Increase Your 40 yard Dash Time Step by Step
It is one of the most sought after components of athleticism: speed. The 40 yard dash has long been the standard test among field athletes, especially football, to assess how fast an athlete can run. Even though a large part of speed is inherent, it is an ability that is trainable.
The first thing that needs to be addressed when training to improve your 40 is to work on technique. Since sprinting like anything else is a skill it must be practiced with optimal technique in order to be improved. We break the 40 down to its components: the stance, first step, acceleration phase (first 20-25 yards), and max velocity (30-40 yards). Stance: We first determine the athlete’s quick side. The quick side leg goes back in the stance, with the opposite foot lined up approximately two inches from the line. We teach athletes to reach out over the start line with both hands and take some time to mentally prepare for the explosive start. The legs are loaded, quick side hand brought back to the line, and the other hand placed on the hip. The athlete takes a big deep breath and holds for a two count.
First Step: As forcefully as possible, the athlete focuses on the quick side arm driving back, acting like a trigger, while exploding off both legs. We teach our athletes to missile out of the start on a low trajectory, driving their hips down and through. Acceleration Phase: During this phase, athletes need to focus on driving the legs back behind the hips, similar to someone pushing a car out of a snow drift. Muscular power is crucial during this phase. During the transition from the acceleration phase to Max Velocity, athletes will come up in their sprinting stance, focus on hammering the hands back by their hips, and stepping over the opposite knee with the big toe. Recovery of the leg with the heel tucked under the butt, and the foot dorsiflexed (toe up) is crucial to enhancing stride frequency and minimizing breaking force with each step. Relaxation of the upper body and tight abdominals are also important.
Also crucial to reducing your 40 yard time is what you do in the weight room to enhance the power and strength required for the start and acceleration phases.
To become more powerful, an athlete must train to create a hormonal environment in the body that correlates to power/speed. My mentor, the late Dr. Carmelo Bosco of Italy, was one of the first research professors to correlate the relationships between the levels of certain hormones in the body to speed/power/strength and to investigate the type of training required to achieve the desired hormonal state. What he taught me is that it is not just the type of exercise you do in the weight room that is important, but how it is done in terms of the speed of each repetition, the fatigue rate within the set (the number of repetitions), the load, and the rest periods.
Research and experience have taught me that one’s ability to move training loads quickly from a dead stop is highly correlated to the sprint start and the first 10 yards. The goal in training should always aim to improve the rate of force development in order to generate greater force over a shorter period of time. This can be achieved by consciously attempting to move training loads as quickly as possible. On a higher level, we have devices which measure the amount of power produced on each repetition. Once the level of power drops to a certain point within a training set, we stop the set and take the proper rest so as to create a favorable hormonal response.
Maximal strength and stretch shortening abilities (the ability to quickly rebound off the ground) are correlated more too maximum sprinting speed than acceleration. As a result, it is very important to improve maximal strength with heavy squats and to improve leg stiffness with a controlled and progressive plyometric program to address the last phase of your 40.
In order to shave time off your 40 yard sprint, combine proper sprint mechanics with a scientifically sound weight room program.