Benefits of performing straight leg bounds

Straight leg bounds have proven to be an essential drill in speed development for runners and sprinters of all distances. This drill teaches the athlete how to generate explosive power in the hips, using the glutes and hamstrings to apply force into the ground through hip extension. Research has shown that the hamstrings and glutes, which are responsible for the action of hip extension, are the main force developers for producing horizontal propulsion. Meaning they are the most important muscle groups utilized during acceleration, top speed, and even distance running. So it is imperative that athletes train the hip extensors. Performing straight leg bounds with the SpeedMaker has the added benefit of providing resistance to the action, without inhibiting the proper technique. This will allow for isolated strength training of these muscle groups. And as we know, stronger glutes and hamstrings correlate directly to faster sprint times as well as decreased chance of injury. Please view the video below, in which I demonstrate the drill and further describe the benefits of performing it with the SpeedMaker. Thank you for visiting the SpeedMaker blog, please comment with thoughts, questions, or drills and exercises that you would like to see in the future.

High Knee’s

The high knees drill is one that every athlete has performed at some point in their career, no matter the sport, location, or age level. It is typically performed during a warm-up, utilized as a dynamic movement to increase body temperature, blow flow, and muscular elasticity. Although, there are various other benefits of performing the high knees drill, specifically for sprinters and runners. It is important for coaches and athletes to understand these benefits in order to grasp the true value of performing this drill effectively, as opposed to just going through the motion during a warm-up. That is why I have chosen to demonstrate, describe how to perform, and detail the benefits of this simple yet effective drill in our weekly blog post. To perform the high knees drill, stand tall and apply force into the ground through the balls of your feet, directly under the hips. Raising knees to 90 degree angles in the hips, while alternating leg drives and maintaining proper arm swing. Common mistakes that can occur include leaning too far backwards or too far forwards with the torso due to discrepancy in the hip flexors. Striking the ground flat-footed, or negating proper arm swing. The benefits of accurately performing the high knees drill, which are often overlooked, include improvements in running form (foot position , and knee drive) hip mobility, and hip flexor strength.

During the drill, it is important for the athlete to focus on their foot position when contacting the ground. During distance running and top speed sprinting, it is most advantageous for the force to be applied into the ground through the balls of the feet, and directly under the hips. The goal is to limit over-striding. Over-striding is when the foot contacts the ground in front of the hip and force is applied through the heel to mid-foot. This is unfavorable because allowing the heel to hit the ground applies the force in the opposite direction, hindering our velocity. Think of Fred Flinstone when he attempts to stop his car, pushing his heels into the ground. Over-striding also places high amounts of stress on the hamstring, leading to potential injury.

The other technical benefit of the drill that might not come as a surprise, is increased knee drive! having an optimal knee drive with 90 degree angles in the hips allows for various benefits during top speed sprinting. Benefits include, increased stride length, increased limb acceleration during hip extension, and greater force development during hip extension through utilization of the stretch reflex.

Increased knee drive allows for a larger range of motion in which the limb can accelerate prior to contacting the ground. An analogy that I like to use is hitting a nail with a hammer. If you only draw back the hammer a few inches, it has very little room to accelerate and it will not generate sufficient force. But the farther the hammer is drawn back, the more space it will have to accelerate, and therefore apply more force into the nail.

The stretch reflex is the subsequent muscle contraction following a stretch in that muscle group. When muscles are actively stretched, they become capable of a stronger contraction due to tension created in the muscle, improved actin-myosin interaction; which are the proteins that are actually responsible for muscle contraction, and inhibition of the antagonist muscle group. The higher the knee drive, the greater the stretch that occurs in the glutes and hamstrings, resulting in a stronger contraction during hip extension.

Performing the high knees drill with the SpeedMaker will promote stretch reflex in the hip flexors creating higher knee drive. It will also provide resistance against the action of hip extension, strengthening the glutes and hamstrings. As runners, we should make a habit of including hamstring work in all of our workouts because they are the main component in creating horizontal propulsion, and thus, acceleration and velocity. This can now easily be achieved with the SpeedMaker by simply performing your routine drills and exercises with the resistance training harness. The device will even adapt to the intensity of your workouts with different levels of interchangeable resistance bands. Thank you again for visiting the SpeedMaker blog, please view the video below in which I demonstrate the drill. Feel free to comment with thoughts, questions, or drills and exercises that you would like to see in the future.

Wall Accelerations

The wall acceleration drill is incredibly beneficial for athletes who perform short distance sprints, requiring explosive and efficient horizontal acceleration. In sport, there is very little time spent on teaching athletes proper acceleration mechanics, most of the emphasis is placed on top speed. Doesn’t this seem counterintuitive?

After all, we cannot reach top speed without first having acceleration. Before describing todays drill, I would first like to delve deeper into the importance of separating acceleration from top speed, because these two components of sprinting carry distinct mentalities and technique. If you ask an athlete what the goal of acceleration is, the majority would probably claim that the goal of acceleration is to reach top speed as quickly as possible. Having this mentality is detrimental to sprint performance. The goal of acceleration is to build momentum and the goal of top speed is maintaining velocity. This is true because top speed is only sustainable for a short period, after this, the athlete is only slowing down. Therefore, it is not necessarily the fastest person who will win the race, but the person who slows down the slowest. I will simply sum this up by saying, with great acceleration, comes great top speed.

Now that you understand its importance, we can begin discussing how you can improve your acceleration mechanics. Performing the wall acceleration drill teaches and allows you to feel the correct technique. I will describe the two key components to acceleration technique and their importance.

1.) Being in a 45 degree angle with the ground

2.) Forceful hip extension with low heels during the powerful forward knee drive.

Being in a 45 degree angle allows the athlete to apply force into the ground behind the hips, as opposed to top speed, in which it is advantageous that the foot strikes the ground directly below the hips. Newton’s third law of motion tells us that when we apply force into an object, an equal and opposite reaction occurs, pushing the same amount of force back onto us. This is why a vertical jump involves applying force into the ground directly below you. During acceleration, it is more advantageous to apply force into the ground behind our hips, because this allows for improved horizontal force application so that the equal and opposite reaction will propel us more towards our goal.

To describe the importance of having low heels when driving the knee forward, I must use an analogy. During sprinting, our legs act as levers, the shorter the length of the lever (the higher your heel the shorter the lever) the faster that it can go through its range of motion, which is desirable at top speed because your stride frequency will be increased compared to your drive phase, in which your stride frequency is slower but you want to apply a lot more force into the ground. During acceleration, we want a long lever (low heels) because these have the advantage of producing more power compared to a short lever. Think of having two different hammers, one with a long handle and one with a short handle. You can hit the nail a lot quicker but with less power when using the short handled hammer which is our analogy for top speed. But when using the long handled hammer, like a sledgehammer, you can hit the nail with a lot more power, but less frequently. So this is just a very detailed way of saying be powerfully patient and keep your heels low because it will allow for greater force application.

With all this being said, the wall acceleration drill is invaluable and can be implemented into any workout or warm-up. Although, the drill can be even more beneficial when performed with the SpeedMaker. The SpeedMaker Provides Resistance to the action, strengthening the glutes and hamstrings and also improves acceleration technique by increasing knee drive. Please view the video below, in which I demonstrate and describe how to perform the wall acceleration drill. Thank you again for visiting the SpeedMaker blog, please comment with thoughts, questions, or drills and exercises that you would like to see in the future.

P.S. I want to take this opportunity to thank Kyle Blankers. My friend, mentor, and coach.

Bounds

Plyometrics are any type of movement that includes rapid and repetitive stretching and contracting of the muscle fibers, with the goal of improving power. These drills, such as hopping, skipping, and bounding, are not only beneficial for jumpers but sprinters and runners as well. Plyometrics have become a building block of any great speed development training program. The benefits of incorporating plyometrics into your training includes,

  • Increased rate at which force is developed
  • Increasing the strength and efficiency of the fast twitch muscle fibers
  • Improve an athletes durability, decreasing the possibility of injury, by not only strengthening the muscle tissues, but enhancing bone density.
  • Preparing the nervous system for similar contractions later, and teaching the body how to absorb force.
  • Improving negative acceleration and agility by training the eccentric (stretching) muscle action.

Our specific plyometric drill today, is called bounding. To perform bounds, push off the ground with triple extension of the hip, knee, and ankle. Drive the front knee up and remain in the air covering as much distance as possible prior to the next stride. Forcefully drive the arms to improve power, and contact time on the ground should be as short as possible. The benefits of performing bounds, along with the benefits of performing general plyometrics, include,

  • Improvements in explosive power during hip extension
  • Increased stride length
  • Decreasing the time that the foot remains on the ground.

These elements are important because for the sprinter, it is advantageous to spend more time in the air then on the ground. The SpeedMaker enhances this drill by providing resistance against the action of hip extension, to strengthen the glutes and hamstrings. To ensure safety, due to the high amounts of force taken on during plyometrics and bounding, this drill should only be conducted after the athlete has performed general conditioning of the core and legs. Bounding should also be implemented as a progression, bounding for shorter distances and fewer sets and increasing over time. Lastly, these drills should be performed on a forgiving surface such as grass or turf. Thank you for visiting the SpeedMaker blog, please view the video below, in which I demonstrate and describe how to perform bounds. I also encourage you to comment with thoughts, questions, or drills and exercises that you would like to see in the future.