The start to the 40 yard sprint is arguably the most important part and, if deficient, is where the greatest improvement can be made in the shortest amount of time. Often times training for a combine or pro-day comes down to the weeks before the event when technical mastery is the goal and improvements in technique alone will make the largest difference. Events like this are about maximizing your performance in all areas of the drill. It is important to showcase to coaches and scouts your physical potential.
Combine prep generally consists of 6 weeks of specific training prior to the event. During this time the primary goal is technical mastery of all the test that will be performed. Strength/power training should still be incorporated, but it needs to take a backseat to technique work.
Getting back to the subject of this article, the start of the 40 is where athletes separate themselves. Focusing on a few simple areas can make a marked improvement in your final time. First getting your body in the proper setup is critical, every action and position feeds off the preceding one and if there is an error in your starting position it will be compounded as you progress forward. In relation to the start, the first step is the most critical aspect in the success or failure of the 40.
Starting positions can vary slightly form athlete to athlete based on size and body type but the general rules remain the same. There are many different techniques used for the 40 star, the following is one in which we use with certain athletes. The athlete should set up with one foot forward and one back. The front foot should be a half a foot length to a foot length back from the start line. This dependent upon the height and length of the individual The back foot should be positioned based on placing the front knee on the ground next to the front foot. Taller athletes will need to place the knee further back towards the heel while shorter athletes will need to place it closer to the toe. Foot width should be hip width apart.
Powerful hip extension is what propels the athlete off the line, so placing the feet under the hips maximizes the transfer of power from the hips into the ground. Next, the hand on the same side of the back foot is placed as close to the start line as possible with the thumb and index finger against the line. The opposite hand should be positioned back by the hip. Now that the hands and feet are positioned you can set the rest of your body. Your down hand should be directly under that side shoulder with the majority of your weight on the front hand and foot. Your hips should be positioned above your knees with your chin tucked so your head is down.
Once in a proper starting position you can then get into your first step. If this is the first time in this position for the athlete they will have to try a few different setups to see what works best for them. When executing your first step make sure to keep your head down and have an aggressive arm action. Force should primarily be generated with the front foot driving the back knee forward. The goal is to cover as much ground as possible with the first step while still landing on the ball of your foot ready to produce force with the next step. As your body accelerates out of your stance you should be focusing on keeping your head down and a low body angle. As you move from start to acceleration to top speed your body angle should gradually build up. Do not be in a hurry to get up, stay down and continue to accelerate as long as possible.
Focusing on the start of your 40 will prove to make a significant difference in your overall time. It is the most technical aspect and can make the largest difference between success and failure. Every movement feed off the preceding movement. If your first movement is flawed the rest will be as well.