The 5 Essential Drills for a Perfect Soccer Kick

Whether you’ve played soccer yourself or have watched your fair share of soccer games, you’ve probably appreciated that some players are particularly skillful in their shooting and passing.

And it makes you wonder: how do those players explode the ball of their foot like that?

If you’ve found yourself thinking similar thoughts, you wouldn’t be alone! Many youth soccer players (and their parents and coaches) have asked us the same question — they want to know why some athletes look more uncoordinated than others, or why they might have trouble building power into their kicks.

What a lot of people don’t realize is that a powerful soccer kick takes loads of specified training. It’s a highly dynamic, single-leg motion that requires ample control, momentum, and strength… and that combination of skill doesn’t just come naturally.

But here’s the good news: our clinic has successfully worked with hundreds of soccer players, ranging from youth to professional athletes, so we know what building blocks create the foundation of a solid soccer kick.

The “trick” is all in your strength and balance.

Let’s dig a little deeper!

Ideal Kicking Biomechanics

Alright, let’s start out by analyzing standard kicking biomechanics. (As we go through, we’ll pick out the key variables that will help you solidify your form and build power into every shot you make!)

Here’s what we already know: while running, catching a pass, or kicking the ball, you only have one foot on the ground, so you have to have exceptional single-leg control to masterfully execute each movement.

This requires you to hone 3 essential training components:

  1. Ample glute strength — Having strong gluteus maximus and medius muscles allows you to stabilize your pelvis and keep your knee in proper alignment through dynamic movement.
  2. Ample core strength — You also need to build strength in your obliques, abdominal, and lumbar muscles. These muscles are essential for holding your trunk upright and in proper, straight alignment.
  3. Sufficient lower body control — More specifically, nailing down efficient motions during high speeds and dynamic movement. Your body has to have lots of muscular and motor control in order to consistently produce (and reproduce) a specific movement pattern.

In writing, this just sounds like a bunch of buzzwords… so let’s apply this to some players in action!

An ideal soccer kick will predominantly focus on stability: your trunk should be straight, your pelvis level, and your upper and lower leg should align in a straight line from the front view (especially when the knee is flexing).

That said, there’s also an important consideration with how you plant your stance leg — your stance leg should have ample knee bend to absorb landing impacts each time you plant your foot for a kick. Be sure that both your knee and foot are pointing straight ahead to maintain that proper alignment; this will prevent you from twisting or rotating your body as you follow through with the kick. 

It’s entirely possible to develop a safe and powerful soccer kick from a young age, as long as you have the key mechanics in place. Learning the specific points to hit (especially as a youth athlete) can vastly improve your game AND help with injury prevention.

The Best Drills for a Powerful Soccer Kick

Because there are so many moving parts to a soccer kick — literally and figuratively — training for it requires a deliberate, progressive approach.

Said differently: start off with simpler, static movements and build into more complex, dynamic work over time. This allows you to master the basic foundation of your kicking mechanics, and as you enhance all of these skills, they will come together to create powerful movement.

After years of working with soccer players (of different ages and athletic calibers), we’ve found 5 essential strength and balance drills that have vastly improved their kicking form. Perform them in this order, and be sure to practice them in addition to your on-field kicking practice!

#1. Standing Fire Hydrants

As we said, starting out with simple, static exercises! Static fire hydrants are a classic, single-leg drill — your goal is to increase muscle activation in your glutes and trunk while also challenging the balance and stability of your stance leg. 

Keep your hips level, your trunk perpendicular to the pelvis, and your spine in a neutral position. Squeeze your glutes together and bring your leg back and out behind you, making sure your knees stay aligned over the toes. Hold this position for a full minute to really get those muscles engaged! (As your stability improves, you can also add a resistance band around your knees for additional glute engagement and strengthening.)

#2. Eccentric Hamstring Kicks

An important aspect of a strong soccer kick is a strong follow-through. This means that you need the ability to bring your leg up high as you finish your kick, and that requires ample hamstring length and muscular control. Your hamstring lengthens as you finish each kick, but it also controls your leg from flinging forward.

Thankfully, replicating this kind of muscle movement is as simple as using an elastic band while performing some dynamic stretches. And as your strength improves, you can increase both the tension on the band and your total range of motion. (Practice this exercise in 3 sets of 15-20 reps each.)

#3. Single-Leg Squats

We already know that kicking is a single-leg action, but we don’t always acknowledge how much work the stance leg does in that one movement… Your stance leg has to land correctly, then immediately transition into decelerating your body from high speeds and stabilizing itself so your other leg can build enough power into your kick. 

In order to do so, your body typically moves into some variation of a single-leg squat — so, that’s a key exercise in your progression! Performing dynamic, single-leg squats will mimic similar movement patterns as kicking. Focus on practicing 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps, and perform them in front of a mirror to ensure proper alignment between your knee, hip, and trunk.

#4. Lunges

There are loads of lunging variations to choose from, but the one that I favor most is a forward lunge. We know it seems a little basic, but it’s tried-and-true for a reason: it targets glute activation (instead of your quads), making it more applicable to proper sports biomechanics. (Plus, it’s sort of a three-in-one benefit — not only do lunges help you improve your kicking mechanics, but they also improve your ability to decelerate and cut.)

When you lunge, make sure to keep your knee behind your toes in your leading leg. Your knee should be facing forward, your pelvis level, and your trunk leaned forward without bending or arching the spine. All together, this positioning will create a powerful torque in your lower body! Perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps, and you’ll be on your way to a strong stance leg in no time.

#5. Single-Arm Romanian Deadlift with Band

This final exercise not only challenges your dynamic stability, but it also helps develop hip and trunk strength through a soccer-based movement pattern. Although you’re adding speed and dynamism into the mix, your primary focus should still be dialed into stability and control!

Ideally perform your RDL’s in front of a mirror to ensure that you’re retaining proper form through the motions. Perform 2 sets of 15-20 reps each, and as you grow more comfortable with the exercise, you can progress the speed at which you do them. (The more speed you add, the more fluid and masterful your movement becomes!)

Get a Kick Out of It!

Of course, there’s more to a powerful soccer kick than just 5 progressive drills, but these workouts — in tandem with your standard kick practice and soccer training — sets a solid groundwork for your success.

When you have the right building blocks for your foundation, the rest of your movement and training will follow suit! Power doesn’t just come from natural strength or brute force: it’s an entirely trainable skill, and when you know what components to dial into, you’ll come out the other end more masterful over your movement.

By Dr. Kevin Vandi DPT OCS CSCS

Dr. Vandi is the founder of Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy — with his background in physical therapy, orthopedics, and biomechanics, he is a highly educated, compassionate specialist. Using state-of-the-art motion analysis technology and data-driven methodologies, Kevin has assisted a wide range of clients, from post-surgery patients to youth and professional athletes. When he isn’t busy working or reading research, he spends his time with his wife Chrissy and their five wonderful children, often enjoying the outdoors and staying committed to an active lifestyle.

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