Horizontal force application is a critical component to success in sports. One limitation of traditional weight room work is that it predominantly makes athletes stronger and more explosive in the vertical plane. Think about it: the Squat, Deadlift, Power Clean and Power Snatch (for example) all develop strength and power vertically. This can be a challenge, because much of sports performance is concerned with the horizontal direction—sprinting, agility work and throwing all involve horizontal strength and power. This article provides some tools you can use to develop your horizontal strength and power. Check out the video player above for a demonstration of each exercise.
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This exercise has become very popular over the last few years. Sled pushing is a great way to develop the muscles of the lower body and trunk—and to strengthen those muscles in a manner similar to how they are used during sprinting. With this exercise, it’s important to emphasize good mechanics. Like you do when you’re lifting, keep your chest out and your shoulders pulled back. The pushing should be done with the legs, not the back or the arms.
Athletes can work up to several times their body weight on this exercise. A good goal for a beginner is to perform three to five sets for 20 yards. Half your body weight is a good place to start; then increase either the distance or the weight, depending on your goals.
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This strength training exercise is one of the few with a horizontal component, because you swing the weight in front of your body.
- Begin with the kettlebell on the ground.
- Straddle the kettlebell. Your feet should be slightly wider than hip-width apart. Stick your chest out and pull your shoulders back.
- Keeping your arms straight, squat down and grip the handle with both hands using an overhand grip.
- Stand up, holding the kettlebell in front of your body.
- With a slight bend in your knees, push your hips back and allow the kettlebell to swing backwards between your legs.
- Without pausing, reverse directions and swing the kettlebell up until your arms are parallel to the ground.
There are two approaches to programming Kettlebell Swings. They can be used for metabolic conditioning, in which case you should use lighter weight for a specific period of time (for example, 30 seconds). Or, they can be used to build strength, in which case you should perform 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions. If your goal is to develop strength for sprinting, use the latter approach. Select a weight that allows your repetitions to be performed with good form.
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Bounds teach athletes how to apply horizontal strength quickly. It’s an exaggerated sprinting motion done for distance. Focus on lifting your knee, keeping your foot flat, and landing on the ball of your foot. When your foot contacts the ground, spring forward using a sprinting motion. Usually, athletes begin this exercise with a fixed distance—say 20 yards. The idea is to keep track of the number of foot contacts you need to bound 20 yards. In subsequent sessions, try to cover the distance using fewer foot contacts. Remember, the focus is on horizontal distance, not height.
Sprinting with extra resistance is beneficial to a point. If done properly, it can make you faster when there is no resistance. However, if you use too much resistance, your form will break down and you’ll teach yourself to run slowly with terrible form, which is counterproductive. The gold standard here is that extra resistance should be no more than 10 percent of your body weight.
Resisted Sprints need to be done quickly and with good form. If you find yourself leaning forward, you’re pulling too much weight. Normally, Resisted Sprints are done for 10 to 40 yards, followed by another 10 to 40 yards without resistance.