Some people around the game of football have called the 40-Yard Dash the "ultimate evaluation of potential." Lucrative contracts can be made or lost entirely based on one 40-yard sprint. Making time to practice your starts, form and finish is important to your chances of making it to the next level. Let's break down the 40 before your first movement.
Position 1: Power Leg
There are several ways to determine which leg is forward, and all have flaws. Recognize what works for you and try both legs to be certain. Use a falling start sprint technique to determine which leg you are naturally most comfortable with being forward. When standing with your feet together, lean forward until you have to take a step. The leg you step with is your "power leg." Remember, you will place your opposite hand down when going through the following set-up tips.
Position 2: Foot Placement
Place the foot of your power leg up to 6 inches from the starting line and assume the best position to explode off the line. The knee of your non-power (back) leg should next to the ankle of your power leg.
Position 3: Non-Power Hand Placement
The hand opposite your power leg should be under your shoulder, slightly wider than your hips to start, with your fingers parallel to the starting line. When you are set, nearly all of your weight should be on your hand. Your thumb and index finger should take the majority of the weight.
Position 4: Hip Height
Work on getting your hips above your shoulders. Your hip position will dictate your hip and leg angle, which will affect force application and acceleration. The higher your hips, the more weight you can shift to your hands.
Position 5: Leg Angle
Your power leg should be between 90 and 110 degrees, and your non-power leg should be between 120 and 135 degrees. Strength, flexibility and practice will determine how well you can get into this position effectively. Weaker athletes generally have their hips higher and are less "coiled." Stronger, more explosive athletes look as if they are ready to explode out on their first movement.
Position 6: Shoulders
Align your shoulder above your non-power hand. Leaning forward may be illegal at some Combine evaluations, so ask the timer for verification before approaching the line so it does not become a distraction.
Position 7: Power Arm Action
Your "up" arm should be at 90 degrees with the hand near your hip. Most 40-Yard Dashes are timed with a handheld stopwatch, which begins on your first movement. If your up arm is straight, it might move first and start the clock before you have taken a step.
Position 8: Head Alignment
Once you have your feet, knees, hands, hips and shoulders in the proper position, relax your neck as if you were trying to look back between your feet. Focus on keeping your head down and watching your feet drive back and down behind you.
When you lift your hand, the clock will begin. Use the power you have developed in the weight room to drive into the ground. Do not fold at the waist, and remember to drive your elbows back fast and hard. Leg drive should be long and hard, back and down for the first 5 yards with your head and eyes rising up around the 15- or 25-yard mark. Impress the coaches by running 45 yards and slowing down thereafter.
Learn the most common 40-Yard Dash start mistakes.
Editor's Note: Check out Coach Taylor's SMARTER Team Training Audio Interview Series here.