Let’s talk about training for the 40 yard dash training real quick.

As the explanation of the 40-yard dash at the official NFL Combine website says, the 40 is the main event at football combines and tryouts around the nation:

Wide receiver/return specialist Jacoby Ford ran a 4.28 in the 40 yard dash, the fastest time clocked by any prospect in the 2010 NFL Draft class. (ICON Sports)

The 40-yard dash is the marquee event at the combine. It’s kind of like the 100-meters at the Olympics: It’s all about speed, explosion and watching skilled athletes run great times. These athletes are timed at 10, 20 and 40-yard intervals. What the scouts are looking for is an explosion from a static start.

Related: Three Things Prospects May Not Know About the NFL Combine


Being that I’m not a trainer, I did my best to find information for you on training for the 40 that came from a credible source, and I think I was successful in doing-so.



The info we’re going to look at today comes from the National Athletic Testing System (NATS).

NATS is ran by the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), which has existed since 1921, and has over 11,000 football coaches that coach on all levels, from high school, to the NFL.

I think it’s safe to say this information comes from a credible source.

Let’s get it.

The NATS Combine Drills:Speed page explains and provides tips for you to shave time off your 40-yard dash time.

There’s three links on that page that drew my attention: one that covers the procedures of the test, one that gives you tips on taking the test, and one that gives you some guidance on preparing for the test.

Related: Combine Preparation – Combine/Pro Day Numbers that Scouts Are Looking For – By Position.


Here’s my quick take on the three 40-yard dash videos from NATS:

40-yard Dash Procedure Video – This video explains, in-detail, exactly what the 40-yard dash is, and explains the rules and guidelines of the test; including what can disqualify you when you’re running the 40.


This is good info to know.  Instead of hearing it for the first time when you get to the combine or tryout, you can know this stuff weeks or months in-advance.

In a nutshell, the procedure video is basically a rendition of the speech that the person administering the test is going to give you once you got to their station, right before you start running the 40.


40-Yard Dash Tips Video – This one gives you four tips that’ll help you shave some time off your 40 time.
The first tip they present, is for you to keep moving while you’re waiting for your turn to run.

Related: 40 Yard Dash Training – STRETCHING to Improve Your 40 Time??


Now we know that keeping your muscles warm can help you prevent pulling a muscle, but there’s quite a few other benefits to keeping your muscles warm as well, so that’s great advice, indeed.


Move Forward ASAP

The second tip, is to make sure you’re moving forward the split-second that your hand leaves the ground.

In case you didn’t know, they start the stopwatch the moment that front hand leaves the ground, so you wanna make sure you’re moving forward at the same time that your hand leaves the ground.

I’m willing to bet that 80% or more of guys that run the 40 could shave some time off with this one tip alone.


Straight-line Running

Their third tip, is to make sure you’re running in a straight line.

We all know that the fastest route between two points is a straight line.

The good folks at NATS even give you a technique to use if you find that you’re consistently having issues running in a straight line.

The fourth tip is to envision that the finish line is 5 yards past the actual finish line, to make sure you’re still accelerating and running through the line.

As I mentioned in How to Train for the Short Shuttle Drill, it can be tough to “not” let-up as you approach the finish line.


40-Yard Dash Preparation Video – I’ve heard for years that the most important part of the 40-yard dash is the start, and they reinforce that in this video by giving you suggestions like practicing your starts regularly, and by helping you figure out how to find the proper starting stance for you.


Finding the Right Starting Position for You

The start of your 40 is so important, that I’m going to paraphrase how they suggest you go about finding the right stance for your start:

Get in your starting position, and lean forward slowly until you fall over a few times.

After you’ve fallen over a few times, you should develop a feel for the point where you could lean forward the farthest without falling over.

This will help you make sure that you have as much weight shifted forward as possible before you start.

As they mention, this ensures that the first movement you make is toward the finish line, instead of it being wasted by going in another direction.


Overspeed Training, and Other Tips

The last three-or-four tips, like overspeed training, are tips and training techniques you’d expect to get from a paid trainer at one of the fancy-schmancy training facilities, but they give you the information for free.

After reading and digesting the information in these videos by NATS, all that’s left is for you to get off your butt and go make it happen!

So take this information, use it, and go out and impress some coaches and scouts. Good luck!


Got any more tips to help guys shave time off their 40?  Leave it in the comments!

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Web References:

NFL Scouting Combine Page (via nfl.com)

National Athletic Testing System – Drills (via nats.us) 

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