Your 40 yard dash is where an athlete can set himself apart from his competition no matter what sport. Athletes are blessed with the gift of speed but, the challenge isn’t in an athletes existing speed. The challenge is in being able to break the athlete of their habits. Being able to make an athlete efficient and technically sound in their movement is an art. A good coach can asses an athletes weakness in their technique and be able to explain to them WHAT, WHY, and HOW…..WHAT they are doing wrong. WHY: it is not an efficient movement. HOW: they can fix it. There is no magic pill, secret technique, or secret running form. There are only simple and fundamental movements done perfectly on a consistent basis. Running form and drills paired with correcting movement patterns, and a well planned strength program is the recipe for success.
“Efficient posture and movement patterns will set up the body to utilize the most explosive combinations of angles and muscle actions to produce power in any direction. A muscle on stretch acts as a rubber band and the further you stretch it, the more force it will produce. Adding two rubber bands, representing multiple joints, will increase an athlete’s ability to produce force at an exponential level. Ensuring perfect form in a base position is a critical first step to ensuring we are maximizing every angle, the muscle spindle’s stretch shorten cycle and it’s ability to respond both reflexively and voluntarily to maximize power production.”
First Step Quickness Author: Kevin Dunn
You can make your head spin trying to correct all of the components of the 40 yard dash start at once. That is why we at TESTFootballAcademy have a specific emphasis in each training session. Breaking down the 40 into sections to simplify the process, and have the athlete understand what we want. Staying lower longer is a great key to think about when coming out of your stance. The lower you can come out, the longer you will be accelerating. My goal is to keep you in your acceleration phase as long as possible. I’m not taking away any importance of the other phases of the 40 yard dash. I am just emphasizing the importance of your start and first 10-20 yards (acceleration phase). From my experience stance and acceleration phase is where the most of the mistakes are made. In my opinion it is also where the biggest improvements can be made.
The Starting point to the acceleration phase is in your 40 yard dash setup/stance. Athletes should be put in a general stance and then worked on and individualized from there. It doesn’t matter skill level or age, the general stance is for everyone as a starting point. Our NFL Combine Class’s goes through this training each year, and it will get you on the right track to getting a faster 40 yard dash time. Below are some key points that I use in my training at TESTFootballAcademy.
SETUP: Both feet are on the line, close your eyes and fall forward. Now remember what foot came forward first. This is a general way to find out what foot is dominant in order to setup your stance. (If needed I’m sure you can find a friend or brother/sister to push you in your back while your eyes are closed)
STANCE SETUP: Now that you know what foot is the dominate one you can now work on setup. The foot that came forward first will be the foot that is farthest from the line. Go back to your first SETUP position with both feet on the line. This time don’t let anyone push you.
1. DEPTH: get a full foot depth from the line, use your heel as a consistent guide. (Giving yourself guide points to stay consistent with your foot placement it key). The depth of your foot will depend on the ROM in your ankle mobility.
2. WIDTH: Now that you have your depth you need to get your width. With your dominate foot make the letter “L” to get your width.
3. BUNCH, MID, or ELONGATED STANCES: I would like for your back foot to have a consistent level of depth. To start, line your knee up with the ball of your opposite foot. Make sure not to lose the width you just setup with your “L” drill above. This is called the bunch stance. The bunch stance is for shorter athletes that do not need a lot of space/distance in their setup. Stance depends on body type and the ability to get into the right positioning. I like to give three options; the bunch, the mid, and the elongated stances. See below* Make sure your toes are curled underneath your back foot and your ankle is dorsiflexed. This will limit the movements you have to make in your setup.
4. LOADED POSITION: Now that you have your foot placement make sure not to move your feet after you have made your adjustments on your stance. Now it is time to walk out onto your hands to get into a “loaded position”. To accomplish a loaded position make sure to walk your hands out so you are on both knees. While outstretched make sure to arch your back and load your hips. After you are loaded walk your hands back, make sure to bring your hips up as you walk your hands back to the line. Always keep in mind that you need to try and keep that shin angle as close to 45* as possible. (this will differ depending on the ROM in your ankle)
Shin Angle: In your 40 yard start your front foot shin angle should be at 45*.
Your ankle mobility coincides with your shin angle. The more ankle mobility you have the closer you can keep your foot to the starting line in your stance. If you have poor ankle mobility you have to counter act it by moving your foot further back from the line. This will help you increase the angle you have lost with your lack of flexion in your ankle.
Back and Hips: When walking your hands back in your stance make sure to keep your back flat. What this does is puts a pre-stretch or “load” onto you glute and hamstrings so they can act as a rubber band. As you walk you hands back to the line keeping this posture. You will feel the Load just by positioning your hips and back a different way in your stance.
Head: Keep your head down an relaxed. Where your head goes your body goes. If you snap your head up on the start, guess what? Your going to pop up and give back all of your acceleration and move right onto your transition/absolute speed phase.
Arm Placement: When you are loaded correctly into your stance, you have a 45* shin angle, your back is flat and your hips are loaded, your head is down and relaxed. The last thing that is “loaded” is your arm. Have a slight bend in your elbow and make sure to put your shoulder on stretch.
“If the upper body is the ignition, the lower body is the engine. The engine will not turn over without turning that key. Longer arms + fast explosive arm swing = Increased torque and force production that will transfer down the body and ultimately through the ground. The athlete must have a strong pillar in the shoulders, trunk and hips to ensure energy is transferred minimizing any leaks along the kinetic chain.”
First Step Quickness Author: Kevin Dunn
With all of that being said, on the day of your event, take what you have learned, practiced, repeated, and JUST RUN! Perfect preparation will ensure perfect results. Your body will know what to do. It is your mind that you will need to fill with confidence. You have done enough perfect reps to be able to get into a mindset of complete domination knowing you are the most prepared athlete on the field. If executed correctly, it should just be another day at the office.
For more information please contact: Geir@TESTfootballacademy.com
Author: Geir Gudmundsen, Director of Football Operations TEST Football Academy