Punt Kick – Questions on Generating Maximum Kick Velocity
Welcome to the first Bulletin Board for season 2010! We hope
you have a successful ‘kicking’ season.
We have always been taught that to kick a ball with the highest
velocity or over the longest distance it is essential to accelerate
the foot through the ball, swing the kicking leg through the
greatest range of motion and of course, followthrough. Observation
of elite players across all round and oval ball sports would
indicate that players do not on all occasions adhere to these
‘set in stone’ principles.
example, Cristiano Ronaldo presently playing for Real Madrid
and voted the best player in the world in 2009, kicks a ball
with a punching action and has a very limited followthrough.
His leg does not straighten but rather retains a significant
angle at the knee. It is a short and sharp action. Using this
technique he can keep the ball low, improve accuracy while generating
maximum force. This photograph was taken from a goal‐scoring
30‐40 metre drive. So, how does this stand up to scrutiny – let’s
look at the principles underpinning his kicking action.
It is important to brace the lower leg and ankle of the kicking
leg just prior to impact, ensuring that the foot overcomes, and
dominates the ball. Such a technique uses the mass of the lower
leg and ankle as effectively as possible and is often referred
to as the ‘effective mass’.
Research with elite soccer players demonstrates that the bracing
effect is applied some 9 thousandths of a second before impact,
or expressed simply, an instant before impact. Coaches, then,
should refrain from instructing players to accelerate the foot
through the ball at impact. Rather, they should be encouraged
to swing the leg as fast as possible to ensure the greatest foot
speed. Having built up this foot speed, the player should then
brace the lower leg and ankle just prior to impact. This creates
a strong punching force.
Tennis players use a similar strategy, grunting audibly just
prior to contact. It serves to remind them to brace the arm and
shoulder during the stroke. Elite rugby union footballers when
performing a ‘full‐blooded’ kick for distance, clench their hands
and forearms just before
impact. This is an attempt to pass the tension message to the
lower leg and ankle, and to ensure it is not forgotten. Observe
the tension with hands and face of Ronaldo, in the photograph.
Also observe how the trunk has crunched forward to balance the
action of the kicking leg, and add power through its strong,
high mass, reactive movement.
Just a note of caution. Coaches must be careful in applying these
techniques. Here we are referring to elite playing styles which
need to be developed with knowledge‐based coaching. For example
teaching followthrough in the early stages of learning may be beneficial
for a time and simply a progression on the way to learning more
advanced techniques. For further information on the mechanics of
kicking refer to our publication, ‘The Science of Kicking’.