the study of the kicking components within sports

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

FCS Conditioner for Kickers & Punters, 2014 part 3

Our annual Q&A series with college specialists continues with kickers and punters. We asked seniors in the FCS (Football Championship Subdivision) the following question:
"What's the most important thing you've learned during your college career regarding training & conditioning for specialists?"
Following is the final third of the responses.

Ben Campbell, Austin Peay Sate
"Don't overdo it during practice. I've had practices where I will be punting and none of them will be very good and I will keep punting until I end on a good one. This is not a good way to train and it could come from not being focused or being fatigued, but it produces bad mechanics and may lower your confidence level. Everyone has those days and when you face them I've learned to take a break and regain confidence in myself before moving on to the next drill. Confidence is a very powerful tool to all specialists."

Kyle Pignatiello, Dayton
"We were not really trained to better ourselves within the kicking/punting motion. We were often using the same workout as some of the others on the team. The workout was planned to make you bigger and more powerful which is beneficial to a point when kicking. There was much missing such as flexibility training and more abdominal training. These could have been used better to the strength and conditioning of the kickers and punters."

Tyler Strickland, Arkansas-Pine Bluff
"During my college career the most important thing I learned about training and conditioning was the importance it had with injury prevention. With a lot of kickers and punters wanting to make the next level it's important that you market yourself as being a better kicker and athlete than your competition. Although kickers are often exempt from contact, having the extra size and strength helps when you are the last line of defense to prevent a touchdown. Don't make the mistake of avoiding the weight room because you are a kicker, it will only help improve your chances in making the next level."
Ethan Sawyer, South Dakota State
"During the offseason, I found that the explosive lifts, power cleans, hang cleans etc. were extremely beneficial for my development as a punter. Because punting and kicking involve such violent movements, any exercise that will increase your overall explosiveness will increase your potential to get more power behind your kicks. Obviously squatting can help develop leg strength which is also important, but it's essential to find a balance between strength and flexibility. I thought it was helpful to throw in either a yoga session or just an extended stretch workout once or twice a week in addition to my regular stretching in order to stay flexible while trying to build muscle. As far as kicking goes, I always tried to get a lot of kicking in during the summer and started to taper off the amount that I kicked during fall camp and during the season. That way I was able to work out any of the technique issues I wanted to correct during the summer so that when fall camp came around I was ready to punt well, so I wouldn't have to hit many balls, and could save my legs for Saturdays. Lastly, you can never practice your drop enough."

Andrew Flesher, Harvard
"For weight lifting and training that takes place outside the context of the actual kicking, I think it is important to understand that power in kicking comes from an ability to store force in the plant leg and explode through the ball with a powerful swing. With this understanding in mind, training becomes a little simpler to organize. In order to train the ability to store force, I believe the emphasis should be on depth jumps and depth jumps to box jumps. In order to increase lower body power, I think kickers need to focus on reactive powerlifts and Olympic lifts performed at high percentages of their 1 rep maxes. Unless there are specific means applied through eccentric or isometric emphases—squats, cleans, etc. need to be performed at high percentages with a focus on quality reps. There is a lot of literature out there on effective training methods for power output, and kickers need to realize that the training methods for skill players (wr’s, rb’s etc) are extremely beneficial to kickers as well.

As for actual kicking training, I’ve found that I have needed to be seasonal with my approach. After the season I usually don’t kick for a few weeks and let my body’s ailments (hips, Achilles tendons, flexibility imbalances) heal. Within our team’s offseason training program, I try to kick 3x a week after the workouts. During an ideal summer, I would preferably kick 4x a week, and make sure I am not over-kicking. Of course my kicking capacity is different at different times of the year, but somewhere in the range of 20 kicks in a single session has always been where my quality begins to fall off. During the season, I take monitoring the number of kicks even more seriously. Given that I had a torn labrum last season I naturally had to take a few days off from practice here and there, but overall I try to focus keeping as fresh as possible while still maintaining my form. This is something that varies from person to person, but I have noticed that the first few seasons where I did not monitor my number of kicks effectively that my strength fell off during the tail end of the season. This year, even with the torn hip labrum and a quad strain, my field goal range during our last game (~36 degrees) was comparable to the beginning of the season (~80 degrees), and that’s something that I think is very important towards developing a consistency that coaches like."

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