Training tips to compete on the gridiron – Kickers

by Staff Writer – Jason Langvee

Anyone that has ever sat down and watched a game of football can attest to the fact that a great deal of athleticism in needed to excel in the sport. What’s different in football compared to most other sports is the contrast in physiques and physical requirements between the players in differing positions on the field. Due to this variance, strength and conditioning for an aspiring athlete becomes more of a science than a simple exercise regimen. For example, one would not put a wide receiver or defensive back in a routine where the emphasis was on pushing strength, akin to what is needed for linemen defending or attacking the line of scrimmage. Likewise, while speed is likely a part of an offensive lineman’s routine, it would make little sense to aim at having your lineman focus on 40-yard sprint times[1]. What then, can be prescribed to players to shape them for success? Over the next few weeks I will break down the basic physical needs for the positions of Canadian football, and match appropriate exercises with them. Having a background in amateur Football and more recently, personal training, I will do my best to provide insight into the realm of training for specific sports.

Week 3: Kickers

The most unique position on the football roster has to be the kicker/punter. The reason this is the case is due to the requirements of the position. A K/P does not need to worry about attacking the offensive line, he needs not assess defensive schemes to establish a run or pass and he seldom is required to make a physical play against a ball-carrier. That being said, the opposite is also true in the sense that the defensive line, quarterback and special teams player, respectively, needs not delve into the intricacies of kicking the football. For that reason, K/P’s require an entirely different method of dry land training.

The requirements of the kicker/punter are simple: well-positioned kicks. What this boils down to is accuracy and the ability to understand the basic biomechanics behind a kick, which allows the kicker to adjust a ball’s trajectory by a few yards. Thus, while there are workouts (discussed below) that help increase a player’s strength and flexibility, the heart of being a good kicker is repetitions. One cannot improve throwing without throwing, or improve jumping without jumping. The same can be said about kicking a football, be it from a tee or by means of a punting-action. If you want to improve your field-goals, you need to set up a tee and kick as many field-goals as you can. If you wish to improve punting, you need to practice the motion (and the art) of catching a snap and punting the ball in as an efficient manner as possible. The common misperception in this is thinking that practice is enough to get better. Unless you are properly using practice and analyzing all variables, you cannot learn, and without learning there is no improvement, but we’ll discuss that later.

With that as a backdrop, let us examine a few workouts that can help provide the raw tools a kicker/punter might need to be successful.

Oblique V-upsLie on your left side, legs angled 30 degrees from your hips. Rest your left arm on the floor and put your right hand behind your head. Lift your straight legs off the floor, bringing your torso toward your legs. Slowly return to start.

The core is an essential part of a kicker’s anatomy. The rectus abdominis is the muscle typically known as the abs. This muscle, along with the obliques, helps to provide posture when standing. The obliques also are able to provide torsional power by bringing the lower body closer to the opposite side of the upper-body. This motion is precisely what the biomechanics of kicking involves. The ideal kick finishes with the kicking foot crossing the center of the body and ending on the opposite side in front of the body. Thus, by strengthening the obliques, this motion can be rendered easier, and more forceful.

Lunges with ankle bandsAcquire an ankle-to-ankle resistance band that connects your two legs. Begin with legs together. Step one leg forward in an exaggerated fashion, whereby you are stepping approximately 3-4 footsteps ahead. Once in the stance, bend both knees; as to decrease the distance between your back knee and the floor, and create a 90-degree angle with your front knee. Step the back leg forward and continue.

The lunge is a staple in any leg workout. It provides activation in all major leg muscles, including; the glutes, the hamstrings and the quadriceps. What the resistance bands add to this exercise is twofold: additional resistance when stepping, and additional recruitment of minor muscles. The typical lunge uses gravity as the resistance in controlling bodyweight (as it gets closer and further from the ground), in the vertical plane. The band provides resistance in a new plane (horizontal) which results in constant muscle tension, even between lunge-loads.

YogaAttending yoga practices at local clubs has rapidly become part of training routines in most professional sports.

Yoga was mentioned in the Quarterback edition of this series. For kickers, this workout might be even more imperative than for QB’s. Yoga provides a suitable mix of resistance and flexibility training. As previously described, yoga offers a novel type of contraction atypical of regular training routines, namely isotonic contractions. Adding this element to a routine is another way of shocking muscle fibers into growth. What is more important for the kicker to focus on in yoga however, is flexibility. In order to attain the longest and most powerful kick possible, physics states that the leg needs to maximize its acceleration. To do this, the leg needs to be as straight as possible through the motion to take advantage of centrifugal force. Furthermore, kick follow-through is what allows for accuracy in a kick. A kicker must be able to point their leg in whichever direction is necessary, which requires a great deal of flexibility in some cases. Yoga is a great way to help maximize flexibility!

KICKING!

As I eluded in the introduction of this workout plan, to improve kicking, practice is needed. What is imperative however is the ability to analyze what feels comfortable and compare it to what is biomechanically correct. Understanding certain aspects of a kick such as the amount of steps in your approach, or the height with which you should follow your leg through, or something as trivial as where your hips are pointing is what makes a good kicker a great one. Success lies in the analysis of variables, and in football, the variables change every game. Knowing how to adjust your body for a kick according to wind speed, rain/snow, or even whether you’re playing on grass or turf is a skill in itself. A kicker that knows how to adjust will have a substantially better career than one that cannot. The only way to gain this insight is to practice, and think about everything affecting the kick.

If you have any other thoughts and/or suggestions, feel free to comment below or contact me at: j.langvee@cflpa.com.

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