Every football player knows the importance of the 40-yard dash. After all, a great time in this drill can mean the difference between making first string or third in the recruitment process or reaching or missing the ball in a game.
Because of this, many athletes focus on their top speed in training rather than acceleration. Experts agree, however, that top speed isn’t reached until approximately 30 yards after starting a sprint, so few players will have the opportunity to reach their max speed during a game.
By comparison, 15-yard plays are the bread and butter of football teams, and they require both acceleration and agility. It is only after a player breaks through the line that they can hope to reach top speed.
In order to increase acceleration, athletes need to focus on strength and quick bursts of activity. Jogging won’t help here, nor will the 100m sprint. Developing lower-body muscles, especially glutes, hamstrings and quads, is vital to improving power off the line.
Here are two exercises that can help you improve your acceleration – and shave some time off your 40-yard dashes:
♦ Barbell squat: Begin by holding a barbell – one that is about half of your press weight – behind your head with the weight evenly distributed across your shoulders. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent. Slowly lower into a squat, hold it, then return to the original position.
♦ Double-leg stair hops: Start in a light squat (knees slightly bent, not at 90 degrees) at the bottom of a set of stairs, and hop up the next steps as quickly as possible. An alternative is to perform the exercise by hopping up and down from a single or double step.