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February 25, 2013
How to Run the Perfect 40 – The First 10 Yards (Part II)
Last week in Part I, we talked about the 40 Yard Dash and how it has become such an important test for football players. We also talked about the start, and the importance of proper body positions for GRF based on each athlete’s movement signatureTM. Today, we move into the acceleration phase of the 40, particularly the first 10 yards. Not only is the first 10 yards the most important part of running a fast 40 yard time, but it is also arguably a better indicator of speed for football players since acceleration and change of direction are such important parts of the game.

The First 10 Yards…Push don’t Pull

To summarize the first 10 yards, it is all about stride length.  Driving the ground (producing GRF) and maintaining long, efficient body positions is the key to acceleration.  It is not uncommon to see an athletes who are moving their feet really fast, or who look they are working really hard in the first 10.  While these athletes might look fast, they are often some of the slowest because they are spinning their wheels and fighting the air with their arms.  Learning to drive the ground will transform the way they run.

Leaking Force

Maintaining a good body position for acceleration is all about preventing GRF from leaking out of the system.  Forces travel best in straight lines.  Any deviation from a straight line diminishes the “equal and opposite” effect of the force that was produced into the ground.  We often see particular movement signaturesTM that leak force in a certain way.  For example:
  • Flexed: round their upper back and are not able to get full hip extension with every stride
  • Hinge:  are unable to get full knee flexion on the front side and “break” at the waist
  • Swing:  use too much rotation in torso and have cross-body arm action
  • Loose:  lack lower leg stiffness on ground contact and reach for long strides rather than driving for long strides.
These force leaks have an impact on sprint technique and speed, but they are really a result of how each individual moves, and must be addressed through an individual approach of strength, skills, and regen work.  Its not just better sprint technique that makes athletes faster, it is better movement technique.

Making Money

So, running fast comes down to driving the ground and not leaking force.  There is a simple progression that will allow you to master these qualities and significantly improve your speed. Step 1 – Wall Drills (see Sparta Point) are the foundation for learning sprint positions.  Become a master, and always refresh the basics as a paprt of your warm-up. Step 2 – Sled March (see Sparta Point) is the best drill for combining sprint technique and body position with GRF.  If you can only do one speed drill, do sled marches. Step 3 – Acceleration Bounds (see Sparta Point) are the ultimate teaching tool for sprint technique.  Use video feedback to analyze your form. Practice these exercises, and all that’s left to do is run.  Don’t run 400s or 100s or 60s or 40s.  Run 10 yard sprints over and over and over again.  Not only will this have the biggest impact on your 40 or 60 time, but it will also have the most carryover to game speed.
February 25, 2013
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5 thoughts on “How to Run the Perfect 40 – The First 10 Yards (Part II)”

  1. Great Stuff!

    I dont bother too much or in depth with the 40 anymore, although it is part of our NFL Combine training and it is used in Indy.

    I like to use the 10 yard split and vert jump and for me it’s the bread & butter which tells so much about the athlete.

    Slow 10 yards splits to me means the athlete can’t overcome inertia and needs max strength work.

    In Sparta talk, I guess that means Rate.

    Curious as to how you weigh the sled so you don’t affect sprint mechanics.


    Jorge Carvajal

    1. Thanks Jorge.

      We only use the sled for acceleration work, so heavier weights actually help to maintain body position and lean while focusing on force production into the ground. This is one of the best ways to learn and improve mechanics

      Also, our sled work is done with a marching tempo not a running tempo. This helps to prevent compensation. We use different weight for different levels of athletes, but generally the sled is loaded with between 245 lbs and 435 lbs.

  2. How many times do you mean by over and over and over again? Are there any limits to this or is it the more the better?

    1. Thanks for the question. There certainly are limits. QUALITY practice is the determining factor. The nice thing about working on 10s is that you can get more volume with lower physical “cost” and risk for injury.

      We will usually do 20-30 minutes of technique drills, then work our way up to about 5 full efforts at the 10.

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