“What’s your forty time?” This is a question that’s often heard among athletes in a variety of sports ranging from soccer to football. Whether you like it or not, it’s the measuring stick of choice for assessing an athlete’s speed. While many think that speed is an innate ability that you either have or don’t; the reality is that running fast has both technical and physical components that can both be developed to run faster. In this blog series on improving your forty yard dash performance, I’ll take a look at both of these areas and provide some guidelines for running faster.
I’d like to kick off this series by taking a look at the start. More specifically, I’d like to take a look at the starting position itself. The position an athlete assumes in their starting position will have a direct impact on the body positions and the athlete’s ability to accelerate over the first couple steps. Given the short distance of the test and the fact that foot position is one of the easiest elements to control, it’s a good place to start this series.
“The feet should not actually be placed directly on the starting line”Contrary to common practice, the feet should not actually be placed directly on the starting line. Such a position will limit the athlete’s ability to push back on the ground and create the backward horizontal force that is so necessary to overcoming the athlete’s inertia and getting their body moving forward. The front foot should be placed approximately one to one and a half foot lengths behind the starting line and the rear foot should be about two to two and a half foot lengths behind the starting line. In addition to this recommendation, the feet should have a slight lateral stagger to provide balance when the athlete is in their ‘set’ position, but not enough that the initial push will be low and laterally directed. A good guideline would be to have the athlete’s feet about six inches apart laterally with the rear foot toe up to 6 inches behind the front foot heel in the horizontal plane. These guidelines will give you a nice starting point for an effective position to make your initial drive, however they may change slightly depending on the athlete’s personal preferences and body dimensions. Tune in soon for the next installment, where I’ll go over the optimum three or four point stance body positions that will allow you to have the fastest possible start.