Players interested in improving their football speed need to focus on improving transitional speed first and 40-yard time second. Transitional speed is the most important type of speed in football. Equally as important is your mental 40 time also known as football intelligence or FBI. The least important type of speed is the 40 yard dash time. If you don't have FBI and transitional speed you probably will be an average player with little chance of  PLAYING on the next level. There is a big difference between an athlete playing on the next level and  a scholarship player that has a fast 40 time  but is sitting on the bench. Unfortunately college football rosters are full of  40 yard dash blazers who can't even get on the kickoff team. Below you will find some information on transitional speed and then you will find some coaching points on improving your linear speed, also known as your 40 time. The author Dale Baskett is a highly regarded national authority on developing football speed.







1)      Assume a three-point stance.

2)      Place your feet slightly less than shoulder-width apart.

3)      Place the down hand directly under the shoulder, with the thumb and the index finger facing forward in an inverted “U” shape position. Keep the down arm straight and aligned slightly outside the rear leg.

4)      The distance from the heel of the front foot to the toes of the back foot will vary from a few inches up to 12 inches or more, depending upon the size of the athlete. Taller athletes with long legs will require more spacing. The knees and the toes are pointed straight ahead.

5)      Place the ankle of the front leg slightly ahead of the hip.

6)      Keep the butt even with or slightly higher than the head, never lower.

7)      Bend the free arm at 90 degrees with the upper arm approximately parallel to the ground.

8)      Hold the head slightly up. Just enough to enable the athlete to see a few feet ahead.

9)      Place most of the weight on the front leg and down hand


The start:

1)      Move the down arm rapidly backward, not upward, in what is called a “drag technique".

2)      Thrust the free arm rapidly forward.

3)      Gain as much ground as possible on the first step. These first three steps occur simultaneously.

4)      Take all your steps in a straight line. Steps that are taken inward or outward are time-consuming and inefficient.

5)      Raise the torso gradually, but try to get into the upright position as soon as possible in order to initiate a full running stride. Too much forward body lean decreases the length of the stride.

The techniques:

1) Focus- the eyes straight a head and avoid tilting the head in any  direction.

2)    Arch- both the upper and lower back slowly. This will help maintain an erect torso and keep the hips in proper position.

3)      Fix- (lock) the elbows at 90 degrees.

4)      Rotate- while maintaining the fixed elbow, swing the arm from the shoulder, driving the hand from chest level through the “hip pocket.”

5)      Squeeze- while swinging the arm, keep the elbow tight to the body. This will help eliminate the rotational forces that produce an inefficient motion.

6)      Punch- drive the lead leg out and up, punching it toward the finish line, not just lifting it upward.

7)      Plant- snap the down leg back beneath the hips. The foot should hit naturally on the ball and toes.

8)      Extend- lock the down leg out into full extension to maximize the power production of the stride.

The teaching progression:

Learn the stance, start and running mechanics in a slow and deliberate fashion. Focus on one or two techniques at a time and build up from 1/4 speed to 1/2 speed to 3/4 speed, and finally to full speed. 

Once the techniques are learned, practice them at full speed with 2-3 sets of quality reps per set over distances ranging anywhere from 10-50 yards, depending on the progression stage. Basically, the distances increase as you begin to master the techniques.

Remember that quality is more important than quantity and that you must be as fresh as possible. This workout should be done on an "off day." Wednesdays or Saturdays are ideal. If you are going to be working out with a teammate choose a partner that has comparable speed.



The techniques and recommended workout program incorporated herein is taken from an article written by Ken Mannie Strength and Conditioning Coach at Michigan State University. Refer to: Speed Improvement: Its Machinery & Mechanics, Coach & Athletic Director, February 2001.