the study of the kicking components within sports

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Off-season Kicks, part 3

What is the most important thing for a kicker, punter, or snapper to do during the off-season? We conclude our series with three more expert responses and some exciting bonus material.

As a specialist from Minnesota, I didn't get the opportunities to practice punting and kicking outdoors from about November to March. Our indoor facilities were alright, but I had to kick and punt into nets. What worked for me and what I feel specialists should work on in the off season is working on developing more leg strength through weight training, but also find a balance of really working on flexibility. Having a strong core is necessary too, so I would recommend working on various abdominal work outs. Some training that I started doing later in my career was plyometric work and that really helped me develop better fast twitch muscles for punting and kicking.

At EKS, we recommend the 3 “R’s” for what to do in the off-season; Rest, Routine and Repetition.

Rest is vital to peak performance in every athlete on all levels. Athletes need to take some time to rest to allow their mind and bodies to recover. This is often the most underrated aspect of off-season training. Athletes get the mindset that they must work so hard to gain an advantage or edge that they ultimately wear themselves down.

Routine is imperative. Have a plan... physical training, practice sessions and nutrition. Put all the pieces of the puzzle together in your plan. Developing a consistent routine will keep your mind and body from getting surprised. What gets measured, can get improved. The plan will be different for specialists across the board, as you are all unique by human nature. Figure out what works for you and stick to the routine. EKS offers guidance to all our athletes, but encourage them to tweak the routine as they see individually fit.

Lastly, develop repetition. Practice the way you want to play... this includes what and how you eat before a practice session. Knowing how you respond to different types of foods and volume of kicks, punts or snaps will best prepare you for performing like the pros throughout fall camp and when the lights are lit on gameday.

Filip Filipovic, The Kicking Coach
The most important training component for a kicker or a punter is kicking itself. Many athletes and parents are overly concerned with gaining a competitive edge by going to acceleration classes, working with personal trainers, designing overly specific lifting programs, etc. Reality of the training is that unless you are kicking frequently with somewhat fresh legs, you are wasting your time, money and sweat.

Simple and measurable off-season goal is number of kicks. 60 kicks per workout 3 times a week is 180 kicks per week. From December till the end of July there are about 34 weeks. 34 weeks times 180 kicks is 6,120 kicks. If anything that a kicker does is preventing him from getting to the goal number of 6000+ kicks, he should stop it. Don't let less important training distract you from your ultimate goal of becoming the best possible kicker in the shortest amount of time possible. Kick !

My friend Billy Cundiff, who was a Pro-Bowl kicker in 2010, who also set the all time NFL record for most kickoff touchbacks in a season, credits being out of the league for few years for his current success. He said that having to stay in game-kicking shape all year around, in order to be ready for team tryouts that come up on a day's notice without warning, forced him to kick all year without taking any time off.

Most guys take months off after the season and slowly ease into their full kicking volume. For most of us, this time off is not necessary. Take a week off, and get going toward that 6K number. In order to maximize the effectiveness of your time and effort, it is a good idea to have a reputable kicking coach examine your mechanics early in the off-season.

Lower Body Plyometric Exercises, Sports Fitness Advisor
For those who weren't counting, more than one of all the responses we received mentioned plyometrics. Below is an excerpt from the above link - which provides written and animated descriptions of a series of plyometric exercises:
These animated lower body plyometric exercises can be used to develop power in any sport that involves sprinting, jumping, quick changes of direction and kicking etc. They are most effective when completed in conjunction with a suitable strength training program or following a phase of maximal strength training.

Not all plyometric exercises are equal in intensity. Skipping exercises for example, are relatively light while single leg bounds and depth jumps are the most intense. A program should progress gradually from lower intensity drills to more advanced plyometric exercises particularly in an individual with less strength training experience.

Split Squat Jumps
  1. Stand with feet hip width apart. Take left leg and step back approximately 2 feet standing on the ball of back foot.
  2. Feet should be positioned at a staggered stance with head and back erect and straight in a neutral position.
  3. Lower body by bending at right hip and knee until thigh is parallel to floor then immediately explode vertically.
  4. Switch feet in the air so that the back foot lands forward and vice versa. Prior to takeoff extend the ankles to their maximum range (full plantar flexion) ensure proper mechanics.

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