The 40-Yard Dash is a dynamic field event with very distinct requirements throughout each individual phase of the sprint. Starting involves the athlete’s body producing an initially high-power output to overcome gravity from a non-moving, static position. From then on, stride frequency combined with the amount of force being directed into the ground are the determining factors to how fast the run will be.
Runners need to “attack back” with both their legs and arms to be able to accelerate and build speed. A transitional phase is when a gradual change in running mechanics occurs between late acceleration and early, absolute top-end speed. This phase normally takes place between the 10- and 20-yard markers.
Technique is most important during the 40-Yard Dash transition. As the athlete begins to accelerate, the body slowly becomes more upright. The head moves from the tucked to the forward position, the hips become tall and the torso erect. An upright stance causes the stride to naturally lengthen and begin to develop.
As stride length begins to naturally increase, the leading leg needs to step over the opposite shin and begin a “clawing” motion. This leg should pull the body forward as it strikes the ground, creating combined push/pull forces that result in higher running velocity.
After the leading leg strikes the ground, the athlete should attempt to bring the heel up to the glutes and under the hips as quickly as possible (figure below). This is referred to as heel recovery. If the heel proceeds too far behind the body and doesn’t recover properly, a braking motion occurs, and the leg is unable to get back in front of the body fast enough to build top-end speed.
Perfect the 40-Yard Dash Transition
If you’re trying too hard to lengthen your stride, your foot will begin striking too far in front of your body. For optimal power production, your leading leg needs to hit the ground near or underneath your hips. Stride length will naturally increase as your body begins to get more upright.
Swing Arms Straight Forward
If your arms start swinging side-to-side, your torso will begin to move laterally. Think of your arms and fingers like arrow pointers. Point them forward and your body will move in a direct, linear fashion.
Avoid Bobblehead Syndrome
Your shoulders should be relaxed and your eyes should stare straight forward. If your head is moving around, so will your body.
Keep Your Core Tight
Force is transferred from your legs to your upper body, and vice versa, through your core. Pulling your belly button toward your spine will activate your transverse abdominals, the innermost and most important muscles for stabilizing your core. You should be able to maintain normal breathing patterns while supporting your core.
More 40-Yard Dash Technique
TD 1 Minute: 40-Yard Dash Technique
Most Common 40 Start Mistakes
How to Run a Perfect 40-Yard Dash