What You Need To Know About This Misunderstood Sprint Drill
Straight leg bounding is one of the most misunderstood, badly taught and poorly performed sprint drills.
This article aims to:
- Create a better understanding of the drill.
- Highlight where many young athletes and youth coaches are going wrong with the drill.
- Provide suggestions about how the skill can be better taught and performed.
What is Straight Leg Bounding?
Simply put, straight leg bounding is an activity in which an athlete bounds forward with their legs straight and feet flexed (i.e. toes pulled up).
To perform this drill effectively:
- The torso should be kept upright and the back straight.
- The arms are bent at the elbow and swing vigorously from the shoulders.
- The athlete’s legs should mimic a scissors motion as they propel or “pull” themselves forward.
The drill is commonly used as a warm up activity or as part of a series of sprint drills.
Why Straight Leg Bounding?
Straight leg bounding aims to teach an athlete how to apply force into the ground through hip extension by using the glutes and hamstrings. It also promotes an active foot contact with the ground.
I regularly see this drill done very poorly. The main problems that I notice are:
1. Kicking the Legs Up
An obvious misunderstanding of the intent of the drill sees athletes focusing on the upward “kick” of their legs rather than on the downward and backward pulling action. This results in the entire action incorrectly taking place in front of the body as the athlete flicks their feet up in front of them. The hip flexors are doing all of the work with little involvement from the glutes and hamstrings. The athlete “bounces” along rather than propelling themselves forward.
2. Leaning Back
Often as a result of the above fault, many athletes lean back when performing this drill, some almost to the point of toppling over. The torso needs to be upright to allow the foot to contact the ground under the hips.
3. Pointed Toes
Many young athletes perform this drill with pointed toes (plantar flexed feet) rather than having the toes pulled up towards the shins (dorsi flexed feet). This can lead to a very “toey” contact with the ground.
How Should Straight Leg Bounding Be Performed?
The following video provides some useful vision and commentary about how to effectively perform straight leg bounds.
Video: “Sprint Drills – Straight Leg Bound” published on YouTube by Trackwired
Note that the commentary of the video highlights:
- An active foot recovery, pulled directly under the body’s centre of mass.
- The toes must be kept up.
- The body is kept in an upright position.
Also worth highlighting from the video is the vigorous arm action used in the demonstration.
Follow Up Tasks
The next time you observe a young athlete perform straight leg bounds look out for the common faults identified in this article.
If you get the chance to coach the skill, try cueing the athletes to:
- Push their toes to the tops of their shoes.
- Grab the ground with their feet and pull themselves along.
Do you know of any other common faults or effective coaching cues?
Let me know if you are aware of any other common faults that kids or coaches make with this drill. I would also love to hear of any coaching cues that you have used or heard that have been effective in gaining the desired outcome. Leave a reply/comment of contact me using the details below.
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Darren Wensor is a sports development professional, coach educator, specialist coach of young athletes and founder of the blog coachingyoungathletes.com. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Anchor or via email.