Bobby O’Mullan: 4DU Strength & Performance Director
You’re a kicker looking to elevate your game through weight training. Congratulations! You’ve already separated yourself from the majority of your competition. Weight training for specialists is a bit of uncharted territory. In the past, the weight room has been a place where most position groups get buried under back squats and power cleans, while specialists were given step-ups and told to stretch. In some weight rooms, specialists aren’t even required to show up. The point is there’s no outlined correct approach. Which is exactly why you’re here.
When getting started with weight training it’s important to identify the purpose. As specialists, we don’t need to worry about adding on a ton of muscle for protection against big hits. Justin Tucker probably wears a size small game pants, yet he can bomb a 66yd field goal in-game. Let that tell you, muscle size does not directly relate to muscle strength or power.
There are of course the exceptions to that rule in the Steve Weatherford’s and Jamie Gillans of the league. I’m a firm believer that walking around 145lbs soaking wet is no way to go through life but being 6’3” and 200lbs+ does not need to be our primary focus. Whether you’re just getting started or have 10 years of experience, the goal remains the same. Do things in the weight room to increase your performance on the field. What those things are and how we go about them is dependent upon your training experience, and what stage of your career you’re at. In this post, we’re going to talk about how to approach training for anyone within their first 3-5 years of lifting.
If you’re just getting into weight training the good news, is you have the potential to make a massive amount of progress, and you can get results from doing just about anything. Where most specialists get themselves into trouble is pursuing kicking specific training too early. Well-intended parents take their high schoolers to some guru who straps cables to their ankles, bands around their hips, and has them stand on a stability pad to do exercises. Not that sport-specific exercises are always a bad thing, but if your kid looks like a newborn deer performing bodyweight lunges then there’s still plenty we can get out of building a better foundation. Think of it as a pyramid. The height of your peak is limited by the width of your foundation. Many specialists try to build their peak without first building some foundational strength.
Your first few years of training as a specialist should look significantly like any other position’s lifting program. You need to build strong legs, you need to build your upper body, you need a strong core, you need to stretch, you need to sprint, and you need to be in shape. Each of those components creates a strong foundation from which you can enhance the skills of your position. If your legs are stronger, your potential for kicking further increases. Stronger legs also correlate to increased resiliency, which can help longevity. You can’t train your legs every day because you need time to recover to make progress. Upper body training allows us to give your nervous system an additional strength stimulus without taxing the legs. A stronger core helps translate your rotational force throughout your leg swing. Stretching helps maintain your full range of motion, which improves the potential force production of your leg swing. Sprinting adds a velocity stimulus so that your body doesn’t just train to move heavy weights slowly, but it adapts to apply that force quickly. This helps in the carryover from lifting to kicking. If you’re better conditioned, your capacity to tolerate work is improved. You can therefore manage longer practices and maintain quality reps throughout.
The only place I recommend adding some specialization for young specialists is through additional adductor/groin and lower leg exercises. While most other positions may work on neck, grip, or low back exercises, specialists can take care of their typical trouble areas.
The best routine is one that best fits your schedule. Three full-body lifts per week in the off-season and two full-body lifts in-season are a good place to get started. If you can only make two lifts in the off-season work, then do two. Don’t follow a routine that you’ll only complete 66% of. If you have the time to lift four days a week and do upper body and lower body splits, then go ahead. If you’re consistent, you’ll see results.
See example General Preparation off-season lift below…