Ato Bolden’s Secret Tip: How to Run a Faster 40 Yard Dash

With the NFL Football Combine approaching, everyone talks about the 40 yard dash. 

Everything from Chris Johnson’s “legit” 4.24 to Deion Sanders’ “reported”  4.17.  We even try to compare (hypothetically) about what Ben Johnson or Usain Bolt could run the 40 yard dash.

I’ll sum up my tip in one sentence on how to run a faster 40 yard dash:

Put yourself in a starting position to maximize acceleration efficiency.

Really, it’s that easy. It doesn’t matter if you run 4.2 or 5.2 seconds… you can only run what you can run. 

Depending on your size, strengths, weaknesses, and biomechanics, everyone will have a different starting position, and a few good tips can help you shave a few tenths.   If you run 5.2, sorry, I have news for you .  There is no DVD or online video that can make you run 4.2 in 4 weeks.  4.9 or 4.8 maybe, but not 4.2.  You can’t make a donkey win a Kentucky Derby.

This Blog has tons of tips including:

Top 40 Yard Dash Times

MSNBC Fastest 40 yard dash

This chart is not very accurate as you can see from the 2008 results NFL combine… plenty of sub 4.30’s listed!

I created this 8 minute YouTube Video which discusses the 40 yard dash in detail with my usual commentary and satire (it got more thumbs up than thumbs down, so I guess that’s a good thing):

Full article here:

Ato Bolden’s Secret Tip: How to Run a Faster 40 Yard Dash

Click here for the video on MSNBC.

Jimson Lee

Jimson Lee

Coach & Founder at
I am a Masters Athlete and Coach currently based in London UK. My other projects include the Bud Winter Foundation, writer for the IAAF New Studies in Athletics Journal (NSA) and a member of the Track & Field Writers of America.
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
Jimson Lee
  • What I believe, it’s a belief I may be wrong, and actually I’m curious about other opinion, is that staying low is just a bad cue. I saw some breaking at the hip on the video and some very good stuff. I believe that Ato boldon is good at showing how to run and knows his stuff. Most people are visual learners so he may say stay low and show how to do it and of course it make a lot of sense. So he may give bad cues and shows good technic. Moreover is a talented speaker and educator and I’m sure he’s really good at what he does (otherwise he wouldn’t be there). When you get the whole picture his cue make sense. But I think one should understand that some cues are bad when disconnected from whom is giving it and how he explains it (with his gesture, talent, facial expressions) and some are good cause they are based on science. In any case, I think giving cues out of context and without illustrations or a lot of explanation is bad. Damn I just wrote another Bible. Sorry I’ll try to be shorter next time. Thanks for the video though.

  • Well, the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. In this case, a gestaltic approach. You can call it “analytical approach vs sistemic approach” in a basic kind of way.But it is good to erase the “vs” out of it and think about the relationship of them 2,so you have a third part. You go in and out technique in a sistemic approach attending each individuality.

  • Just my opinion here, but I am left looking for more when listening to his cues. Ato is an extremely talented sprinter and technician but I am often disappointed when I hear coaches stress arms while failing to mention other critical factors that are important to sprinting, i.e., the importance of the hips, gluteus and core muscles and their role in sprinting. The ability to drive out and maintain the ideal posture is a function of the strength flexibility and coordination of these muscles and the constant emphasis on the arms does not resonate with me. The fact that he has clients as a former world class sprinter does not surprise me because ultimately he is getting results for his clients and the comments work for his target audience.

    • Would have to agree with both AC and Fabien. I work in a performance setting, so I have literally worked with hundreds to maybe thousands of athletes from the ages of 10 to 50+ years of age. The limiting factors in teaching speed as a skill are mobility, stability, and all “types” of strength (general, relative, maximal, elastic, etc). When we look at the training paradigm, “speed” is only the tip of the iceberg. we need the foundational aspects to build in this order: alignment, soft tissue quality, mobility, stability, strength, power/speed. I love Ato, and I do teach my kids the “air plane” rising off the run way cue. John Smith definately has influenced me on the “art” of sprinting. But cueing an athlete to stay low, for the most part, will get them to bend at the waist and round with the trunk. The “head down” cue only makes this worse. Teaching kids to keep their pillar in neutral position, while extending completely at the hips and creating space with the shoulders (notice how I didnt say arms) will yield better results. What do we teach athletes to do in the weight room? Push, pull, extend with the hips, put force through the ground–all while creating and maintaining tension in the “trunk.” Make the connections–their is the need for a proper strength and conditioning component to teaching speed as a skill. Mobility sets up strength, strengths sets up speed.

  • Very insightful regarding your thoughts on 40 times. I’m just sick of hearing uneducated people talk speed. “Deon would smoke XYZ.” Deon knows that he wouldn’t or we would’ve heard his talking shit. Some dumb asses in the powerlifting world think that the 1200 pound squatting freaks could play in the NFL. Ahhhh.. Sure he can. That’s why the world class powerlifter is working swing shifts as a prison guard for $50k a year instead of making $500k (league minimum) in the NFL. Bolt isn’t going to line up and catch a pass with a DB in his face and a safety coming overtop to knock his helmet into the 10th row. I know that it’s fun to ponder, but different is different.
    Lastly, thank you for including Ben Johnson. Wake up people! They are all on drugs! I’m pretty sure Carl Lewis tested positive for a Beta 2 agonist in 1988 which could be Clenbuterol not a “cold medicine”. So the 2nd place guy that Lance Armstrong forfeited his titles to isn’t on PED’s? I wouldn’t have any problem going all the way down to 10th place in cycling. I know… To honestly say ALL isn’t factual. But to be legitimately drug free is the exception not the norm in the Olympics. I’m ok with it. It is what it is. The NFL as we know wouldn’t exist without HGH. Players wouldn’t be able to recover week to week without it.
    In looking at the guys that Ato is working, it makes me feel better someone of his caliber is working with some very “raw” athletes too! Ha!

  • Jimson,
    I don’t agree with all of them looking on point. In the 30-40 40 yard starts that I saw(out of 300), I almost puked at seeing 5 of them and laughed out loud at 5+. I’m not criticizing the starting position as much I am the first 1-2 steps that were simply terrible. Most were very good, but more than a few were just bad. They shouldn’t have been as terrible as they were given the fact that every guy there should have representation who should have had them train with competent coaches. I understand that there isn’t a “perfect starting position”. There is optimal for the specific athlete starting on turf wearing football cleats. I’m not talking about starting stance as much as I am regarding the amount of athletes that stood straight up on the first few steps.
    The majority of the athletes that’s nailed it from stance to starts to acceleration phase through the finish. Not as many as there should’ve been though, which sucks for the athletes.