Archive for 40 yard dash

Training for the 40 – Repost

Posted in Random Thoughts, Strength Coach Podcast, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training with tags , on February 26, 2014 by mboyle1959

The following is excerpted from a piece I wrote previously and is used with the permission of http://www.strengthcoach.com

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.

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The Truth About Speed

Posted in Media, Random Thoughts, StrengthCoach.com Updates, Training, Youth Training with tags , , on November 18, 2011 by mboyle1959

With the high school and college football seasons drawing to a close it’s time for my annual rerun of

The Truth About Speed

I wrote the article below for a website in 2006 and recently re-published it at www.strengthcoach.com as part of our Combine Week. Speed is the stuff of urban legend. Deion Sanders supposedly showed up at the NFL Combine, ran a 4.2 and went home. We routinely hear of high school kids who purportedly run 4.3’s and 4.4’s. The stories of  “reported” speed have gotten out of control. This would not be a problem in and of itself. Most of us could look at it and say  “so what” people lie or people embellish. The real problem is that the lies seem to be setting the standard. One of the reasons that I no longer train athletes for the NFL Combine is the unrealistic expectations of athletes and agents based on these  “urban legends” or the occasional freakish performance like Vernon Davis .  Davis measured out at 6’3″ and 263 lbs., ran a 4.38 forty and vertical jumped 40 inches. Those are insane stats. We won’t see that again for a long time in my mind. Every year it seems like there is some freakish performance by an athlete that raises the bar of expectation. I would have less of a problem if these expectations were not trickling down to high school kids. My intention is to set the record straight with facts. In order to prove this I poured over the NFL Combine results for the six years that I had on file. The following statistics are taken directly from the Combine results. It should be noted that although the Combine times are considered “electronic”, they are closer to handheld than electronic.

There are three potential timing options:

1- Electronic start- electronic finish. This should be the standard but, unfortunately is not. The start is done with a touch pad and the finish with a photocell. This is the most accurate and as a result yields the slowest times. An electronic start/ electronic finish time has been shown to be .22 seconds slower than a hand held 40 yard dash. ( Brown, 2004)

2- Hand Start- electronic finish. This is a system used uniquely at the NFL Combine. A hand start-electronic finish will be approximately .1 seconds slower than a hand held 40 yard dash. In the combine the use of hand start will be particularly evident in the faster ten yard dash times. Athletes will run 10 yard times much closer to a hand held but, times at each following split will be closer to the electronic time.

3- Hand Start- hand finish- this is the fastest and least accurate. Handheld times tend to be faster but are clearly more prone to human error. Many of the legendary times I believe were hand-held timing combined with human error or human expectation.

At the NFL Combine in 1996, 97, 98, 2001 and 2003 and 2006 no one ran a 4.2. No one. Not one person. In 2001 Ladainian Tomlinson ran one  40 in 4.36, five in the 4.4’s and vertical jumped 40.5. 2003 was a fast year, yet still produced no 4.2’s. Ten athletes ran 4.3’s in 2003. The heaviest was a 223 pound running back. The Combine track is always said to be slow but the truth is it is simply accurate. All of these supposed fast times seem to be run at times when no independent verification is available. Seems a bit curious doesn’t it. Here’s another angle on the whole  “speed” thing. Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis ran split times of 4.67 for 40 meters ( Bryan, Rose-Hulman) The split times are below. 1.84 10 yd  2.86 20 (1.02 split) 3.8 30 (.94 split) 4.67 40 (.87 split) 40 meters is 43.74 yards. This would make the distance approximately ten percent further. This means we could reduce the time by approximately .36 seconds to account for the additional 3.7 yards. This would mean that in constant acceleration mode the best sprinters in the history of the world, using blocks, ran 4.31 for 40 yards. Does it seem plausible that high school football players can run faster times without blocks. The table below shows some of the athletes who ran below 4.4 at the NFL Combine. Obviously the athletes are getting faster but, we still don’t see the dreaded 4.2’s we hear so much about. In 2005 I believe one athlete actually ran a 4.2 although I did not have those stats available. One athlete in a decade.     In 2006 of nineteen running backs listed in the internet report (unofficial) Maurice Jones-Drew of UCLA was the only 4.3 and he ran a 4.39. In other words one running back ran under 4.4 and, he did it by one one-hundreth. Four wide receivers out of thirty-one ran under 4.4. In fact five ran over 4.6. This means more wide receivers ran over 4.6 than under 4.4. 2006 was an exceptional year for defensive backs with nine sub 4.4’s. The key, again in 2006 was that there were no 4.2’s in the results I saw. As coaches, we need to stop perpetuating the myths. We need to tell our athletes what the average at the NFL Combine was and not what the best  “freak” times were. We need to further explain to them that it is unrealistic to expect to even meet the NFL averages. As with everything in our society, we have raised the bar unrealistically high. Let’s be honest with ourselves and with our athletes.

Bibliography

Modeling World Class Sprinters in 100 Meter Dash  Kurt Bryan, Department of Mathematics, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute IN 47803 USA. Brian J. Winkel, Department of Mathematics,  Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Terre Haute IN 47803 USA.

Assessment of Linear Sprinting Performance: A Theoretical Paradigm Todd Brown, Jason Vescovi, Jaci VanHeest Journal of Science and SportsMedicine (2004) 3, 203-210

NFL Combine Results- compiled from various sources.