Run a Faster 40 yd Dash Part Two – Starting Position

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In the first part of this blog series on how to maximize your forty yard dash performance, I gave a brief overview of how to position your feet in the three point stance to give yourself the best opportunity for a fast start. In this installment, I’m going to go over the precise body positions that you want to achieve to ensure that your first couple steps are as explosive as possible and you can run your fastest forty yard dash. For simplicity, I’ll take a look at several body parts independently.

  • Head: The head should be relaxed and roughly in line with the spine. Excessive neck flexion (chin to chest) or extension (head up and looking straight ahead) in the starting position will cause undue tension in the back, place the spine in a weak position, and set up postural problems as the athlete makes their transition to upright running mechanics.
  • Trunk: The position of the trunk is a good indicator of whether the athlete is an efficient to push back for an explosive start. The hips should be higher than the shoulders, the back should be relatively flat and the spine should be in a neutral position.
  • Down Arm: The hand of the down arm should be located directly under the shoulder and the arm should be fully extended. The athlete should also create a high ‘bridging’ position with the thumb and forefinger. The high thumb bridge and extended arm will help to elevate the athlete’s shoulders which in turn places them in a better position for a powerful hip extension.
  • Swing Arm: The swing arm should be high and nearly fully extended. This will permit a long, wide and powerful sweep on the initial pushoff.
  • Front Leg: The position of the front leg is very important as it is the primary source of power for the initial push. The knee angle should be slightly greater than 90 degrees to ensure that the hip and thigh musculature operates through its strongest range of motion while permitting a long, forceful initial push-off. The shin of the front leg should be aligned at an acute angle with the ground to ensure that the direction of the initial push has a large horizontal component.
  • Rear Leg: Although the front leg is the dominant leg in the initial push-off, the rear leg can also make a significant contribution. The value of the rear leg will largely be determined by the foot position (discussed in the previous installment) and the angle of the shin in the starting position. As previously mentioned, the rear foot should be placed approximately six inches behind the heel of the front foot. The shin should be as closely aligned with being parallel to the shin of the front leg as possible. This will ensure that the forces generated by the front and rear leg are more unified in the desired direction. The rear knee angle will be significantly more ‘open’ than the front knee with a knee flexion of approximately 120-140 degrees.

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