Decrease Your 40 Yard Dash Time

Decrease Your 40 Yard Dash Time in the Weightroom - Part I

If you want to go places in football, then you had better work on your 40 yard dash. While the forty yard dash is probably the most overrated test, its also the test that most coaches rely on when scouting a player. Given the emphasis that is placed on this one test, I am surprised at how many athletes come to combines and camps unprepared. I see athletes wearing the wrong shoes or the wrong clothes and I can tell that many of them dont know the proper starting technique or running mechanics. Furthermore, its obvious that most players havent done any effective speed or strength training leading up to the big day. I tell my athletes that they have to consider the forty yard dash as a job interview that could land them a scholarship or millions of dollars when their stock goes up in the draft. Remember that first impressions mean everything, so plan ahead and be prepared to run like a professional. Dont get me wrong, running a great 40 yard dash doesnt mean that youre automatically a great football player, but it will turn heads and give you the chance needed to show universities or professional teams what you can do on the field.
When training for the 40 yard dash, players tend to forget how important it is to be STRONG! I have yet to see a weak player run a great forty yard dash. As a Sports Performance Coach I know through personal experience that players who speed and strength train on a continuous basis will experience dramatic gains over those who only focus on speed training. One athlete who followed SSTs 12-week speed and strength training program went from a 5.05 to a 4.62 at the National football combines this year.
There are three main factors that SST considers when designing a strength training program for football players who want to decrease their forty yard dash time. First, we assess the players experience and abilities. Factors such as age, previous training experience, fitness level and amount of time available for training are considered. Next, we evaluate the players 40 yard dash to determine weaknesses. Do we need to improve his start, decrease his ground contact time or work on reaching maximum speed? Lastly, we focus on strengthening the players weakest muscles. As a general rule SST has found that football players tend to have weak lower back, hamstring and VMO muscle (VMO, or vastus medialis, is the teardrop muscle found on the inside of the quadriceps), therefore for the purpose of this article we will highlight , what we believe to be, the top six exercises designed to strengthen these muscles.
In Part I of this two part article, I will explain the first three exercises: snatch grip deadlifts, tire flipping and Olympic lifts and their derivatives. These exercises strengthen lower back and hamstring muscles which are key components for achieving maximum speed.
Exercise #1 - Snatch Grip Deadlifts
If I had to choose only one strength training exercise to improve a player’s 40 yard dash time, I would pick snatch grip deadlifts because they work the entire posterior chain (lower back and hamstrings). Snatch grip deadlifts are a bit different than your traditional deadlift in that they recruit more of the hamstrings due to the angle of the trunk and a wider grip.
Results: improve start, increase maximum speed
Description: Starting position- feet are shoulder width apart. Grip is wider than your traditional grip. Elbows are turned out. Shoulder blades are retracted. Knees over the bar. Chest and shoulders over the bar. Lower back is arched. Initiate lift with hamstrings and lower back. Maintain lower back arch throughout. Keep bar path straight.

Variations: snatch grip deadlifts off a podium, snatch grip deadlifts with chains and traditional deadlifts.
Exercise #2 - Tire Flipping
Tire flipping is not your traditional weight room exercise but its a functional way to develop the posterior chain (lower back and hamstrings). This is a grueling exercise that has lot of return for its effort.
Results: improve grip strength, decrease 40 time (after 12 weeks SST athletes decreased their 40 time by up to 3 tenths)
Description: Start in a deadlift position and grab the tire from underneath (fingers under the tire). Lift the tire using your legs and pop your hips forward. Flip your hands around (palms on the tire) and push the tire away from you in an explosive manner. You must keep your back arched throughout the entire movement to prevent lower back injuries.

Exercise #3 - Olympic Lifts and Derivatives
Olympic Lifts consist of power cleans, hang cleans and snatches. These exercises must be done explosively which means as fast as possible. The amount of weight doesnt matter as much as the speed of the bar. Of all the Olympic lifts the snatch uses the most muscles in the body. People tend to shy away from this exercise but I have found it to be the most effective and easier to teach than cleans. In order to achieve maximum results and avoid injury its important to employ proper technique and use the right weight when performing Olympic lifts. If you are not familiar with Olympic lifting and their derivatives call your local weightlifting club or email me at
Results: faster starts and less ground contact time
Description: An explanation of hang snatch from thigh will be provided because it is the most applicable. Starting position - feet are shoulder width apart. Grasp bar with hook grip. To determine the distance between hand placements measure your elbow to elbow distance with arms straight out to sides. From this point move the bar explosively from thighs by extending the hip, knee and ankle joints in a jumping action. This is also known as triple extension of the joints. Keep the bar close to the body. This is a very important element and should be perfected. At maximum plantar flexion (up on the balls of the feet), shrug the shoulders, flex and pull with the arms. Pull the bar as high as possible. As the bar reaches maximum height, flex and then rotate elbows around and under the bar. Then fully extend the elbows and lock the bar overhead. Catch the bar with knees and hips flexed and squat down slowly and under control. The hang snatch is a complicated exercise that should only be performed in the presence of a qualified coach.

In Part II, I will explain the remaining three exercises that focus on increasing VMO strength: squats with chains, wobble board split squats and sled dragging. Strengthening the VMO muscle will help decrease ground contact time which is vital in order to increase speed. The less time a player spends on the ground, the faster hell be!

Decrease Your 40 Yard Dash Time in the Weightroom - Part II

In Part I of this article readers were introduced to the concept that strength = speed. Specifically, football players wishing to decrease their 40 yard dash time were told to focus on strengthening their lower back, hamstring and VMO muscles (teardrop muscle found on the inside of the quadriceps). Part I reviewed the best exercises for strengthening lower back and hamstring muscles, so lets move on to the top three exercises for developing VMO strength: squats with chains, wobble board split squats and sled dragging.
Exercise #1 - Squats with chains
If you improve your speed during the first 10 yards of your 40 yard dash then half your battle is over. In the first 10 yards, its all about quads and glutes so choose exercises that specifically work these muscle groups. SST suggests squats with chains.
When SST says squats, we dont mean those quarter or 90 degree squats that most trainers advocate, we mean good old-fashioned rock bottom squats. Why? Its simple; rock bottom squats do a better job of developing glutes and quads (especially the VMO).
To further increase the effectiveness of the squat, SST has their athletes perform squats with chains. During a squat an athlete is strongest in the top position and weakest at the bottom. By using chains, SST compensates for the strength curve by matching weight to strength levels. For example, say youre squatting 300lbs plus 50lbs of chains. At the top, when you are your strongest, the chains are hanging so you are lifting 350lbs. As you squat down and your strength level decreases, you are only lifting 300lbs because the chains are resting on the ground.
Results: Increase VMO strength, decrease ground contact time, improve strength & speed during first 10 yards of the 40 yard dash
Description: Start with chest out and lower back arched. Begin to drop hips to ground by first bending knees as far forward as possible and then lowering hips until hamstrings cover calves. Pause for 1 second at bottom. Lift up through legs while maintaining arched back. Feet must remain flat on the ground at all times.

Variations: squats, front squats with and without chains, back squats with bands and jump squats
Exercise #2- Wobbleboard Split Squats
Youre probably thinking What the heck is a split squat. Split squats are a lunge without explosiveness. Whats a wobbleboard? Imagine a small board with a hard ball stuck under it (its not exactly that, but you get the idea). By performing split squats on a wobbleboard you are training your leg muscles from the hip joint down in an unstable environment. Destabilizing your leg muscles ensures that your VMO gets blasted&in a good way of course. It also allows you to recruit more leg muscles than you would have had you been training in stable environment.
Results: Increase VMO strength, stabilize muscle strength in legs, decrease ground contact time
Description: Starting position: place foot of non-dominant leg on wobbleboard. With chest out and shoulders back, move hips forward and downward while remaining upright. Allow the front knee to travel over toe of front foot until hamstring is covering the calf. Pause for a second then push off heel of front foot back to starting position. Repeat. The challenge is to keep the sides of the wobbleboard from touching the ground.

Variations: sitfit split squats, wobbleboard/sitfit split squats with dumbbells (only when you are good enough at balancing) and split squats with low pulley cable for added resistance
Exercise #3- Sled Dragging
Sled dragging is a great way to increase functional strength if you dont have a weightroom facility at your disposal. Mind you, SST does not advocate running with a sled behind you because it will alter your running form. The various sled exercises used by SST for speed training are too numerous to list in the article, thus we will focus on two of our most popular: walking backwards on the balls of your feet and walking lunges.
Results: Increase maximum speed and decrease ground contact time
Description: Walking Backwards - fasten harness around waist. Keep chest over feet. Maintain arched back. Bend hips and knees. Begin by taking slow, deliberate steps backwards. Move arms in a running motion. Word to the wise, this exercise will feel really easy for the first ten yards but by the time you reach forty yards, your quads (especially your VMO) will be screaming. Once you are able to cover 100 yds with ease slowly add weight to the sled.
Walking Lunges fasten belt around waste and attach rope from harness to belt. With sled dragging behind, perform a lunge with front leg. Upon landing explode upwards and out. Do not just pop up, the key is to push up and forward. Coaching Tips: keep your front heel down, maintain an upright posture and EXPLODE!

Have others found teaching the snatch easier than teaching the clean? Not me. Interesting read though. Pretty straightforward. I would get rid of the wobble board.

those articles are very old…

what do u guys think about his other post?

I suppose we shouldn’t jump to the conclusion that he’s suggesting the weightroom is the only means used. Should we?

i hate to say, but thats what hes saying. but also hes only training guys for short distance 40yds…

Well, I can tell you this much from experience. 40yards is 39 yards farther than you can perfect in the weight room alone!

lol. so u dont think a westside type program and starts once or twice a week would yeild good 40yd dash gains. what if u have a athlete that has no indoor track and the outdoor temp is 5 degrees?

Notice anything??
First you evaluate the player to see where he needs to improve and then you give him exercises that you claim will improve everything anyway:
“Faster starts AND less ground contact time”.
“improve start AND increase maximum speed.”
Tire flipping (f**k me gently!): “after 12 weeks SST athletes decreased their 40 time by up to 3 tenths”
(“up to” clearly includes the number zero)

lol, thats fuuny shit:

from joe defranco:

Q: How many days a week should I run if I want to improve my 40-yard dash time? I live on the east coast and now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m ready to hit the track and get fast!


A: Here’s the deal. The shorter the distance of the race, the less often you have to run to improve upon it. Since the 40 is a very short race, it relies heavily on strength, power and technique. After you are properly coached on the intricacies and technique of the race, the majority of your training should take place in the weight room. I found that after around 6-8 sessions of running forties and practicing technique, the biggest limiting factor in an athlete’s speed is his/her strength, flexibility and/or body composition.

A great example of this is Boston College linebacker Vinny Ciurciu. Vinny has been a client of mine for the past 4 years. Over the years he has run endless 10-yard sprints and 40-yard dashes. He knows the technique to the 40-yard dash better than most qualified speed & strength coaches. This is why leading into the biggest 40-yard dash of his life (at his Pro Day on March 26th) his training focused primarily on strength/explosive power training, flexibility and proper nutrition. He lifted weights and incorporated intense flexibility training on an average of 4 days a week, ran on an average of 1-2 days a week and followed a diet of lean proteins, essential fatty acids and low-glycemic carbohydrates. Exercises of primary importance were dynamic box squats with bands, trap bar deadlifts from a podium with chains, barbell reverse lunges and reverse hyperextensions. During flexibility training sessions the hip flexors, gluteals and hamstrings were given top priority.

After all was said and done, Vinny ran an official 4.43-second forty-yard dash, weighing 240 lbs.!

I’m pretty sure you can figure something out that will include some box jumps, hops, med ball accels on a mat etc. And you better!
If you go into a 40y test without any sprinting at all, what do you think the likely result will be?

also he did his speed squats. lol

I know of a fellow who went to a speed guru in the off-season (not one of these) and he recorded under 4.7 once at 330lbs. What was the result? Unfortunately, he went twice- and his team shipped him up to see me for a hamstring repair.
He was a super nice guy and he blamed himself for the injury but I’m not so sure I go along with that.

Can’t argue with Joe’s results. If he didn’t produce, he’d be out of a job…well he wouldn’t be sought by NFL prospects at least.

lol. i wouldnt consider the nfl draft prospects he train top notch for one. not saying hes not a great trainer but i wouldnt call him a speed guru.

4.7 at 330 not bad.

Yes. No joke!!

what do u think about joe defranco

Sorry. I don’t know much about his training.