Just Kickin it: Position specific exercises for special teams

Winning and losing football games comes down to many factors: game plans, execution of blocking, tackling, catching and running to name a few. Another significant factor in determining a winner is the play of special teams. But unfortunately, kickers (field goal kickers and punters) are overlooked when it comes to strength and conditioning programs. In fact, most times  the kickers are "stuck" into the wide receivers group because they are around the same body weight. But the physical demands of a kicker are much different than any other position on the football field. Therefore, their workouts need to be specific to their needs.

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Furthermore, as one looks closely at the athletic requirements of a kicker, there are a few fundamental elements that they must possess to make them successful. Some of these prerequisites are core strength, plant leg and hip stability/strength, leg power and balance. This article will illustrate a few exercises to facilitate and develop some of these fundamental skills. In no way is this an exhaustive list of an entire kicker's program, but a sample of a few exercises to implement into your kicker's program.

The "core" is a buzzword that is thrown around quite a bit in the fitness and sports performance world. But what is the core? Why is it important in kicking? The core is made up of the muscles that surround the trunk region. This includes the hips, lower back, oblique and abdominal muscles. Proper development of these muscles creates a sturdy foundation and an area where power is developed and transferred to the legs to explode like a whip (a whip needs one end to be relatively stable while the other end is where the velocity occurs).

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Half Kneeling Chop. (Fischer Institute)

Half Kneeling Chop is a great exercise to strengthen the core muscles in the same motion that kicking occurs. To perform this exercise, simply kneel down on the side closest to the pulley. With your head stable, pull the bar down and across the trunk. Perform on both sides for three sets of 10 reps at a weight that does not compromise the technique. Also, training both sides is imperative as it will help not only balance the body but also improve skill in this activity.

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Single Leg Bridge. (Fischer Institute)

Single Leg Bridge is an easy but effective exercise to improve the plant leg/hip strength and stability. While lying on your back, "bridge" up the hips while avoiding arching your back. Then extend one leg and stay in that position for at least 30-45 seconds. Repeat on the other leg. Perform three sets of 30-45 seconds on each leg.

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Slider Lunge. (Fischer Institute)

Slider Lunge is an exercise that looks effortless but is harder than it looks. The athlete will develop strength and power in the kicking leg. In this drill, recreate the exact same motion as if you were punting or kicking (except the portion where the foot is off the ground). The moving foot "sits" on a furniture mover, which is a piece of plastic that will slide on the floor. Remember, the more weight that is placed on the moving leg, the harder or more intense the exercise. Perform three sets, 10 repetitions on each side.

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Half Roller Balance Challenge. (Fischer Institute)

The Half Roller Balance Challenge is an exercise that will improve the consistency of kicking by improving balance. While standing on one leg on a 1/2 foam roller, slowly swing your leg in the exact motion as if you were punting or kicking. Do this for one continuous minute while trying not to fall off or compromise your kicking technique. Perform on both legs for three sets for one minute as training the opposite side does have a positive carry over effect onto the opposite leg being trained.

Special teams are often an overlooked aspect of football training, but well strengthened and properly trained kickers can be the difference between losing and winning games.

So go and try these drills and be the player you dreamed you would be for your team.

- Brett Fischer is the owner/founder of the Fischer Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. He is a licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer, certified strength and conditioning specialist and a certified dry needling provider. He has worked with the University of Florida, New York Jets, PGA & Senior PGA Tour and the Chicago Cubs.

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