Your start will make or break your 40. These five tips will help you perfect it.
Even though a good start is a crucial component for a fast 40 yard dash time, most athletes don’t spend enough time working on it. The reality is that simple changes in technique and positioning can take tenths of a second off of your 40 yard dash time. If you’re serious about bringing down your time, the five tips outlined below will help you maximize your speed and give you an explosive first step in any situation. So, without further ado let’s take a close look at some key points of the start.
1. Utilize a two step recovery stance
Many athletes I’ve worked with crowd the line, which gives them little use of their legs in their initial drive towards an agile first step. When this happens you’ll be forced to fall into your power line and catch yourself before you’re able to drive your legs and get going.
Proper Power Line Improper Power Line
To prevent this, I teach a two step recovery stance. This puts you in a better position to utilize a double leg drive from the beginning of the movement, which will maximize your power, explosiveness, and acceleration. To get into this position, start with your toes on the starting line. Take one step back with the front leg using a heel to toe position before taking another heel to toe step back with your fast leg (or back leg). This will put you in the proper position to generate critical power off the line.
2. Load your legs correctly
Proper position in our three or 4 point stance involves appropriate lean and load of the legs. In the starting position you should feel like you’re pushing out in front or over the line with your legs as the arms hold you back from falling on your face. To load your legs, get off your toes and push your heels towards the ground so that you feel tension in your legs. Although you’ll likely be able to load the front side heel all the way on to the ground, the backside heel won’t make it all the way down to the ground. If the backside heel is touching the ground odds are you’ve lost your forward lean, which is not what we’re looking for. Take this leg load seriously though because proper positioning will not only result in a more powerful drive, but will help prevent false steps (which we’ll touch on later).
3. Drive with both feet on your first step
Yeah you read that correctly. The first step drive from the crouched position should be off of both legs, similar to a broad jump. I tell my athletes to think of this as a long powerful drive back into the ground or triple extension from your back leg. Although the initial drive is with both legs the front side leg will stay on the ground longer then the backside leg. Note that this first step will be a little longer than the rest of the steps. Because you’re coming from a crouched position all the way to full extension or power line position. To achieve this, power line position, allow the top arm to go above their head; which will give you a little more time to achieve full extension out of the crouched position. From here it’s time to accelerate.
4. Keep your eyes 3-4 yards in advance
I always get the question, “where does my head go coach?” A general rule of thumb with regards to your eyes is that they should always be looking 3-4 yards on front of you throughout the sprint. I see too many athletes try to bury their chin in their chest, which results in a fall and catch situation rather than an explosive start.
5. Don’t take false steps backwards
Another important point has to do with the athlete’s direction of their first step. When timing 40’s most coaches and scouts go off of first movement so it is important that you advance forward and don’t take a false step. This occurs when you take a small step back with your back leg or actually switch your foot placement before driving off. Both will result in the timer starting the clock even though you’re not covering any ground! So make sure you’re actually advancing forward on this initial drive and you’ll take valuable tenths off of your time.
As you can see the start is more complex than just putting your hand on the ground and going. However if you’re able to fully understand each segment you’ll have a more efficient, polished start, and a faster 40 yard dash time.
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