There are three strength and power tests that I’ve seen have a strong correlation with how well you run your 40-yard dash. The three markers I have are the baseline for my athletes, which allow me to see if they are leaving speed on the table: They are to plank for two minutes, perform eight full-range chin-ups and three repeated broad jumps where the next jump isn’t 20% shorter than the previous jump.
If you can’t hit those numbers for those three tests, then you’re losing time in your 40-yard dash. Simply focus on improving these three exercises and you will get faster. Let me explain.
1 – HOLD A PLANK FOR TWO MINUTES
The No. 1 reason why most athletes have technical deficiencies in running is they don’t have the adequate strength to support the posture and position of what we’re trying to teach with speed.
Many people think there’s a technical reason why they’re not running as fast as they can and that is true. But there’s a cause and effect. If the core is weak, the effect is bad technique. You can teach technique until you’re blue in the face, but if you don’t have the core strength needed, there’s no special coaching cue or tip that will overcome that.
If you’re able to maintain a strong core with the entire spine being controlled and tight for the duration of the run, then the upper and lower extremities will be able to pivot off of those positions. If there’s not enough strength in the abs and lower back, the arms are going to be moving side to side to compensate for the lack of strength and you’re going to look like Mike Tyson bobbing and weaving up the field.
2 – EIGHT CHIN-UPS
You need to be able to do eight full reps where your arms are fully extended at the bottom and your chest meets the bar at the top. None of those half-reps. Chin-ups are a great drill and upper body strength has a direct correlation to your speed. If you look at Olympic sprinters, they all have a jacked upper back and shoulders. Plus, the motion of a chinup is the same mechanism used when you are driving your elbows back during sprinting.
The upper body is the driving force for the lower body. If you have the ability to pull yourself up, that means you have great relative body strength and, also, low body fat. Having the proper upper back strength needed to drive your elbows back violently will create a horizontal propulsion to increase linear speed. Side note: relative body strength is also one of the most important indicators for not getting hurt.
3 – THREE REPEATED BROAD JUMPS WITHOUT THE LAST TWO DECREASING BY 20%
Repeated broad jumps are different than just performing a single broad jump. The first jump is from a standing position, so it’s going to have more static power and it’s going to tell you your explosiveness and hip drive. But, to repeat that is a plyometric ability and that’s your ability to be reactive and explode again. This shows if you can duplicate the force you’re putting into your first step into the next 17 steps you’ll take throughout your 40-yard dash.
Can you do it consistently? You’ll see a lot of guys explode out and stumble because they don’t have the adequate strength necessary to land and maintain that aggressive forward posture as you’re leaning forward in a 10-yard sprint in preparation for the 40. So, when doing this drill, if your first jump was 10 feet, you want your second jump to be more than 8 feet.
Go out and test yourself in these drills. See if you are leaving some speed in the tank and work on those areas to fix them so you can tap into your speed potential.