People often ask me, “What’s the most important test at the NFL Combine?” The answer is the 40-yard dash. What about the second most important test? The answer: the 40. The third most important? You guessed it: the 40.
I’m not sure how or why this specific test has garnered so much importance, but regardless, my role is to train the athlete to execute the 40 to the best of their ability. This drill is one you can’t opt out of, like the bench or, say, the L drill. If you don’t run an appropriate 40 time at the Combine, you will be performing the dash at your Pro Day for scouts, as a slow 40 in Indy or your Pro Day can sink your draft status.
What to know
You get two attempts at the 40. At the NFL Combine, it operates on a hand start and laser finish, with 10- and 20-yard splits recorded along the way. At Pro Days, the 40 is traditionally hand-timed by scouts from prospective teams. The Pro Day 40 is an eliminator event, as a slow time can possibly stop your progression to the other tests.
What is Being Tested?
The 40 tests both vertical speed and explosive horizontal speed (10-yard split).
Training for the 40 focuses on the three components: stance (start), acceleration, and top speed. The start is crucial in such a short sprint, and athletes typically spend a lot of time perfecting the finer points of an effective three-point start. If your start isn’t aggressive and done perfectly, you can cost yourself time in valuable tenths. “Being comfortable with being uncomfortable” is a phrase I will often repeat during the eight-week, twice-a-week training cycle.
The most important part of the 40 is the first three steps, as this will set up acceleration for the remaining 14-20 strides. The key coaching cue is to think of how a plane takes off. This mental guide should help the athlete stay in acceleration for as long as possible.
Deon Butler (WR Penn State) – 4.31
We knew he would run fast, but the question was, how fast? Martin Rooney and I watched it live on TV, and the unofficial time was 4.22! We were jumping for joy, as we thought Deon had set the record for the fastest 40 of all time, but it would later be corrected to a still blistering time. Every time Deon would sprint, you thought to yourself, “it’s like he’s running in a friction-free environment.”
A side note: as impressive as Deon’s 40 time was, I often reference his 12 reps on the bench press first. On day one of training, he could only muster one rep.
Interested in this type of training for the NFL Combine or an upcoming Pro Day? Contact Rich Sadiv: