TD1 Minute: 40-Yard Dash Training Focal Points

July 6, 2012

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In this TD1 Minute weekly series, Kurt Hester, National Training Director for D1 Sports Training and a driving force behind The Dominant One Challenge, offers instructional tips on how to master your training and dominate your sport. In this sixth installment, Hester zeroes in on focal points for the 40-Yard Dash. For more information on the TD1 Challenge, visit

In my previous articles on the 40-Yard Dash, I offered a few tips on technique and reviewed some background considerations for training for the 40. Below I present four focal points for my six-week 40-Yard Dash training program.


My six-week training cycle is simplistic in nature, as it should be. We tend to overthink and analyze every move we make in training. We also try to incorporate far too many complex theories, modalities and exercises into our programs. This typically leads to failure or, worse, to injury.

Most international 100-meter sprint programs are relatively simple in nature. You will not see athletes doing CrossFit, being pulled by cords, sprinting on a treadmill, standing on a BOSU holding dumbbells or pulling a parachute down the track. They lift over 80 percent of their max three days a week using only core lifts. They also perform a plyometric program two to three times per week and a flexibility program daily. This type of training is not glamorous, but it is simple, sound and efficient.

Run Perfect and Fast

There is an old saying among track coaches: "To become fast you have to run fast." The athlete must practice running at top speed to increase acceleration, transition and max velocity speeds. This sounds simple, but many athletes have never participated in true speed workouts.

Speed workouts for the 40 are defined as two to eight seconds of full intensity sprinting performed when the athlete is not in a fatigued state. Athletes must allow full ATP (energy) recovery between bouts of sprinting in order to ensure that their speed is actually being developed. Generally, one minute of rest for every 10 yards of running is recommended for optimal recovery. Football players are mentally conditioned to train at fast tempos with little recovery. If they are not totally exhausted, they feel like they didn't get a good workout. One of the hardest things for athletes is to hold back in order to ensure total recovery between reps.

Relative Strength

Because of its short duration, the 40-Yard Dash is a power race. Spending an inordinate amount of time on sprint mechanics is not an efficient use of training time. I have seen athletes with horrible sprint mechanics run a fast 40, simply because they could apply more force into the ground while sprinting.

Increasing strength without increasing body weight is crucial to running a faster 40. Applying greater force into the ground, the athlete will have a longer stride and shorter ground contact time on each stride. Shorter ground contact time increases stride frequency.

In strength training for the 40, the central nervous system must not be fatigued in any way. Workouts should be short and quick—and always avoid hypertrophy training.

In my training cycle, you will see that essentially the same lifts are performed three days in a row. If you manipulate the volume and intensity correctly, you will get stronger with little effort. The two keys to training in this manner are to rest a minimum of four minutes between sets and to move the weight easily, leaving two reps in the tank on each set. If you struggle to move the weight, you must decrease it to avoid overloading your muscles and nervous system.


Recovery is the missing ingredient for 99 percent of athletes, no matter what sport they play and no matter what level they play at. Athletes never think about the fact that in order to train at a high level, the body needs to be fully recovered and without the presence of fatigue.

Athletes who sleep more than eight hours per night and take one-hour naps during the day have faster reaction times and sprint times than athletes who sleep less than eight hours. Sleep is the most important recovery system for the human body, and the one most abused by young athletes.

An eating plan comprised of six to eight small meals each day is also essential. Athletes should take in 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight, eat three to four servings of fresh fruits and vegetables, eat three servings of complex carbs and consume three servings of branched-chain amino acids. Also, athletes should drink fluid throughout the day to avoid what can amount to as much as a 15 percent performance decline from dehydration.

To finish off recovery, athletes should regularly stretch after a workout and use foam rolling, massage therapy, ice baths, contrast ice/heat baths and other therapeutic modalities. These enhance the recovery process and allow for continued strength and speed gains.

Stay tuned to for the full six-week training cycle, which you can use to improve your 40 time.


Topics: 40-YARD DASH
Kurt Hester
- Kurt Hester is the head strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana Tech. Prior to that, he served as D1’s director of training. In addition, he...
Kurt Hester
- Kurt Hester is the head strength and conditioning coach at Louisiana Tech. Prior to that, he served as D1’s director of training. In addition, he...
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