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How To Improve Your 40 Yard Dash

How To Improve Your 40 Yard Dash

The 40-yard dash has become an iconic test for speed and explosiveness in athletes. It is a race against yourself for time in a forty-yard sprint, as the name indicates. This intense, max effort sprint carries more implications than just reigning the fastest individual, though. It births pride, embodies hard work and discipline, and truly exemplifies an extraordinary athlete. If you plan on playing football at a collegiate or professional level, want to test your speed against others, or simply just want to become faster, this article is for you.

40-Yard Dash Times

The fastest confirmed 40-yard dash time is 4.24 seconds by Rondel Menendez, later matched by Chris Johnson. Even more impressive is Texas Tech’s Jakeem Grant, rumored to have run a 4.12, but this claim lacks evidence and therefore cannot be substantiated. Below is a chart of average 40-yard dash times by position to get the feel for average times among professional athletes (Topher, 2013).

Best 40 Yard Dash Times

Position Average Time Position Average Time
Wide Receiver 4.55 Inside Linebacker 4.80
Cornerback 4.55 Quarterback 4.87
Running Back 4.59 Defensive End 4.88
Safety 4.62 Defensive Tackle 5.17
Outside Linebacker 4.74 Center 5.30
Tight End 4.77 Offensive Tackle 5.32
Fullback 4.80 Offensive Guard 5.36

How can you earn a 40-yard time rivaling these incredible athletes? Well, it’s a combination of external factors, form, training style, and nutrition. These football players have been coached and trained for years under rigorous regimens and surveillance to achieve their speed, so do not expect this article to make you the next Chris Johnson, but these tips and guides provide a great place to start.


How To Influence Your Speed

The external factors that should be considered include anything that impacts running capability. This includes lung capacity, endurance, shoes, and optimal body function. It isn’t limited to just those factors, but any action that can influence your speed and explosiveness should be examined if you’re trying to improve your 40-yard dash time.

Lung capacity and endurance almost go hand in hand. As training volume and experience increase both lung and endurance ability increase. These factors are both important because of oxygen’s impact in the muscles, specifically during intense, anaerobic exercise. Improving both factors requires increased training volume, proper breathing techniques, and potentially weight loss.

Shoes undeniably prove a major element in improving the 40-yard dash time. There is no best shoe, however. The right shoe depends on the circumstances of the runner. Track athletes best utilize light shoes with spikes because of the tracks they run on. Football players might want an entirely different shoe because they run and test on different terrain – turf or grass.

The last of the external factors that I will cover is optimal bodily function. This is a combination of nutrition, sleep, and hydration. Would the top sprinters in the world eat candy bars and pizza? No, of course not, because they understand that for the body to perform at its best nutrition needs to be taken seriously. This looks like clean sources of food, proper amount of food, and high water intake. Sleep is also an important facet of optimal body function, as it improves mental focus, mood, and a variety of other influences. A study done on college level athletes determined that increased sleep led to a 0.7 second reduction in a 94-yard sprint (Mah et al, 2011).


Training Styles

Training can be broken down into two focuses: weight training and running. Both are equally important and comprise of many different aspects.

Form in both running and lifting is incredibly important. Below are exercises to assist 40-yard dash time in weight training, but before lifting heavy form needs to be checked. The internet is an amazing resource to look up videos on proper form and mechanics, but it’s even better to have a trainer or coach assist you in person. Form while sprinting is a bit more meticulous. The technique can be broken down into the stance, start, and the body of the run.

Sprinting: THE RACE


The stance is one of the most important parts. A good stance can make or break a 40-yard dash and can offer a major time drop due to its impact on initial acceleration.

? The non-dominant foot starts ahead of the dominant foot

? Feet staggered, slightly less than shoulder width

? One palm rests on the turf, but not too heavily

? The other arm is cocked back

? Hips up, knees bent

? Head down


The start, coupled with the stance, affect acceleration. The start should be very powerful leg drive into the ground and exaggerated movements pushing forward.

? Really dig into the ground and drive forward

? Drive with the knees and arms (Knees drive forward very hard and high especially during the start)

? Keep arms slightly bent

? Body shouldn’t be fully upright yet, rather in a 45 degree angle

Body of the Run

? This is where the upper body begins to reach the upright position

? Maintain high knee drive and arm pump

? One visual cue that helps some athletes is to look forward towards the finish

? Once you begin looking downfield, you should be at about top speed. Try to maintain or increase it by really digging into the ground with your feet and carrying that power through your knee drive.

? When finishing run through the line and slow down after you’re done, do not slow down before

american football sprint speed

Weight Training: THE SUPPORT

The goal of weight training is not just to become a stronger, more developed athlete, but it also directly supports a faster 40-yard dash by harnessing explosiveness and developing muscular patterns.


? Resistance Band Sprints

? Sled Pull/Push

? Heavy Squat

? Deadlift

? Trap Bar Deadlift

? Power Cleans

? Push press

? Bench Press

? Box Jumps

? Weighted Bodyweight Movements (dips, pull-ups, wall sit, push-up)

? Rack Pulls

? Bent over Row or Dumbbell Row

The exercises above are all power movements and will make up the bulk of your weight training. They should be utilized in low reps, and high volume. This would look like up to 4 sets of 4-6 reps for each exercise. Workout splits for power are usually organized into push/pull/legs/rest or upper body/lower body/rest.

Take Home Message

A fast 40-yard dash has much more than meets the eye. It is made up of many elements, none of which can be ignored when trying to become faster. Dropping time looks at a variety of these factors: form, body function, weight training, and external factors, and each holds equal importance. If you’d like to reach those professional level times then you must seek to perfect each and every one of those aspects. Study and apply these techniques and you’re already one step closer to your fastest 40-yard dash yet.

Keep a close eye on the wide receivers in this weekends final and pay attention to their sprinting technique. You can learn a lot from the best.

Cheri D. Mah, MS1 ; Kenneth E. Mah, MD, MS1 ; Eric J. Kezirian, MD, MPH2 ; William C. Dement, MD, PhD1. “The Effects of Sleep Extension on the Athletic Performance of Collegiate Basketball                Players.” EFFECTS OF SLEEP EXTENSION ON ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE 34.No. 7 (2011): 5. 2011.   Web.

Doll, Topher. “Some Clarification Is in Order: Average Speed by Position.” Mile High Report. Mile High Report, 12 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Jan. 2017.

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Matt Watson

Matt Watson

Writer and expert

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