with foot inversion followed by a roll through the big toe for the win. Sure, the intensity and contact times will not replicate sprinting at maximum velocity, but guess what? Nothing does! Structures and patterns can, and in most cases should, be strengthened at submaximal intensities (while intent remains at a maximum).
Bounding with a forefoot contact (sometimes called toe bounding) can be done, covering greater distances per bound than the example shown in the second clip of Video 2. If this drill is done with higher intensity, the athlete should wear shoes and perform it on a softer surface. It should be noted that, even in elite sprinters, the heel can contact the ground in maximum velocity after the forefoot strikes—so do not stress if this happens with your high school athletes.
A “squatty,” or knee-bent, scissor bound (see aforementioned Joel Smith video) correlates well with maximum velocity mechanics because there is knee bend at touchdown in upright running. Higher heel recovery bounding over longer courses (30+ meters) is said to be tied to improvements in maximum velocity2, but I have yet to dabble in altering heel recovery mechanics with the athletes I coach.
Video 9. There is knee bend when running at maximum velocity, so scissor bounds with a slight knee bend are an alteration to consider.
Just about any jump in which forces will be extreme will require a rolling or flat foot contact. Prior to this occurring, dorsiflexion of the foot will be present, which helps prepare the quadricep group for impact.4 Utilizing the full foot for ground contact helps disperse force over a greater area. The rolling contact will allow for elasticity to be present because the athlete simply rolls through without braking. Athletes who attempt forefoot contact at too high of an intensity (often found in the contact of the hop phase of the triple jump) become heel bashers, and momentum is destroyed.
When utilizing this type of bounding I keep cues to a minimum. Foot contact is, by far, the most important piece. I like to have athletes do barefoot low-intensity bounds on a soft surface to develop a feel for it. Beyond that, I have stolen Jake Cohen’s cue of “pushing bounds vertical” to get athletes to achieve the hovering effect desired.
When using locomotive plyometrics, I try to follow one of the core principles of my life—“the disciplined pursuit of less.” The primary exercises in our matrix are skipping, galloping/run-run-jump, and bounding complexes. Of these items, bounding at high intensity creates the greatest GRF, which is why they are a staple of any quality jump program (for athletes who are ready for them). Strength of the take-off leg is a big freaking deal, as elite jumpers have a knee angle near 170 degrees upon impact with the board. Strengthening the legs for this type of impact via bounding (traditional and scissor) will allow the brain to feel safe heading into take-off, which will lead to greater take-off velocities and bigger jumps!Strengthening the legs for this type of impact via bounding will allow the brain to feel safe heading into take-off, leading to greater take-off velocities and bigger jumps!, says @HFJumps. Click To Tweet
In terms of arm action, I predominantly favor double arm action primarily due to the ability to deliver greater force into the ground, and because most triple and high jumpers are double arm (most high jumpers I’ve coached tend to block with two arms—then go to single). The most common cue I’ve used for double arm bounding is “rip open the curtains.” However, some athletes prefer a more vertical pumping pattern, and I’m fine with that. All this being said, single arm (or speed bounding) still holds a place in our programming. If an athlete only sprints and long jumps, they will partake in a higher percentage of single arm bounding.
Video 10. Double arm bounding for distance showing real-time data via the contact grid. In my opinion, after obtaining an electronic timing system, a track program’s next technology priority should be a contact grid.
I have found the Exer-Genie to be a great option, as it provides smooth resistance versus a rubber band, which has recoil. However, both cause the athlete to create more hip displacement. I will also throw bounding up an incline in this category. This can be a great intro or return-to-play activity because propulsive demands are challenged, but impact forces are diminished. Foot contact here will be on the forefoot, which makes it more in line with acceleration or maximum velocity contacts.
I am not a huge fan of most weight vests as they shift too much. I was planning on utilizing Exogen wearable resistance (as shifting is nonexistent) in tandem with bounding for some of my advanced athletes, but then COVID-19 struck. Regardless, adding weight combined with gravity creates greater impact forces.
Staggered Elevation Changes
Take off on the ground (left foot), land on a short box (right foot), take off the same box (right), land on ground (left), etc. The primary purpose here is to enhance eccentric demands upon landing from the additional height of the box, but you also get an overspeed component on the way up because the muscles in the leg that will contact the box will pre-tense earlier because the box makes the “ground” come sooner. Varied elevation bounding can be introduced relatively early in an athlete’s career, assuming the intensity is low. Full-go bounding with elevation changes is a grown man’s game.
Old school bungees work pretty well for this. Pre-tension, which tends to clean up foot contact and lead to an overall better bound, is necessary. Impact forces are also enhanced via the assistance. This is something I have only used with a fraction of upperclassmen.
Hopefully, the above information has opened some new avenues for how bounding can be more targeted within a program, but if you are feeling overwhelmed as to where to start, one possibility is connecting bounding performance with sprint performance. In his classic, Development of Maximum Sprint Speed, Coach Frank Dick provided two tables that can help accomplish this. The table below shows target times for the 100-meter dash, followed by performances that correlate with that target time in the standing long jump, 3-bound, 5-bound, and 10-bound tests for distance.
As athletes improve in the bound test of choice, their corresponding performance in the 100-meter dash should also improve. If 100-meter times are irrelevant for you, the other chart from Dick allows for a coach to take the 100-meter time given from the bound test and obtain hand-timed performances of various distances. This can also be done through the Frank Dick Chart Calculator.
Dick’s charts are evidence of a correlation between bound performance and sprinting, which is a big deal because it attaches greater meaning to bounding. If an athlete sees a connection in how their training impacts competition performance, buy-in occurs, and intent within the exercise is maximized. Utilizing bounding to improve sprint performance can be especially valuable for coaches with limited space in the winter months. Instead of a 60-meter space needed to address training at maximum velocity, a coach would only need 20 meters for a 5-bound test.
I hope this article has caused your mind to ponder applications of the bounding variations within your context. Whether track and field or a field/court sport, you can glean benefits from the different versions. As always, our only limits are our biases and creativity. Stay bouncy, my friends!
1. Watson, Matthew. “Plyometric Training Systems: Developmental vs. Progressive.” SimpliFaster Blog. 2020.
2. Smith, Joel. Speed Strength. Berkeley, Just Fly Sports, 2018.
3. Fichter, Dan. Track Football Consortium Presentation. Lombard, IL. 2016.
4. Schexnayder, Boo and Lane, Todd. “The Triple Jump: Technique and Teaching.” Schexnayder Athletic Consulting. DVD.