The 40 yard dash is generally considered the benchmark measurement of a football player's speed. At this year's 2013 NFL combine, top NFL prospects will have gained and lost millions of dollars based on mere hundredths of a second in either direction during the make or break run.
If the 40 yard dash is so vital to a player's success, SB Nation wonders why 157 out of the 203 players they examined are as fast or slower than they were in high school, according to their claimed and measured times in the straightaway sprint.
By comparing players' reported 40 yard dashes in high school, when players were being recruited to colleges, to their 2013 NFL Combine numbers, SB Nation found,
"The average college football player is nearly a tenth of a second slower (e.g., a NFL Combine 4.5 after a high school 4.4) after four to five years in a college strength and conditioning program as he was when he entered that program."
Jokingly, SB Nation called it "a conspiracy between major college coaches to make football players slower."
As an example, SB Nation found that LSU offensive lineman P.J. Lonergan reported a 4.78 second 40 yard dash in high school, but only managed a 5.38 second timed run at the NFL Combine. Something seems fishy here, doesn't it?
Additionally, SB Nation found, "Oklahoma, Penn State, Ohio State, LSU, and Florida State each had two players lose 0.3 seconds or more from their 40 yard dash time."
While the report was clearly tongue-in-cheek, Vint's ultimate conclusion that "almost all high school 40 times are bogus" is certainly valid. Despite the never-ending list of high school football recruiting camps that bring seemingly high-tech lasers and other equipment to measure a player's speed, the reality is that high school hype for workout warriors is likely even more exaggerated than it is on the professional stage.
Very few people on the planet can run a legitimate 4.3 second 40 yard dash. Yet every year, there are high school students with "4.3 speed" whose sprint is compared to 21st century college speedsters like Reggie Bush, Ted Ginn Jr., and Adrian Peterson.
When they get on the field, these running backs are caught running sideline to sideline by defensive lineman who should have no business keeping up with them and caught from behind by inside linebackers on what should have been a breakaway touchdown if their reported 40 times were actually accurate.
Looking to work on your own speed to see if you can shave precious tenths of a second off your personal 40 time? Tony Montgomery from Elite FTS recommends the following:
- Use proper posture: Retract your shoulder blades and practice standing upright with your chest out throughout the day.
- Increase stride length: Fewer steps, faster times - drive your legs back when running.
- Set up proper shin angles: Your shin should be at about a 45 degree angle when lifted.
- Increase rate of force development: Lift heavy weights and become more explosive.
- Decrease body fat: Eat healthy, simple as that.
- Strengthen your hip flexors: Train hills, leg raises, mountain climbers, and anything that works your hip muscles.
If you're still in high school, these tips might help you log that elusive "4.3 40" at a "scouting camp" that allows you to pay for stats. It seems like everyone else is running in that range these days, so why not?
If you're in college trying your hand at the pros after four years of high intensity, sport-specific training at a D-1 school's strength and conditioning program? Good luck with that.