Now that I’ve spent the first four parts of this series examining the setup, starting position, start, and initial steps of the 40 yard dash; let’s now take a look at what the athlete should do as they progress to top speed. For many athletes, this will be the most vital portion of their test race so it’s important to do everything possible correctly.
Once the athlete has completed their initial steps the goal should be on gradually and progressively moving to an upright running posture. Unlike the longer sprint races that occur in the sport of track and field (60m, 100m, 200m), athletes running the 40 yard dash need to get upright and running tall relatively quickly. Failure to do so will lead to slower times. The caveat though, is that while the progression to upright running should be quicker than what is deemed beneficial on the track, it should still be gradual and absent of any breakdowns in postural integrity or radical changes in limb or head positions. With this in mind, athletes have several goals, the first of which is to maintain the ‘power line’ mentioned in my third installment. In other words, the athlete’s body at touchdown should be characterized by a shin and trunk angle that are parallel to each other; and at toe-off the body should be positioned such that a straight line could be drawn from the ankle joint all the way through the top of the head. These positions will ensure that force is being applied to the ground in the most efficient manner to move the body towards the finish line.
With each step, the athlete should push up more and more so that the ‘power line’ remains intact, but gradually moves to a more upright position with respect to the ground. The body angle relative to the ground isn’t the only thing that changes though. The swing leg should progressively ‘tighten up’ and step higher and higher over the support leg. In the first couple steps, the swing leg should step over the ankle joint of the support leg; then the calf of the support leg, and finally the knee of the support leg. When viewed from the side this swing leg progression will resemble a piston action in the first couple steps and gradually progress to a high knee cycling action. The arms, too, should progress in a similar manner, starting with a wide sweeping action and then tightening up at the shoulder and elbow joint so that the arm swing moves through a shorter range of motion.
In summary, this middle portion of the race is all about transition:
- A progression of body angles to an upright posture while maintaining the power line.
- Force application on the ground that moves from predominately horizontal to predominately vertical in direction.
- A gradual transition from a piston-like leg movement to a more cyclic leg movement.
- A gradual change in the range of motion of the arm swing from a wide, sweeping movement to a tighter, faster arm swing.
- If these goals are achieved you’ll reach the upright or maximal velocity phase quickly and efficiently.