When kicking, we want to have the strongest, most flexible leg on the field. When we step on the field, we want to know with full confidence that our legs and body are prepared. Stretching is extremely important since it allows our body to become more fluid throughout the kicking motion. Throughout this article, we will highlight some ways to get more Flexible, and the benefits of stretching.
Ways To Stretch
There are many ways to make your body more flexible. Being flexible requires dedication, consistency, and the ability to not cry in moments of pain. When just starting out, it’s completely normal to feel tight in the peak motion of your stretch. So when your objective is to stretch deeper, make sure your breath is in the foundation of your routine. There are Ballistic, dynamic, passive (relaxed), static, isometric, and PNF stretching. The main ones we will highlight will be dynamic, passive, static, isometric, and PNF stretching.
Dynamic stretching is simply being active and moving in your efforts to gain mobility. These are your high knees, butt kicks, toy soldiers, and lunge and twists. The main purpose of this is to get the blood flowing before you kick. It would be recommended to do a dynamic stretch before doing a long hold stretch. The reasoning for this is you want to get the aches and pains out of your system before moving into a long-held position. This way when you move into a static stretch, your body will not feel like you are an 87-year-old man who needs a cane.
This form of stretching is using your body, a partner, or some device to assist you in stretching. Some examples may include the splits, stacking your legs in crossed fashion like shown below.
The benefits of this form of stretching is it’s going to compliment a post kicking workout. This way, your body calms down from a muscle intensive activity like kicking. (Be careful when doing this if you have pain in your knees.) Prolonged stretching in one position may lead to injuries. While this may seem counter-intuitive, don’t overdo a specific stretch. If you really have an area you need to work on, do it in rounds.
This could be done by toe touches held a little bit past the point of a full stretch. Remember to listen to your body when doing these stretches. There is no need to push your body to the point of pain. Simply take a deep breath in, get to the stretching position, then take a slow exhalation out. The breath is huge when doing stretches. More importantly, when doing long hold positions, keep your body under control and breath baby breathe. The worst thing you can do is overdo a movement and injure yourself.
This is where you start to really get flexible fast. Isometric stretches are usually used on an object that holds the body part in place while you stretch then flex the muscle being targeted. Hold this for 10 seconds and repeat 3 rounds. This not only gets a deeper stretch but improves flexibility faster. One example of this would be a deep lunge. Get in a lunge position and once you start to feel the stretch, contract the muscle and hold for 10 seconds. The finished result is a more flexible, loosey-goosey kicker.
PNF stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation. This is regarded as the king of stretches as it allows you to combine stretching with a passive style. In theory, you could become 3X more flexible by using this stretch while you watch tv at home (Pretty awesome). I’m all about working smarter to get better faster. This method of stretching is utilized by using a partner or object to get you that little extra stretch.
Once the point of deep stretch is reached, start flexing (contracting) the muscle. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat 3 rounds. Now there are 3 different types of PNF stretching; The hold-relax, hold-relax-contract, and the hold-relax-contract. The hold-relax is where one gets in a stretch, contracts then relaxes. The hold-relax-contract starts the same way. However, after the first contraction, the partner, or yourself, does a second contraction while stretching. It can come with complications but just think of it as holding a stretch, then flex the muscle.
PNF Stretching Continued
The hold-relax-swing is done by bouncing the muscles after they are relaxed from the first contraction. This method is very risky as bouncing can lead to injury when stretching so be careful! There’s no point in stretching if you’re going to be reckless while doing it. Believe me, there’s nothing more fun than just going on the field and kicking right away. However, that can harm you way more than it can help you. That said, be careful and stretch safely my friends. These techniques do not need to be complicated. So if you still have questions, shoot me an email: Kickersofearth@gmail.com
When kicking, it is vital to have fast-twitch muscle fibers so you can kick the ball farther. When good Ball Contact meets a fast leg, good things happen. Leg Workouts, Core Workouts, and Workouts in general aid in the improvement of these fibers. When we are tight, our muscles don’t operate to the same degree as they would if we were loose. The fun physics equation Force (F)=Mass (M) X Acceleration (A) is the reason why a 300-pound lineman would never be able to hit a 60-yard field goal without the grace of God stepping in. Isn’t it incredible seeing a 5’7″ 150-pound man step up and hit a field goal 60+ yards? This is not because their legs are physically STRONG, they are FAST. While you can have both, speed trumps power when it comes to kicking.
Kicking a ball farther is a result of your legs fast-twitch muscle fibers making sweet sweet contact with the ball. While it won’t be easy to combine flexibility, speed, and power, it can be achieved. Think of it this way, the more flexible you are, the more your muscles can be used. The more muscles you use the more force and speed that go towards your kick.
I’m speaking from personal experience because for 2 years I had a tight groin. This would cause my abductors (outside leg muscles) to overcompensate. When it overcompensates, I am using parts of my body I should not to kick the ball. My form, as a result, looked like this;
Why Stretch Continued
Basically, my leg would swing, and my foot instead of naturally rolling over from the kick. Instead, would stay almost as if I was passing a soccer ball. This put a tremendous amount of pressure on the groin. Instead of my quad pointing downfield, it would point to the sideline. This would continue the vicious cycle of injuries for my leg. It wasn’t until I stretched my adductors and abductors religiously, that I was actually able to heal. My leg speed, power, form, and consistency all improved dramatically as a result. If there is some part of your body that is constantly sore, it may not actually be that spot.
The opposite part of your body may be the reason for pain.
That is right if the inside of your leg is hurting, stretch the outside. That is a tremendous place to start because it is usually overcompensating to make up for the pain. In years past I struggled with lower back spasms from wear and tear in soccer/football. I was visiting a chiropractor weekly and icing my back all the time. Whenever I stretch my core now, I saw things got remarkably better.
Stretching Benefits in Kicking
There are major benefits when stretching that help you kick farther, more consistent, and with more flexibility. We know it is good to be flexible, but how often do we take action? Well, if you’re wanting to become a more consistent kicker, you need to do your stretches. This is best done in the morning right when you wake up, and before you go to bed for 20 minutes each. The stretches can be done while doing other tasks. whatever the situation, take action!
The Main Muscles Involved in Kicking
Kicking primarily has 6 main muscles during the motion. The hamstrings, hip adductors, abductors, glutes, quads, and the core. Each of these muscles make up what is a powerful kick.
All of these muscles need to be properly cared for because things can get progressively worse if you’re not careful. Always start slow and then ramp up the intensity as you go throughout your kicking. Never ever kick without warming up. It may seem like a waste of time, but I promise you, your kicks will look and feel better when you’re stretched out.
Where there is an imbalance somewhere, the other muscles need to pick up the slack.
The Psoas AKA the Centerpiece for Your Body
This devilish little muscle is responsible for all the walking, running, and simply living that you do. Without it, you would not be able to do any sort of exercise effectively. While it is extremely important to make sure your body is stretching this hidden gem of pain. It is more important to consistently strengthen it. The most recommended form of this would be through Pilates. This is a form of exercise that focuses on complete balance, core, and making you look like a weakling. Please know that when first starting out, your body is most likely going to go through an incredible body shake. You may shake so much your brain will think there is an earthquake near.
How To Stretch The Psoas?
The most recommended way to get to the psoas is by getting a ball and rolling until you get a sense of your guts about to explode. It does not matter what type of ball you use, however, this muscle is most likely sore. So, use a tennis ball at the beginning. When you want to increase the stretch, use a harder ball. Other ways to stretch the PSOAS muscle are; Lunges, lunge with the leg in hand and rotate. Placing a ball right on top of it as you roll. Or even a kettlbell on top of it as you lay on your back. All of these examples are great, but your best way of getting to it are with a ball.
Don’t Cry, It’s Good Pain
When stretching, never try to overdo it past the point of physical pain. However, you should be stretching to release the lactic acid buildup in your legs. A great way to add to your additional stretching is to implement Foam Rollers, Muscle Rollers, and a Massage Ball. These tools are not necessary but they can aid in the stretch of a desired muscle. While there is no perfect place to start, these products are a great place to start. By utilizing toys and (I call them torture devices) you are able to get much more out of your routine than you would otherwise.
The Proof Is In The Puddin’
It’s no secret that the most successful athletes make stretching a huge priority of their day. Find me one athlete who doesn’t stretch consistently and I will fly you out to where I am at and give you a huge hug. (Just kidding #tightbudget).
So all jokes aside, it will only help you to have discipline in your routine. The wonderful Wim Hof, has a method of stretching to which I love. Simply put, you take 5 deep breaths in, hold it as you stretch the area with tension. When you get the urge to breath let your breath go as necessary. Over the course of time, these stretches will become second nature and almost addicting.
Even though may not be fun to stretch, take cold showers, or get off the couch. It is to your benefit to stretch instead of being a sloth. Life is more fun when you get out and be proactive, so make sure your body is prepared!
Here’s a video to use to learn how to stretch out your body before a kicking/punting session:
That’s What I Call High-Quality H2O
A great way to compliment the stretching session is to implement the habit of drinking half your body weight in ounces. This is a general rule of thumb and is not the necessity for most. This is, a great place to start though.
By drinking water you are
- Improves the immune system
- Lowers the chances of diabetes
- Lowers the chance of cardiovascular disease
- Promotes healthy joints
- Flushes out the impurities in your body
- Increases your energy levels
The list could go on for days but we decided to highlight the benefits. When it is all said and done, implementing more water into your life should only help you. So what are you waiting for?
Whether you’re just starting out, or well on your journey in kicking, there are many lessons to learn from stretching. By being disciplined in your routine, you become more consistent on and off the field. As said in an earlier post about Field Goals, “Visualization is a key concept to improve consistency and effectiveness for Field Goal Kicking, punting or life in general.” When this is paired with Meditation, Consistency, flexibility, focus, and power all come together. When we want to become better, we always need to implement ways to strive for betterment, not perfection.
When adopting these practices, aim to over-prepare in any situation. It’s better to over-prepare than to not be ready for the situation. There is nothing worse than not being ready for a moment. This channel will serve as a way to better prepare you for any and all situations! If you enjoyed reading this article, please share this so we can continue to grow! Also, if you have any suggestions for what we should write about next, let us know!
Thanks for reading and stay amazing!