Bulletin 11
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.

For 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’.

 

 

 

 

 

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