Archive for January, 2009

Training for the NFL Combine- 40 yard dash

Posted in Training on January 20, 2009 by mboyle1959

The following is excerpted from a piece I wrote previously and is used with the permission of

Training for the forty yard dash is an interesting process and has become a near obsession in football. The reality is that most athletes are looking to reduce the forty-yard dash time by as little as .1 to .2 seconds. In order to accomplish a one to two tenths of a second reduction I have always advocated training for the first ten yard segment of the forty yard, as this is the area of greatest potential change.

In fact when training athletes for the NFL Combine I have never had an athlete run longer than a twenty-yard dash. Our athletes routinely have gone to the NFL Combine without ever having run a forty-yard dash. To some this may seem foolish but I prefer to view the process as both intelligent and cautious. Athletes rarely injure themselves running a ten-yard dash but often seem to incur muscle strains from repeat forty-yard dash attempts.

In fact, in a race that takes from 4.3 seconds to 5.3 seconds to complete at the elite level, the first ten-yard segment takes the longest time and by default is the easiest to impact. Ten-yard dash times range from 1.5 seconds to 2 seconds.

Each proceeding ten yard segment taking roughly 1 to 1.1 seconds to complete. By simply improving performance in the ten-yard dash, we can easily take off the elusive .1 seconds that so many athletes are looking for. In fact for most elite athletes the forty-yard dash is actually a test of acceleration and not one of speed. I believe we mistakenly use the term speed when in fact we are referring to acceleration. When we say an athlete has great speed we actually mean that he or she has great acceleration. In the famous Ben Johnson versus Carl Lewis races top speed was not reached until the 60-meter mark. This means that the athletes continued to accelerate for a full 60 meters. An athlete that runs a 1.5 second ten yard dash may be capable of a 4.3 second forty yard dash. However, the athlete may run a 1.5 second first ten segment and 2.6 second twenty. This means that the acceleration pattern is as follows:

0-10 1.5 sec

10-20 1.1 sec

When looking at the chart above it becomes glaringly obvious that the initial segment takes 1.5 times the length of the other three. As a result it is obviously the segment most apt to be altered.

Think about this. The forty-yard dash should be run in approximately seventeen steps. Simple. An athlete with a normal stride length will measure out at about 7.5 feet. This means that a reasonably good sprinter will cover 15 feet, or five yards, every two steps. I believe the big key to the forty yard dash is to get the athlete to develop stride length in the first ten yard segment by pushing, not overreaching. Why seventeen? The first five-yard segment should take three steps; the remaining seven segments would take two steps each for a total of seventeen steps. Is seventeen the magic number? No. The key is to teach athletes to push, not reach and to minimize stutter steps. We try to get our athletes to master three steps for five yards and five steps for ten yards and, to do it without a reaching action. We continue to emphasize that stride length is a function of back-side action-reaction and not front side reach. We teach lots of push with no emphasis on stride length from the front side mechanics. In fact we never do B-skip type drills, as I believe they teach improper mechanics and are not appropriate for forty-yard sprinters.

Here are the keys to the first ten yards.

– Is the athlete moving quickly or does he look like he is moving quickly? What does this mean? Many athletes come out of the start with great turnover and go nowhere. They remind me of the Roadrunner from the cartoons. Wheels spinning and going nowhere fast. Often these guys look fast and run slow. Generally these guys are fast twitch athletes who do not like the weight room. The great accelerators often look slow coming out because they are producing great force and minimized steps. Running is all about Newton’s First Law. Action-Reaction. Force placed into the ground produces motion forward, very simple. The start is clearly not about turnover or frequency but about force into the ground. This is the reason there is such a strong correlation between vertical jump and forty-yard dash times. Vertical jump is simply a measure of Newton’s First law. When an athlete applies force into the ground, the ground applies force back in an equal and opposite manner. More force, more vertical displacement.

– Have you timed your athletes for a 10 and 20-yard dash? As I said in the previous paragraph I’ve seen slow guys with lots of turnover and very little movement? Try being objective versus subjective. Time your athletes not just in the forty, but also in the ten and twenty. 1.5 sec hand held is fast. 1.8 is average for a ten (adult male).

– Next, video the ten yard dash and the twenty yard dash. See how many steps it takes an athlete to run ten and twenty yards. Don’t tell the athlete to cut down steps, simply tell him to push the ground as hard as possible. Simply telling an athlete that you are counting steps will cause over striding. You want to see how many steps it takes. This will tell you if you have an athlete who is moving his feet but not applying any force. A good sprinter will run the 10 in 5-6 steps and the 20 in 9-10 steps.

– Also look at the video and see the first step. Does the athlete gain ground? A good indicator of a powerful start is that the foot taking the second step does not touch the ground while the front foot is still on the line. In other words, after step one you should not see two feet in contact with the ground. You will be amazed at how many guys simply step out of the start instead of pushing out of the start. Just as we confuse speed and acceleration, we often confuse first step and first push. A quick first step does nothing. It is the push that creates the action-reaction, not the step. What you want is great push, not a great step. This also relates to stride length. Stride length is accomplished by great forces placed into the ground, not by things like knee lift.

– Another great indicator that the athlete is beginning to understand powerful starts is when the athlete appears to be falling forward out of the start, almost out of control. I tell my athletes to drive themselves out of the start so aggressively that they almost fall flat on their face. I cheer if they look like they are going to fall. That shows me great aggressive push.

– Time each test three times. Either average all three or take the middle, throwing out the high and low. You don’t want to record a mistake. Electronic timers don’t make mistakes unless there is a malfunction. Throw out scores that are obviously wrong.

Start Tips
– Weight is on the front hand and foot. This is not track. There is no block. The back foot can be minimally helpful.

– Hips are low, don’t raise the butt. You can’t push out from straight legs.

– Never take instructions from a track coach on forty technique. They are used to blocks, you don’t have them.

– Eyes are between the hand and foot. Don’t look up. The head should be in a normal anatomical position

– Weight should be so far forward that if you don’t run, you would fall.

Start Drills
1. Dive Starts- have the athlete dive into a crash pad from the start position. This is a great drill for teaching first-push power

2. Timed 10’s- I love timed tens. I try to watch the start and count the steps. We use a Speed Trap timer and don’t watch the clock. We will time every week, sometimes twice a week. A few rules.

• Tell the athletes only three attempts per day. This leaves time for the athlete to ask for “one more” at least twice. I really want to time five reps but, always tell them three.

• Try to get the athletes to forget about the timer and concentrate on the technical things you want done. Big push out of the start, great hip extension etc.

• Please note: – the use of a timer is an excellent way to reduce anxiety about being timed. My athletes are very comfortable about being timed by the time the Combine or Pro Day comes around. It also should be noted that many athletes will choke and revert to old patterns as soon as a timing device is presented. Timing early and often allows the athlete to see the changes in pattern like stepping out of the start or stuttering. The timer also generally reinforces that these behaviors are slower, not faster. Frequent use of the timer does what the book The One Minute Manager calls “catching someone doing something right”. We focus on execution, not time. Great execution will lead to better times, which will ingrain proper habits.

3. 3 for 5, 5 for ten (this is a tough drill as you will constantly have to emphasize that stride length comes from push, not reach, be careful with this drill) I view this as an advanced drill and one that must be monitored constantly. Success is not accomplished by number of steps or strides but quality of strides.

4. One Leg Starts- this is another great drill to teach the athlete how to use the front foot in the start. Simply ask the athlete to run a series of timed tens using only the front foot. This will teach the athlete how to focus on exploding of the front leg. Often our athletes will move from abysmal at this drill to being able to run as fast as from a three point start.

Just a reminder, these drills will improve what you already have. They are teaching drills. The real key to speed lies in increasing force production. To really improve speed these drills and cues must be combined with a lower body strength and power program that emphasizes maximal strength. Don’t underestimate the value of force production in the forty.

Another reminder, if you really want to understand speed, pick up a copy of Charlie Francis Training for Speed. Charlie Francis hits on basic concepts in a way no one has before or after. In spite of any perceived scandal Francis is still the best sprint coach of all time.

This Week on

Posted in Uncategorized on January 19, 2009 by mboyle1959

This week on is female athlete week. Two of our articles will deal with endurance training and female athletes and one will deal with strength training

The first article was one I wrote last week in response to a forum post about females and distance training for basketball. The article is called Should Female Athletes Run Distance. The great thing about the forum is that is often a good source for inspiration. This article will help young strength and conditioning coaches deal with uniformed sport coaches and will help young personal trainers deal with uniformed parents.

Next up will be a reprint of an old series I did along the same lines called Should Women Run? This was very controversial when I wrote it because I originally published it on a consumer site. This series was originally three parts but is reprinted here as one. I’m republishing it to give some background to Monday’s article.

The last article comes from our friends at Virginia Commonwealth, Tim Kontos, David Adamson and Sarah Walls and is called Top 10 Reasons Heavy Weights Don’t Bulk Up the Female Athlete. The article was originally published on and is a great piece for female athletes to read.

Last but not least is our video of the week. This week we’ll show a variation of the Reaching One Leg Straight Leg Deadlift.

As always don’t forget Episode 27 of the StrengthCoach Podcast .

Last but, not least if you missed our Fat Loss Secrets Webinar you can still go to . Once you purchase it, you will be sent an email with a link and a password for viewing.”

Hope you enjoy the week.


Training for the NFL Combine

Posted in Uncategorized on January 15, 2009 by mboyle1959

20 Yard Shuttle

The twenty yard shuttle run or the Pro Agility drill as it is also know is the standard test of lateral movement ability. The drill involves a five yard sprint to the right, followed by a 10 yard sprint to the left and finishing with a 5 yard sprint to the right. The drill is alternately called a 5-10-5 drill for obvious reasons. Scouts generally consider good lateral movement to be .4 seconds less than the forty yard dash time. In other words, an athlete who runs a 4.4 second forty yard dash should be capable of a 4.0 Pro Agility.

Technique here is a bit controversial. Many successful coaches are having excellent results with competing philosophies. In fact, this drill is one that has shown the largest improvement over the past few years as techniques get better. Our current technique is as follows
1- Narrow start stance with a crossover start
2- Five yards right in 3 steps ( please note, one missed step necessitates two steps as the athlete must touch with the right hand and right foot). The big key here is to land on the outside edge of the left foot and execute am immediate crossover step.
3- Ten yards left in 6 steps. Step five is a hard right foot plant leading to another crossover.
4- Sprint three steps through the center.
5- Big keys- 12 steps. Missteps can turn 12 into 16 . The next big keys are great crossovers at both turns.

One area of controversy is touching the ground with the inside hand to get a low turn. Although we do not teach it most athletes are beginning to do it. Some scouts ignore this, others don’t. As many of these tests have been done for years, there are only basic rules and the process continues to evolve. As we have improved our teaching methods we have seen times move to .5 to .6 seconds lower than the forty yard dash and recently have begun to get athletes in the 3.9 range which seemed unachievable a few years ago.

Video of the Week

Posted in Injuries, Random Thoughts, Training on January 13, 2009 by mboyle1959

One of our members, Ray McCarthy, asked me to explain the Yoga Table, an active stretch that was mentioned in one of the workouts we posted. I actually searched some Yoga sites for a picture and could not find one. So I shot a video clip. I’m not sure where I came up with this but, it works.

The Yoga Table , as we perform it, is a great exercise and serves a bunch of purposes. The key is to lift up with the glutes ( glute activation) while stabilizing the spine by drawing in the abs ( core activation). What this does is stretch the psoas in an active isolated manner ( glute contraction with hip extension and lumbar stabilization equals psoas stretch). An added benefit is an upper body stretch in the shoulders.

The shoulder flexibility may limit the hip stretch in some tight athletes so the move becomes more of an upper body stretch than a hip stretch.

This is actually one of my favorite active flexibility exercises because it has so much “bang for the buck”.

This Week on

Posted in Uncategorized on January 12, 2009 by mboyle1959

This week on we have a couple of reprinted articles, a new article and a new video. Why reprinted articles? I think there is some great stuff that our readers may not have seen.

First up today is Training is Like Farming. This is an article that I wrote a few years ago and dug up in response to a forum post. When I realized it was not on the site I decided to add it. The point is obvious and is contained in the title. There is no quick fix, only the law of the farm.

Second is one of my all time favorite articles, Variety in Strength Training. This is the best periodization article ever written. It has appeared under this title and also in the NSCA Journal under the title Five Steps to Improving Your Football Strength Program with slight changes. When people ask about how we design and periodize I often refer them to this article. It is reprinted with kind permission of the author, Coach Charles Poliquin (

Next up is The Vehicle to Success. This is another great article by Shelby Turcotte. Shelby is one of the good young writers I have been lucky enough to meet over the past few years.

Last is a video clip of one of my favorite stretches, the Yoga Table. I’m hoping to add a video of the week to the site every week from here on in.

As always don’t forget Episode 27 of the StrengthCoach Podcast There is also a link on the home page of
Hope you check out the site.

The Most Important Hire A Coach Can Make?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 10, 2009 by mboyle1959

Just read a great blog post by Eric Musselman, ( former NBA Head Coach), courtesy of my friend Josh Ford at about hiring a strength and conditioning coach called The Most Important Hire a Coach Can Make. Take a second to read it.

Coming from a former head coach in the NBA this is quite a compliment. It’s even better in light of Coach Meyer and Coach Stoops comments. I think that the sport coaches who are successful truly get the value of a great strength and conditioning coach. Just remember, being a great strength coach is as much or more about how you do the job as it is about what you know. The big key is attention to detail. No matter what program you choose to run, you must do it well.

I wrote the following three or four years ago. Take a second and see just how important the great strength coaches have been to the NFL.

Question of Strength?

Posted in Uncategorized on January 8, 2009 by mboyle1959

I have to admit, I’ve always been a fan of Charles Poliquin’s writing. Maybe not always a fan of his interpersonal skills. I used to look forward to picking up Muscle Media 2000 to read Charles latest article. Charles recent tnation article is classic Poliquin. Charles always has an opinion and in this issue I have to agree.

I love the Hang Snatch and hate the Box Squat. Anytime you say you hate the Box squat you have to be ready for the Westside disciples to jump down your throat. Take a minute and click the link above and read.

If you are interesting in reading some other great stuff, click the link below to go to