Learn to Sprint Faster With Variable Bounding

This bounding method can help you sprint faster and jump higher.

When it comes to improving explosive sprints, bounding is one of the top movements on the list of training options.

Bound power is highly correlated to your time in short sprints, such as the 40-Yard Dash. There have even been equations that estimate your time in a 100m race by the distance you cover in the standing Triple Jump. Bounding is also highly correlated to single-leg jumping ability—and jumping power in general. Improving both bounding technique (upright posture, balance of frontside and backside mechanics) and distance is a surefire way to improve single-leg vertical ability.

Igor Paklin, one of the most prolific high jumpers of the 1980's (shown in the video above), could register 24 meters (79 feet) in five bounds on his jump leg with a five-step approach, which is an unbelievable display of power.

Bounding works by creating a greater magnitude of muscular requirement, particularly the muscles responsible for vertical force, and it does so in a very specific manner. It also requires lots of rotational power.

There are plenty of methods, such as:

  • Alternate leg bounds
  • Left-left, right-right combination bounds
  • Left-left-left, right-right-right combination bounds
  • Single-leg bounds
  • Endurance bounds
  • Bounds alternating with strides/sprints

Many of these variations are common knowledge among coaches and athletes, but there is one very effective variation that many coaches don't consider, one that I have discovered over the last few years: variable distance bounding.

As shown above, variable distance bounding is a great way to mix up the usual package of training stimuli. It works on the principle of placing small puzzles in the course of an otherwise "routine" training movement in order to make the drill more of a challenge, in addition to requiring lots of power. This type of learning and visual requirement stimulates dopamine release and improves the window for more learning later in the training session.

To set up variable bounds, all you need is a handful of cones or markers spaced at "subtly random" intervals on a straight piece of track, grass, or even sand. This means that some cones or markers might be 7 feet apart, while others could be 9 feet apart.

I recommend keeping the distance variance between cones within 25 percent of the average bound distance you are looking to achieve. For example, if you want to cover 3 meters per stride, you would want to have the distance between cones be at minimum 2.4 meters, or at most 3.6 meters (if you think you or your athlete has the capability).

In addition to its theoretical benefits, this drill seems to acutely improve the reflexive firing ability of the glute, psoas and core muscles, and it has a very positive effect on speed output, such as 30-meter Fly performance. This exercise and its derivatives can have a profound effect on your performance. Not only is it an effective exercise, it is also a lot of fun to perform.

I've also found that setting the markers up in a zig-zag or lateral pattern can be great for building stabilizing muscles, or for team sport athletes. Below is an example of that training paradigm:


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock