Speed kills -- that’s what the movies tell you anyways, right? On a very basic level, the same idea applies to sports as well. The faster you are, the quicker you score, theoretically. Speed is the difference between a touchback and a ninety-yard kick-off return. It can be the difference between a methodical score and a fast-paced, no huddle highlight reel. It’s also why scouts value fast times in the Combine's 40-Yard Dash. So, if you want to take your game to the next level, one of your top priorities should be speed training.
Your speed training should improve your short bursts of speed, acceleration, lateral movement, and the ability to change directions easily. Every play won’t be a long touchdown -- but the faster you are, the higher probability there is of outsmarting a defender, breaking a tackle, or positively influencing the game. Prior to beginning your speed-training program, it’s a good idea to get a general idea of how fast you are.
Enter: The 40-Yard Dash
The 40-Yard Dash is the most-widely used measure of explosive speed. No matter what position you play, speed is important in some form. Players spend hours running, jumping, and lifting all just to lower their dash time. While football workouts are very important, it is equally beneficial for you to learn and practice techniques that will help you shave time off your dash.
The initial push is where too many runners lose tenths of seconds that they desperately need. It's one of the most underrated facets of running, so getting in a good position to succeed is crucial. Start with your strongest leg forward as this is the leg you will push off with. You should have this foot as close to the line as you can get it. The front of your back and front feet should be the same distance apart as your fingertip to elbow is.
Whether you want to be in a 2, 3, or 4 point stance is completely up to you. All that matters is that you start in a low, athletic position that promotes an explosive forward movement. If you do elect to use a 3 or 4 point stance, it's key that you do not put too much weight on your hands!
Your first couple steps should be short and choppy to get a little momentum. As you gain speed they should be getting bigger and bigger and, by the end, you should be in full stride. You should be pumping your arms just as hard as your legs -- this will incorporate your core and give you added explosiveness.
After putting so much work into your 40, you want to give yourself the best chance to get a low time, so finish strong. Make sure to run full speed all the way through the finish line. You'll see many people in the combine push their chest out at the last second, effectively shaving a little extra off your time. However, this may throw you off balance, so practice beforehand.
After finding your speed baseline, try to incorporate the following speed drills into your training about twice a week -- they’ll help transform your game in no time.
- Place three cones to form a triangle, the cones should be about 5 yards apart.
- Start at cone one, it should be in the middle of the other two cones.
- Sprint to cone two, then backpedal to cone one.
- Stop and sprint to the third cone, then backpedal back to cone one again.
- Suggested Duration: 20-30 seconds, recover, repeat.
- Place four cones a form a T shape, the cones should be about 5 yards apart.
- Start at the bottom of the T, sprint forward to the cone in front of you.
- Shuffle 5 yards to the right to the cone.
- Then, shuffle 10 yards to your left to the far cone.
- Shuffle 5 yards back to the middle cone.
- Backpedal to the first cone again.
- Suggested Duration:*20-30 seconds, recover, repeat.
- Place four cones in order to make a straight line, they should be about 5 yards apart.
- Start at the bottom cone and sprint to the second cone.
- Stop, change directions and sprint back to cone one.
- Stop, change direction and sprint up to the third cone.
- Stop, change direction and sprint back to the first cone.
- Stop, change direction and sprint up to the fourth cone.
- Suggested Duration:20-30 seconds, recover, repeat.
(Related: Read about how route running can make you an elite wide receiver here.)
Then, after a few weeks of training, go back to the 40-Yard Dash and see if you’ve improved. It’s likely that your hard work in individual speed training will eventually pay off, so keep grinding. Natural speed is hard to come by, so working on it as much as possibly can will only be beneficial. And, as you can see, there tons of facets and nuances in speed and agility -- it isn’t all about just running in a straight line.
Remember, improving your 40-Yard Dash is a nice bonus, but these skills will directly translate towards beating your opponent with quick direction changes and bursts of speed. If you work on these skills, you’ll see a positive rise in all sections of your game.
If you're struggling with your form and technique, consider hiring one of CoachUp's private instructors. Their incredible knowledge and experience will have you improving your 40-Yard Dash in no time! Or, if you need some drilling partners, we're perfect for that too! Go from slow to quick, then quick to blazing fast with the help of our team! What are you waiting for?
Be prepared for the biggest moments by mastering the small ones off the field.