[This is a guest blog by one of our Athletic Interns, Jesse Wang, an Exercise Science student from the University of Oregon]
The 40 yard dash is the benchmark for speed for most sports outside of track and field. If your 40 yard time is not fast enough, it is likely for a team to overlook you. This is because most people believe it is hard to coach speed. There are actually many things that you can do to lower your time. A proper 40 yard stance is crucial. It is essential for you to be able to deliver the most force out of the starting stance. You should also be stable in the starting position, meaning you will not fall over. The most efficient stance is the 3 point stance. This is the stance every athlete uses at the NFL combine. My recommendation is that the front foot should be one shoe length behind the starting line. You then bring the back knee to line up directly with the top of the front foot and that is where your back foot should be. Make sure your legs are not too close together or too far apart. The arm opposite the front foot should land directly behind the line. The arm opposite your back foot should be directly on the hips so it is more difficult for the timer to determine your first movement. Once you feel comfortable in your starting position, you should feel the weight distribution over both feet and your front hand.Take a deep breath in, hold it, and drive the hand from your hip. Your body will follow. A long first step without overstriding is very important. You then continue to drive with your arms. Make sure you’re driving your legs too instead of letting them cycle beneath you. You also have to make sure that you are not bending at the waist to stay low. It is very easy to improve your start by running hills and lifting heavy weights. Performing starts from the pushup position help as well.
As you continue with your start you will start transitioning to top speed. Let the body unfold itself gradually without popping straight up. The distance required to reach top speed will depend on your strength levels and speed. Once you reach top speed, make sure you are running tall. You should be stepping over the opposite knee and down. Make sure your arms are going down instead of back. Do not allow your arms to swing side to side like a hockey player.
If you do this correctly, the test will be over before you know it. You can improve your speed even further by training hard and consistently. Sprinting, plyometrics, and heavy weightlifting will also
help you improve on this test.