There are 3 ways to improve the 20 yard dash in young athletes. Tall, young athletes usually suffer from 3 things.
- Short stride length.
- Weak gluteal strength.
- Improper body angle in the first 10 yards.
One thing we work with every athlete is trying to get to the first 10 yards in few steps as possible (this requires great starting strength and optimal stride length)
With tall (and sometimes very large) young athletes you will find that they take very short strides. This is partially because they are off balance as their strength has not caught up to their center of mass, especially in the glute medius and minimus. Therefore they lack balance and take short strides to compensate. They also tend to have weak glute max and hamstrings so they can’t generate the force for a longer stride. Also, tight hamstrings and hip flexors lead to a shorter stride.
Lastly, we have a saying, “if you want to finish well, you have to start well”. Running the first 10-15 yards with the optimal body angle is a key to having a great start. Most untrained athletes tend to run tall too quickly, is especially if they are tall athletes. As stated earlier, taller athletes tend to have less balance due to underdeveloped core and lateral hip musculature, and they lack the starting strength to maximize the acceleration phase.
Exercises for Improving the 20 Yard Dash
A1: Glute Bridges with Iso Adductor Squeeze
A2: Side-lying Bent Knee Hip Abduction
B1: Single Leg Reaches
B2: Thomas Stretch for Psoas and Rectus Femoris
C: Wall Strides-Alternating and Quick Switch
D1: Push Up Start and First Step
D2: Bounds for Distance
E1: Heavy Bent-Over Sled Pulls
E2: 20-yard sprints
Adding these exercises into your athletes’ sprint work on a weekly basis will help improve the 20 yard dash time by increasing stride length, gluteal strength, and core control. Perform them weekly with your taller athletes to see immediate improvement in their body control and start speed, which pays dividends in nearly all power sports including football, baseball, hockey, basketball, and more. Large athletes with a powerful first step are some of the most sought-after assets in sport. Build some of your own with these exercises!