Plyometric exercises are among the best ways to improve your speed for your sport. Unfortunately, too many athletes butcher them.
Sometimes they perform a "plyometric" exercise in a way that improves conditioning rather than explosive speed. Or they want to show off and end up doing a move that looks cool, but isn't plyometric at all.
These errors can prevent you from executing the most basic plyometric moves, which, when done correctly, are proven to make you faster.
One such exercise is Bounding.
The basic Bound is extremely simple to perform. You leap off one leg, attempting to propel your body forward as far as you can. You land on your opposite foot and immediately explode into the next bound. It's like an exaggerated sprint stride with an emphasis on springing off the ground.
The transition is what makes the move so effective and what makes it a plyometric exercise, because it trains the Stretch-Shortening Cycle, which consists of three distinct phases:
- Lengthen (Eccentric): When your foot makes contact with the ground, your muscles lengthen to control your body and slow you down. As your muscles are stretched, they store elastic energy similar to a rubber band.
- Load (Amortization): Load is the transition period when you are at the bottom of a movement and are no longer moving. A faster transition allows more energy to transfer to the third phase. Anything longer than 25 milliseconds and the energy stored in the Lengthen phase will be wasted as heat.
- Fire (Concentric): This is where the fun begins. Your muscles now forcefully contract into the next movement. The elastic energy stored in your muscles is released, which provides a power boost.
When you do a Bound, the muscles of your leg coming into contact with the ground must rapidly decelerate your body. The energy is stored in your muscles, before transitioning into the next explosive Bound. The less time you can spend on the ground and more power you can produce, the more effective the exercise.
And the better athlete you will become. Spending less time on the ground means you are spending more time moving in the direction you want to go.
"Bounding does a few great things to improve sprinting, the main one being the improvement of an athlete's stride length by improving the vertical force an athlete must put into the ground," explains Joel Smith, a strength coach at the University of California Berkeley and a track coach in the Bay area. "Bounding also helps athletes improve their coordination and rhythm. Finally, as Bounding is a very high force activity, it is a powerful tool for improving speed from 5-20 meters, or mid-acceleration."
It will also make you more powerful in explosive movements, such as changing directions and jumping off one leg.
Think adding this to your workout is worth it? Yeah, I thought so.
So how do you incorporate Bounding into your training program? It's actually quite simple. Here are a few guidelines.
- Perform Bounding exercises after your dynamic warm-up and before strength work so you can perform each Bound with maximum power.
- You have three goals with every Bound: 1) Leap as far as possible; 2) Spend as little time on the ground as possible; and 3) Land softly to minimize impact.
- Rest for five times as long as it takes you to complete a set. For example, if your set takes you 12 seconds, you should rest for 60 seconds before starting your next set. This prevents your reps from becoming too slow to have a plyometric effect.
- Perform 3-4 sets of 5 bounds each leg in a single workout.
Now that we have that covered, we can get into some bounding variations that offer different benefits so you can adapt this exercise to your goals.
The Forward Bound is the fundamental bound. With each step, you try to propel your body forward as far as possible. This will develop a more powerful sprinting stride by teaching your muscles to store and release force more efficiently and effectively.
With the Lateral Bound, you leap to the side off one leg and land on your opposite leg. You then switch back to the leg you originally bounded from and do the next rep. It's a bit awkward to perform and not an ideal use of the stretch-shortening cycle, but it's effective nonetheless.
The Skater Bound is my personal favorite variation. It's a hybrid between the Forward and Lateral Bound where you bound at 45-degree angles in each direction. This is especially beneficial for developing agility, because there's a rapid change of direction on each landing.
The above Bounding variations require a field. If you are training in a small space, your best option is Skater Jumps, which you can see demonstrated in the video player above. This move includes some of the same characteristics as a Bound as long as you focus on limiting the amount of time you spend on the ground.
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