Knees Over Toes Guy Q & A: “What’s the Secret to Kicking Power?”
I made a basketball knee-jump transformation, so what the heck do I know about kicking?
Well, I’m closer to a kicking body than my original mentor, Charles Poliquin, was to a basketball body. He was 5’5” and jacked, and he trained Olympic medalists in OVER 20 SPORTS, covering an array of body-types nothing like his, in sports he knew nothing about.
Poliquin appears to have trained far more Olympic medalists than any strength coach ever because he could observe the movement of the sport, communicate with the coaches of that sport, and create solutions that no one within the sport ever had. His success was due to greater knowledge of how to create measurable strength adaptations. I have now enjoyed this same ability for my own clients.
Here’s an example of why…
The clue in this case is that the #1 LIMITER of your desired athletic quality is the “eccentric” strength of the opposing quality.
“Eccentric” means when a muscle is lengthening. If you think of doing a bicep curl and curling the weight up, that is NOT the eccentric. The way down on a bicep curl is your eccentric strength.
So in the case of a kick, what MOVES the ball?
Your quads, big time.
Your hip flexors also have to contract to move the ball.
So does your tibialis.
These muscles are all contracting when you kick.
And a kick isn’t truly one legged. Your other leg is planting into the ground, so your calves are under load and your hips are extending.
If I were a soccer player, would I want to be elite in my quads, hip flexors, tibialis, calves, and hip extension? Yup!
But none of those would unleash the “secret” to kicking power.
They’re only the obvious ones.
The OPPOSITE of the kick is your eccentric knee flexion.
Imagine you have no knee flexors (hamstrings) and you kick as hard as you can. You would severely hurt your knee because there would be nothing (other than your tendons* and ligaments**) to slow your shin bone from pulling itself free of the knee. Essentially, your body will only ALLOW you to kick as hard as your knee flexion can decelerate.
(*tendons hold your muscles to the bone *ligaments hold your bones to other bones)
THE 3 WAYS I COACH ECCENTRIC KNEE FLEXION
#1: ECCENTRIC NORDIC
The cheapest and simplest way is lowering yourself down in what is basically a bodyweight hamstring curl:
The cheapest equipment I know for it is the NordStick. I’m proud to say I’m assisting the creator of the NordStick on an AMERICAN-MADE version with the industry-leading foam tech of the AbMat!
I also have an American-made, commercial-grade Nordic Bench being developed that has the most comfortable padding yet, and is built slightly elevated (but not too high) to make a perfect bench for your free weight tibialis raises. I’m on a simple mission to have ideal home and gym versions of every item needed for ATG — and all American-made.
Currently, the Sorinex “Poor Man Glute-Ham Raise” has the best padding on the market. Sorinex can do amazing full gym build-outs and I can vouch for their Nordic Bench. I’d personally call it the “Rich Man Glute-Ham Raise” since I’ve seen them first-hand in the home gyms of some of the richest athletes in the world!
A regular Glute-Ham Raise machine is another awesome device which is covered in #3 of this article with video on the specific way I use it for eccentric training. It is more expensive, less accessible, and less strict of a measure than Nordics, per my extensive experience with both. That’s why I personally use Nordics — not because I don’t also love GHRs.
For fullest understanding of how to regress and progress Nordics, my “How to Make Yourself a World-Class Athlete” and “How to Nordic Hamstring Curl” videos have the internet’s most views for Nordic tutorials.
#2: 2-UP/1-DOWN MACHINE HAMSTRING CURL
Hamstring curl machines are common in gyms.
Let’s say you can do 8 reps with 100 pounds.
Can you do 8 reps alternating legs (4 per side) with 75 pounds, using two legs to lift and controlling down at least 4 seconds with just one leg?
In ATG, we use the 2-up/1-down machine hamstring curl with a Structural Balance ratio of 75% of normal machine hamstring curl strength, for 8 reps.
#3: ECCENTRIC-OVERLOAD GLUTE-HAM RAISE
I’ve never walked into a gym and seen this one, so it’s better for most readers to watch it first.
The idea is to use more weight than you can on a Glute-Ham Raise, but use the Back Extension function to get momentum.
In fact, the Back Extension function of the Glute-Ham Raise is wonderful. If you had a Glute-Ham Raise and performed the Back Extension with a 2-second hold at the top of each rep, that would suffice for ATG program purposes. I use a 45-degree Back Extension because of the stretch at the bottom and because of how common they are in commercial gyms. Yep, I have one of those being American-made as well. It’s the first home-intended foldable, pre-assembled back extension, PERIOD — not to mention American-made, and again will have industry-leading padding.
So, how do I recommend you integrate this into your training?
Well, Mondays for me (“What Ben’s Doing” on the app) are “Squats & Knee Flexion.” On the squat I perform 5 warm-up sets and then 5 working sets. Starting with my first working sets of squats, I superset with knee flexion. So I perform 5 good quality sets of knee flexion on Mondays. I’ve been using the NordStick for the past 16 weeks and it works for me.
Imbalance #1: If you have a measurable difference between sides, the 2-up/1-down machine hamstring curl would be ideal for you. In this case I would perform 4 reps on the weak side and 3 on the strong just to get a little extra effort in to bring up the weak side. Keep in mind you’re alternating legs, so you’re NOT using more weight on the strong leg, and you would be extra careful not to let the weight drop any faster on the weak side. This allows you to catch up without going to extremes that could create imbalances the other way.
Machine Hamstring Curl 100 pounds x 8 reps
2-up/1-down Machine Hamstring Curl 70 pounds right leg, 50 pounds left leg.
2 years later:
Machine Hamstring Curl 120 pounds x 8 reps
2-up/1-down Machine Hamstring Curl 90 pounds right leg, 90 pounds left leg.
Imbalance #2: If you have a weak lower back (8-rep strict Back Extension less than 43% of 3-rep strict Front Squat per The ATG Calculator), the Eccentric-Overload Glute-Ham Raise is an ideal version for you since you’ll be getting extra lower back strengthening compared to the Eccentric Nordic or 2-up/1-down Machine Hamstring Curl.
Mindset: If you’re in a kicking sport and you think your eccentric knee flexion strength is “good,” I would encourage you to think of it like a powerlifter thinks of a bench press, because I can promise you NO ONE IS DOING THAT FOR ECCENTRIC KNEE FLEXION. I have talked with thousands of athletes now. If they are training eccentric knee flexion, it’s maybe for 12 weeks out of the year, or doing some random drills — NOT on a weekly basis with measurable progress and full intent.
Bonus: The more you increase your eccentric knee flexion strength, the more protected your knee gets, too!
I hope this data helps your training and your ability to help others.
Yours in Solutions,
PS. Special thanks to those doing my coaching certification. I was losing passion for writing articles until one of the members pointed out to me how much writing I do every day in answering their questions. So before using up my writing energy on a lengthy answer to this question, I noted it for an article so that it lives on and isn’t lost in the abyss of The Pulse of ATG (our Telegram chat). Now I’ll never run out of articles to bring you, and the member who asked this question will still get this lengthy answer.