Published on Enhanced Fitness and Performance (http://www.enhancedfp.com)

40 yd. Dash Technique by Joe Defranco

By DMorgan
Created 03/30/2007 - 9:59pm

Credit to www.defrancostraining.com

Q: Coach Defranco – I’m currently training for a regional combine. I have your combine dvd [1] and your techniques have improved all of my events except I’m having problems with your 40 yard dash technique. The problem is that you say to “steal every inch” and set up as close to the start line as possible. In your video your front foot is only an inch or 2 behind the start line. I feel really uncomfortable that close and I can’t seem to get much push on my first step. My first step is short and I keep popping up on my 1st step. Should I keep working at it or should I make a change? I only have about 4 more weeks. PLEASE HELP COACH!!

A: Todd,

You’re experiencing a very common problem. Many athletes are not comfortable getting as close to the line as I teach in my Combine DVD [2]. There are a couple of reasons for this.  

In my Combine DVD [3], I mention that taller athletes and athletes that posses low levels of relative body strength will have trouble setting up really close to the line. I have learned a lot since I released that video and I now realize that there are other factors which affect an athlete’s ability to set up really close to the line. A new factor that I’ve noticed is that some athletes have long lower legs compared to the length of their femurs. In other words, height & bodyweight aren’t the only factors regarding how close an athlete can get to the line and still be comfortable. You may have an athlete that’s not that tall, but his lower legs are long in relation to his femurs. This (lack of) leverage makes it difficult to crowd the line in your 40 stance and still achieve a proper shin angle.

Speaking of shin angle, the shin angle is the KEY to the proper 40-yard dash stance. The goal is still to crowd the line as much as possible while achieving a POSITIVE SHIN ANGLE! The optimal shin angle that we’re trying to achieve is having your lower legs at approximately a 45-degree angle in relation to the ground. Your knees must remain in front of your toes and you want to feel pressure in BOTH feet.

Below you will see a great example of an athlete who was having trouble setting up really close to the start line even though he is extremely lean & strong. Because of the length of his lower legs, he wasn’t able to achieve the proper shin angle when he was too close to the line; therefore, his 10-yard sprint times weren’t doing his speed any justice. (We all know this kid can run – just ask the Michigan offense! But, NFL scouts still want to see a great 40 time to go along with an athlete’s “game speed”. So last week when this athlete was home for spring break, we got a head start for when that time comes.) Here’s what we found regarding this athlete’s 40-yard dash technique…

40-yard dash technique

When the above athlete set up 2 inches behind the start line, he took 7 ½ steps to run 10 yards. This was because his shins were pointing straight down in his stance. (He was too “bunched up” when he was really close to the start line.) Simple physics will tell us that if you apply force straight down into the ground, you’re going to pop straight UP! So in this athlete’s case, by moving him BACK about 6 more inches from the start line, he was able to achieve a more advantageous shin angle (45-degrees), which in turn, enabled him to push BACK into the ground at the start. Applying force backwards into the ground helped him cover more ground on his first step (even though he was further behind the line.) After making this adjustment, this athlete was able to run 10 yards in 6 ½ steps, compared to 7 ½ steps. By taking 1 less step during the first 10 yards, we were able to shave .11 off of his electronic 10-yards sprint time in 1 day!

Now check out the sprint for yourself. Notice how I have my athletes start their set-up by placing their hands in FRONT of the start line; then, the goal is to “walk” their hands back without shifting too much of their bodyweight back. This enables them to set up with more of their weight forward which translates into a more explosive 1st step. Also note the shin angle while the athlete is in his stance. The “positive” 45-degree angle enables him to apply force BACK into the turf and reach our desired goal for the first step. We still need to increase the distance of his 1st step & maintain his 45-degree forward body lean a little longer, but we’re on the right track…

Details, details, details… In order to make a great athlete even better, you gotta be an anal bastard!

Joe D.

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