How to Improve Your 40 Yard Dash Time
How to Improve Your 40 Yard Dash Time
The 40 yard dash is important. Here are four tips, drills, and videos to help you run it faster.
So many athletes today are looking for that edge when it comes to improving their 40 yard dash time. 40 times have become the rage with athletes and coaches of all ages and all sports, and is the most popular gauge of one’s speed in most sports. Whether we agree with all the emphasis or not, it looks like it’s here to stay as an evaluation tool. So how do we go about trying to improve our 40 yard dash time?
With most athletes, the acceleration phase is going to happen in the first ten to twelve yards of the 40. To properly accelerate, you first need to get into a correct starting stance. The position you assume in the start is going to have a direct impact on how much force you’re able to put into the ground and in turn how fast you can accelerate.
A correct stance should have the lead leg foot placed 1 to 1 ½ feet behind the starting line with the trail leg foot 2 feet behind the starting line and approximately 1 foot to the side of the lead leg foot. Then place the hand of the arm that is opposite your lead leg down on the starting line and raise the other arm high on your back side. The head should be lowered and looking at the ground while the hips rise as the majority of your weight should be shifted onto your lead leg.
Acceleration and speed, when running, are created by pushing into the ground. Throughout the sprint you want to cover as much ground with each stride as possible for as much speed as possible, which is referred to as stride length. Stride length needs to be achieved by pushing into the ground and reaching full extension with each leg into the ground, rather that reaching out with the lead leg while running. A proper forward lean is also vital to acceleration as well as arm action.
So what are some simple, easy, and effective drills that an athlete can do to help improve acceleration and ultimately lead to a faster 40 time? Check out the four listed below.
1. Medicine Ball Extensions
Medicine ball extensions focus on the drive and extension off of the lead leg in your 40 stance. Get into the correct 40 stance and instead of placing your hands on the ground you should place them on a medicine ball. Using the lead leg foot only, drive off of your foot, extend your hips, and throw the med ball landing flat on your chest, fully extended. All the force and drive come from the lead leg and no steps are taken in this drill. Make sure the hips are fully extended in line with the body as the medicine ball is thrown.
2. Bounding Starts
Bounding starts again place an emphasis on the drive and push off of the lead leg on the first step of acceleration. However, more emphasis is placed on the second and third steps now as well. First get into a 40 stance and push and extend off of your lead leg as you drive the knee of your trail leg into the air. While doing this, make sure to keep your knee in front of your toe so that you do not reach out with your leg. Try to float in the air while pushing into the next step in the same manner as the first step. The goal is to cover ground by getting up and out as a result of knee drive and extension. This drill can be performed with one bound or multiple bounds or even a combination of bounds, where you perform three bounds and then continue into a normal sprint.
3. Acceleration Ladder
The acceleration ladder focus is the first 4 to 5 steps of the start. Set up for the acceleration ladder is easy. Place a tape mark down for the start line, then measure 3 feet and place another tape mark down. Then measure another 3 ½ feet and place another tape mark down. Now measure 4 feet and place a tape mark and measure another 4 ½ feet and place the final tape mark down. The tape marks should try and be reached by the athlete with each step by pushing into the ground and not by reaching the leg out to the mark. Begin at the starting line and simply run out and focus on the drive and extension of the lead leg followed by the knee drive of the trail leg to get to each tape mark.
4. Resistive Starts
Resistive starts are an easy drill you can do to work on forward lean position during the start and knee drive and leg extension. You’ll need a partner for this drill. The resistance is applied using a large resistance band that is around the athlete’s waist and being held by the partner. If you don’t have a resistance band anything that can go around your waist that can be held by your partner will work. Once the band is around your waist and being held by your partner, get into the 40 stance. You’ll then accelerate through 10 yards with the resistance of the band forcing you to keep a forward lean (don’t bend at the waist), drive each knee up and extend each leg completely into the ground to push them into the next step. The goal of this drill should be complete and full extension of the leg that drives into the ground. Don’t try and cycle into your next step too quickly because full extension will not be met. You can also contrast this drill with regular 10 yard starts. Perform 2-3 resistive starts followed by 2 regular starts.
These 4 drills can have a great impact on the acceleration phase of any athlete’s 40 yard dash time. The focus of each drill is knee drive, forward lean, and back leg extension into the ground. Remember to always think of accelerating as pushing into the ground to cover space and not reaching out. With this thought process in mind, and these 4 simple drills at hand, you’re on your way to a faster 40 yard dash time.
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About the Author
Adam Hermann, CSCS is currently the Director of Strength and Conditioning at Oral Roberts University. Prior to that Adam was the Associate Director of Strength and Conditioning at Central Michigan University where he worked with the Men's Basketball, Women’s Basketball, Women’s Softball, Baseball, Volleyball and Football teams and spent 7 years as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at North Dakota State University. Adam has trained multiple All-Americans as well as 7 NFL athletes during his tenure. A 2003 graduate of Northern Michigan University, Adam was an All-American wrestler and a resident athlete at the United State Olympic Education Center.
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