When it comes to helping athletes get faster in their 40 yard dash, one of the things I focus on asap is their start. This makes the fastest impact on an athlete 40 times. Now let me be clear here, getting a faster 40 time from fixing an athlete’s stance is more about efficiency than anything else. Improving an athlete’s speed through improved stride rate, frequency, and force development takes time, especially if you’re working with youth athletes. But when the privilege of time isn’t there here are the 3 keys guaranteed to give you an improved 40 yard dash start.
Key #1 Foot Spacing
There are a couple of things to consider here in terms of the depth and width of both feet. I’m going to assume you already know how to find your dominant foot, mine is my left. First I’d place both toes behind the line with my feet together and move my left toe behind my right heel. This is going to give me the depth of my front foot from the line which is a foot’s length. This is great because it allows me to be as close to the line as possible, without overcrowding to the point where it’s difficult to hold my stance. Next I’ll find the width of my feet by making my right heel perpendicular to my left, and making my right toe placement a foot width from my left heel (This could be a few inches wider for athletes with bigger quads). Finally I’m going to move my right toe back 3-6 inches. This spacing will give me the perfect leverage for a great get off.
Key #2: Ankle Angles
This is why ankle mobility is so important. Putting yourself in the best stance for a 40 yard dash start requires a high amount of ankle flexion from both legs and here’s why. First, it brings clarity to the conversation of how high an athlete’s hips should be. Without question they should be above the knees but to know exactly how high, the back ankle should have enough flexion that there’s a 45 degree angle in the back shin. Secondly, and even more important is the deep ankle flexion in the front foot that allows the front knee to go over the toe once your hips are elevated. This can be a tough position to hold for athletes who lack strength and ankle mobility, but done right you’re positioned in a way to fire out like a cannon out of the blocks.
Key #3: Create force
This is the final and probably most crucial element of the 40 yard dash start. When an athlete explodes out of the gate during takeoff and veers slightly right or left, what’s happening is the athlete is only pushing off one leg coming out. Because of the positioning of the 40 start it’s impossible to produce an equal amount of force from both legs, but you definitely need to execute a double foot push off. This is often very hard for my athletes since they usually don’t know how to produce force off their back leg. My coaching point is to have 90% of the weight on your front leg and 10% on the back leg. But how do we create force off the back leg? By contracting the back glute. In any type of movement whether the weight room or field, the more force you can create internally, the more force you can produce externally. The ability to push off of both legs can provide the horizontal force and power to take your get off to the next level.
These 3 parts of a 40 yard dash start can improve your time almost immediately. It gives you the proper leverage, angles, and force production to have an efficient start for a more efficient 40.-Boostman
Owner, Boost Training Systems in Corona, CA
Level 1 & 2 Coach Bommarito Performance