Updated: Nov 23
In this blog, I share with you ways you can increase your kicking distance!
As a punter in American Football, my main goal was to kick the ball as far as I could. I found many ways to increase my distance by developing these key areas:
Strength, Power & Stability
Flexibility & Mobility
This article will provide you with insights into these areas from a discussion I had with Kevin Ball.
Kevin is a kicking guru. He has worked with multiple AFL clubs to improve the kicking techniques of some of their greatest players. He is a biomechanist and has conducted many scientific studies investigating the biomechanics of the kicking technique. I have read most of his research papers on the topic, and I highly respect his knowledge and coaching principles. I was fortunate enough to have my technique analysed by Kevin in 2010 when I was in the AIS-AFL Academy. It's fascinating to come full circle and have a discussion with him 10 years later now that I am on the coaching side of things.
What makes the ball go far?
When it comes to kicking a football Kevin stated that, there are 2 key factors we can impart on the ball:
Nature of impact’
If you are familiar with Newtown’s Laws, you will know that Force = Mass x Acceleration. Foot speed is the major determinant of distance. To put it simply Kevin stated, “foot speed is related to the amount of force you apply to the ball... If you've got greater foot speed, you're able to apply more force into the ball. Resulting in a greater ball speed [off the foot]".
Nature of impact will be discussed later but for now...
What can you do to improve your foot speed?
To increase your foot speed there are a couple things you can do.
One way is to increase the distance your foot gets back in the backswing. This allows a greater distance for your foot to accelerate in the forward swing. In one of Kevin’s studies, he found that players with greater kicking distance got their foot 18 degrees above parallel. Stretching and mobility (key factor #3) of the hip flexors, adductors and quadriceps and strengthening (key factor #2) of the glutes and hamstrings will help to get your foot further back.
A study Kevin conducted on some academy football players found that players who did both stretching and strengthening exercises increased their range of motion [in their backswing] two-fold, compared to guys who did one or the other (either strengthening or stretching on their own). These players increased their hip extension by 8 degrees which resulted in an increase of distance by 5-6m.
I was someone who struggled to get my foot far in the backswing (I had 2 surgeries on my hips because of the restrictiveness in my socket). If you are someone, like me, you will benefit from exercises that develop the range of motion and strength in your legs.
Another way to increase your foot speed is to train it to move faster in the forward-swing. Doing explosive exercises (key factor #2), such as the ones in the vide above, can develop this aspect of the technique and can potentially make up for a lack of a backswing.
Along with these exercises, a great drill to develop your ability to get your foot back is the no-step kick for distance (see below). As you cannot rely on momentum, you have to use the speed developed from your hip and knee to kick the ball far.
Grab a partner, stand on one leg and complete a kick to them. Step back 1-2m each time you complete a kick on the full.
You can see a demonstration of this drill along with many more in my digital product or by checking out my YouTube video:
Nature of impact
While foot speed is the major determinant in kicking distance, nature of impact (when foot meets ball) is an important factor and there are many ways to ensure your impact is solid.
The ball needs to be contacted further away from your body (than a low drop punt) to allow the best leverage.
The ball should be slightly leaning back to let your foot impact the best part of the ball. Having the ball in the correct position and orientation allows for maximum force to be put into the ball and allows it to come off the foot in the optimal trajectory on an efficient spin axis.
Your plant leg should be close to extended (slight bend) to create the best stability and leverage.
The heel of your plant foot should be close to flat on the ground to be stable and allow your kicking leg to swing through rapidly. Being stable (key factor #2) throughout your plant leg at contact allows for all the power that you have generated to be imparted on the ball efficiently. Any collapsing in your leg or rolling onto your toe too early will cause a loss of power transfer.
Your ankle should be rigid to create less deflection in the foot. A study Kevin conducted found approximately a 16% difference in ball speed between a fully locked out foot and a loose (around 20 degrees) foot.
To learn more download my AFL Kicking Guide. It has loads more tips, drills, and insights in an easy-to-follow guide that is downloaded straight to your device. Has over 400 5-Star reviews - So see for yourself why parents, coaches and players of all skill levels are developing their kicking through this amazing resource.
The Kicking Consultant aka Josh Growden is a High Performance Coach making elite-level coaching accessible and affordable to all - not just the professionals. He is more than just an expert kicking coach - holding a Masters degree in High Performance Sport from the University of Technology Sydney, a Bachelors degree in Sports Science from Louisiana State University, and is a ASCA accredited Strength & Conditioning coach.