Improve 40 Yard Dash Speed by Increasing Running Stride & Turnover Rate

Figure 1

Dear Athlete,

I have a feeling that you are here because not only do you want to run a faster 40 yard dash, you may be in a position where you absolutely need to.  

You might be in a place right now, at this very moment, where something as little as 0.1-0.3 seconds off your 40 time is all that is keeping you from a starting position on the team, or, perhaps playing at the next level. 

Maybe a scholarship is at stake for you or even a professional contract.  Or maybe you would just like to be the fastest kid in your class.  Whatever the situation you may currently find yourself in, you know one thing…you need to get faster and you need to get faster, now.

Well, I have good news for you.  Let me rephrase that….I have GREAT news for you!

On this page I am going to show you how to do just that.  I am going to show you how to get faster, in a matter of days, if you let me.

But before I do, I feel that I need to first convince you that I know what I am talking about.   Yes, you can read all about the testimonials we have here on our site, including the ones from the NFL players. 

But, unless I can convince you that what I am about to cover is true and is going to work for you, then you will probably not take the required action that is needed to get faster.  And I really want you to get faster.

If you give me your undivided attention for the next few minutes, I promise I will do my part to make you a better athlete.

So, if you’re willing to hear me out and give this a chance, I know you won’t be sorry.  But I do have one request before we go on.  The information contained on this page is a bit more detailed than perhaps some of the other content I’ve put out in the past.

Therefore, I need your undivided attention.  Turn off the radio. Shut off the TV.  It’s not that you will have trouble understanding anything that follows, but rather, there are a lot of really good points that I am going to cover and I want you to be able grasp all of them, immediately, and without distraction.

So, if you’re ready to become a faster athlete, then let’s get started. 

The first thing I want to cover with you are some very popular exercises that you may already be doing to help you increase your running speed.  

I want to go over with you where these exercises will have the greatest impact on your athletic performance.   After that, I will then go over where you will still need to improve your training in order to run a faster 40.  And then I am going to show you how to do it. You with me?  Great!

Okay, the list of exercises seen below are considered foundational exercises for any division 1 athlete and professional football player looking to get faster.  In other words, they are pretty much what everyone is doing, to some extent, to help them run faster.

#1: The Power clean  

#2: The Lateral Squat

#3: Front Squat

#4: Single Leg RDL

#5: Glute-ham raise

#6: Eccentric Hamstrings

#7: Back Squat

#8: Clean Pull

You may be thinking to yourself, “That list doesn’t look all that comprehensive, so how does he know this is what everyone is doing?”  Well, I got this information directly from a former division 1 and NFL player.  He was a defensive back for the Houston Texans as well as the New Orleans Saints.  He also played in the CFL.  His name is Mark Parson and you can read about his story here.  He also has a video on this page that I highly recommend you watch.

Mark trained with the best, including hall of famer, Deion Sanders.   If anyone had access to the highest level of athletic training, it was Mark.  So, when he tells me that these are the types of exercises he was told to do to get faster, you know what he says is true and should take him at his word.

So let’s break down each of these exercises that Mark gave us.  Let’s see what muscles in the hips and legs each of them target.  If we are looking to run faster, then naturally we need to focus on the muscles in the legs used in running and then see which of them these exercises target.

I have arranged each of the 8 exercises just mentioned in the table below.  You will see a number next to the exercise in the first column along with the muscles that particular exercise targets in the second column.

The muscles listed for each exercise in the table are for the lower body only.  There may be other upper body muscles involved with a certain exercise, like the arms and shoulders for the power clean, but for the purpose of our discussion here, we are only listing the lower extremity muscles since those are the ones needed most for running. 

speed training workout tableNow let’s take a look at Figure 1 below of an athlete on the football field running a 40 yard dash.  Don’t worry… it’s not as confusing as it looks.

What I have outlined in yellow are the locations of ALL of the muscles in BOTH lower extremities that are used during the sprinting process.  They are also labeled with arrows pointing to them as well for identification.  You will see similar names in the table above.

Also listed in Figure 1 are the exercise numbers beneath the muscle group’s name that each exercise targets.  Easy enough, right?

Figure 1Figure 1.

Just by looking at Figure 1 above, we can see a very interesting pattern.   All of the emphasis is being placed on the muscles responsible for pushing the leg on the ground and absolutely no emphasis is being placed on the muscles needed to lift the leg off the ground. 

I have illustrated this for you a little more plainly as shown in Figure 2 below:

Figure 2Figure 2.

At this point, I have a question for you.  “If you are currently doing similar exercises as listed in the table above, do you think it is at least possible that you aren’t doing enough to help yourself improve your running speed?”

And to this you might respond with, “Yes, I am doing more.  I am also running with a parachute attached around my waist as well as running down the field pulling a weighted sled. I am also running steps and running up and down hills.  I am also doing certain bounding type exercises where I am jumping up and down off of boxes. So, I do a lot more than what you have listed in the table.”

To all of that I say, “Great! Keep doing them! Those are excellent exercises… I’m a big fan of all of them too and I highly recommend them!” 

But, I will also tell you that once again, each and every one of those exercises will only target the muscles involved with the leg that is pushing off the ground just like the ones listed in the table.

They will not target, nor add any additional resistance, to help you strengthen the muscles needed to pull and lift the other leg off the ground.  You know, the leg that makes up a big part of your stride as you stretch forward to run?”

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Yeah, I understand that, but since there is no resistance on this ‘airborne leg’, why should I bother to train for that motion?” 

Or, you might say, “I am doing some exercises for that motion like high knee raises and sit-ups.”

And to that, I have another question for you.  It may sound a bit silly at first so please don’t take offense, but if you follow along, I am sure you will get the point. 

“If you want bigger biceps, would it make sense to you that all you would need to do is flex your forearm/elbow, up and down, over and over again, without any additional weight in your hand?”

Of course that doesn’t make sense.  Everyone knows that if you want bigger biceps, you are going to at least have to start doing biceps curl exercises with weights in your hands and progressively push yourself to do more and more if you want them to grow.

But, here is something that you absolutely, positively, must get:  you might just be expecting to get faster with the same irrational thought that to get bigger biceps you don’t need to use any additional weight other than the natural weight of your own arm.  Please, read that again if you need to.

Let me explain a little more.  You see, I know you are putting in all the hours in the gym.  And I know you will do whatever it takes to get faster. But, if you keep doing the same thing, over and over again, at some point you will hit a plateau.  Perhaps many of you are currently sitting on one at the moment.  Maybe you’ve been on one for a lot longer than you would like.

But here’s the deal.  Running faster is more than just pushing off the ground with one leg.  That is half the battle, at the most.  There is another component to running faster that if professional football players aren’t even doing it, then I know you aren’t doing it either. 

And I also know that if you are like Mark Parson, once you start to do ‘the other half of 40 yard dash training’ that I am about to tell you about, your running speed, like his and thousands of others, will skyrocket in just a matter of days.

Your hip flexors aren’t tight, they’re weak!!

You may have noticed that the hip flexor muscles shown in Figure 1 above had no exercise numbers listed beneath it and that’s because none of the core exercises for running speed every target them.  This is quite common. 

Yet, I’ve had a few athletes state that the reason they felt they were slow was not because they’re hip flexors were weak, but they felt that they were slow because they were told that their hip flexors were tight.  What about this?

Well, if you take a look again at Figure 1 above, you will see where these muscles are outlined.  For the most part, they are in the front of the body and they cross the hip joint. You can locate the midway point of these muscles simply by placing the palm side of your fingers inside your front pocket and pushing against your body.  If you are sitting down, when you raise your foot off the ground, you should feel tension develop beneath your fingers. 

Now, if these muscles were tight, what would happen is that you would have a hard time extending your thigh behind you, not flexing your thigh up in front of you.

But look at the right leg, the one that is still on the ground, also in Figure 1 above.  It’s near full extension which means the hip flexors are completely stretched in the front.   If your hip flexors were tight, this is the motion that would be limited, or restricted, but as you can clearly see, this athlete, and perhaps you as well, has no trouble getting into this position.

So, since you are naturally getting plenty of stretch in them when you run, it’s safe to say then that your hip flexors aren’t tight.  If anything, they are more likely to be weak.  And weak hip flexors will limit your ability to raise your thigh up in front of you (see the left thigh in Figure 1 above) thereby limiting the length of your stride, forcing you to take shorter steps, and ultimately lowering your speed.

“Prove to me that my hip flexors are weak!”

Let’s say you, as an athlete, weigh about 180 lbs.  This is easy, too, so don’t get discouraged with ‘all the math’ here.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s further say that half of this weight is above your waist and the other half is below.  And for the sake of simplicity even more, let’s say that half of the body weight below your waist is distributed evenly between the two legs.  This means that we can estimate each of your legs weighing about 45lbs.  See Figure 3 below:

Figure 3Figure 3.

We, as human beings, were designed more efficiently to walk more than we were to run.  If you look at the amount of weight, or force, that each leg is subjected to in the running motion, we get the following:

For the leg that is on the ground pushing, the right leg in Figure 3, if we neglect its own weight, then it has to lift the weight of the upper body, 90 lbs, plus the weight of the other leg, 45 lbs. for a total of 135 lbs.

For the leg that is off the ground, the left leg in Figure 3 above, and lets’ call that the stride leg, it only has to worry about itself, or 45 lbs.  The ratio between the forces that each leg is subjected to is therefore 135:45, or 3:1. 

The muscles responsible for pushing your leg have to do 3 times more work than the muscles involved in lifting the leg off the ground. 

Naturally then, the muscles involved in pushing on the back side of the leg have an inherent advantage over the muscles involved in pulling on the front side of the leg when it comes to exercising to get stronger. 

This is further compounded by you if the majority of your workouts are focused on exercises that help you push with the legs.

So, if you want to get faster then let’s not stop with the pushing exercises, but rather, let’s also start to focus on training up the muscles that help you lift it off the ground.  This is where I promise you that will make the greatest strides, literally, in improving your running speed.

The longest, and potentially strongest, muscles in your body needed torun faster are currently asleep!

The main muscle group responsible for lifting this 45 lbs leg off the ground (this dead weight as I call it) during your stride is you hip flexors.  See Figure 4 below:

Figure 4Figure 4. Hip Flexor Muscles in action.

These muscles are easily capable of becoming super-strong and super-fast.  That’s great news! But, they are essentially sleeping, lying dormant in your body at this very moment, having never, in all your life, been given any significant attention other than perhaps during a few hanging leg raises or perhaps sit-ups. 

That’s not good news and is a big reason why you may be slow. And even if you are doing exercises to train them, you’re probably not engaging them with any form of aggression they demand.  We’ll help you solve this problem here in a minute.

Friend, did you know that the combined length of your hip flexors is close to 3 feet long? Yes, it’s true, you read that correctly.  And did you know that this longest muscle group in the body, the one whose primary purpose in your life is to help you raise your 45 lbs thigh and leg off the ground to help you sprint faster gets absolutely no meaningful exercise other than sit-ups and hanging leg lifts if it even gets that much?

You’re stuck in first gear! It looks like you are running with bricks in your pants!

Have you ever felt like you are stuck in first gear when you run? Or you felt like there was some unseen force preventing you from being fast?  

Have you ever seen someone else run as if they had special cat-like acceleration in their hips and had more rhythm throughout their whole body?  Well, that’s because those types of athletes have more complete development in their hip flexor muscles than you do.

Maybe they were born that way and more often than not, they probably were.  But that won’t stop you from developing your own special cat-like acceleration in your hips.  And you can do that very easily with an exercise I am about to show you.

You see, your hip flexor muscles are the ones you need to develop to help you get out of first gear.  They are the ones that will give you that extra thrust through your midsection and easily propel you down the field.  They are the ones  you need now more than ever to run with speed and power.

The next time you hear your coach say, drive those leg s and pump those thighs, you will be able to act immediately on that advice and run like you’ve never run before because you now know the secret to running faster….training up your hip flexors!  Don’t ever forget that.

In the video below is the perfect exercise for you to develop your super-long and super-strong hip flexor muscles.  Doing this one exercise alone a couple of minutes a day will help you make huge strides in your running speed.

The person performing this exercise in the video is none other former NFL cornerback for the Texans and Saints, Mark Parson.  He went from a 4.55 on turf to a 4.44 on grass in just 7 days by doing just this one exercise.  Yes, that’s right. In just 7 days, and that’s’ after he had been through years of training to get faster at the division 1 level  along with investing his time and money as a professional.  One would think at that point there would be no more room for improvement, but he proved it was still possible. And I know you can do it, too.

So, just do what he does and take your speed to a whole new  level. Then, come back and tell us about it.

All the best!

larry van such 1

Dr. Larry Van Such

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