Sometimes even the fastest athletes on the field don’t run a fast 40-Yard Dash. I’ve seen it repeatedly after working over 100 football camps across the country. The athlete may be gifted with natural speed, but he or she lacks the necessary technique to excel at this test.
Technique for the 40-Yard Dash is complex. Combine athletes spend months refining every intricate movement. You may have neither the time nor the need to do this. However, if you need to run a 40 at a camp, make sure you’re prepared to give your best by following these three tips.
Assume an Explosive Stance
Start as close to the line as possible with your left foot on the line. Place your left hand on the line, about 3 to 4 inches to the side of your foot. Place your right knee on the ground between the front and the instep of your left foot. The specific placement depends on your comfort level—you want to be comfortable but not too comfortable. To assume your starting stance, raise your hips and hold your right arm back at a 90-degree angle. Look back through your legs. You should only be able to hold this stance for a second or two. Any longer and the tension in your body will subside, which will limit your power potential.
Note: These instructions assume your power comes from your right leg. If your left leg is dominant, mirror this set-up.
Take a Powerful First Step
The clock starts on first movement. Once your hand comes off the ground, drive your power leg and opposite arm through to explode into your first ten yards. Imagine driving your knee to your chin. It won’t happen, but that target will help produce an explosive first step. Try these exercises to increase your first-step power.
Some athletes slow down before they get to the line, or they stick their chest out and lunge toward the line as if finishing an Olympic race. Neither will impress coaches, especially if your time reflects your carelessness. Always sprint at least 5 yards past the finish line to make sure you run at full speed for the entire test.
Practice, then practice some more. You want to work that first step. Put a cone about 1 yard away. Accelerate your power leg through, trying to knee yourself in the chin and overstride. Focus on the speed of your leg and length of your stride. Perform at least 10 repetitions before moving forward to the second step.
After drilling the first step, practice bringing your second leg through. Your second step should be just as quick as your first. Focus on bringing your knee through and don’t drag your toes.
These are basic tips that will help you run a faster 40. But, there’s still room for improvement. See Perfect Your 40-Yard Dash technique.