by Joanne L Jones
A common question from kickboxing students is 'how can I make my kicks higher and more powerful?' In fact there is no single answer. Many factors should be taken into consideration before a solution is presented such as experience, current flexibility level, current strength, age, and genetic makeup. Some people just don't have the bone structure to display full flexibility or be able to do certain kicks. Try not to compare yourself to other people's abilities, everybody is different. Some people are naturally able to do things that others can't, or simply others may have been practicing the same thing for a longer period of time
Of course many people can already kick high and powerful but with very limited accuracy. High kicks although very effective and look impressive can leave you dangerously open to attack or countered if they miss their target.
1.One of the first things that should be emphasised is that many kicking techniques take time to master. It is said that a muscle needs 10,000 repetitions to become second nature! If you can't do something, don't get mad and beat yourself up over it! Leave trying till the next day. Set yourself a challenge; try to accomplish one thing at a time!
2. To start with practice each kick slowly and technically correct, do not attempt to rush! Break the kick down into small sections as shown by your coach or kickboxing instructor. Do not worry about the height or power to start with. You will find it difficult to execute the kick at high level using slow speed.
3. If possible, practice the kick in front of a tall mirror. Look at your body's position whilst doing the kick slowly. Keep your eyes looking forwards and imagine your reflection is your opponent. Many mistakes can be spotted and adjustments made by using a mirror. For example are you leaning your weight too far to one side? Are your hands dropping and causing imbalance?
4. Balance is very important for kicking. It may be necessary or useful to practice kicking by using a chair, wall or similar object to hold onto. Do not use this as an excuse to lose technique by trying to kick higher too soon. Always try to maintain good form. When practising without aid use your hands and arms for balance, it is also important to keep your guard whilst kicking, many kick boxers will look to counter a kick in this way. Try doing simple balance exercises such as standing on one leg whilst trying to bring your other knee up-towards your chest. Bosu balls and wobble boards are good for learning balance.
5.Lack of height in kicks is often due lack of strength in the supporting leg, try to execute a kick and hold it at the 'finished' position, and note which muscles you can feel being worked most. Try to strengthen these particular muscles, or groups of muscle. Simple body weight exercises should be used to develop strength in kicks. Use squats, lunges, good mornings, abductor flies and horse riding stance to name a few. Again, just by practicing the kick slowly and by trying to keep a constant height is a good way to strengthen muscles used by kicks. But try not to do too much too soon!
6.Each kick uses many body positions throughout the execution of it thus using different muscles that are not used solely by the kicking leg. Muscles groups such as lower back and abdomen area for example. In short do not concentrate just on strengthening the kicking leg.
7. Use dynamic stretching as part of your daily routine, controlled leg raises to the front, side and rear. Do not confuse dynamic stretching with Ballistic stretching, or try throwing out full power kicks to thin air. For more experienced kickboxing practitioners Light ankle weights can be used whilst practising kicks and whilst doing dynamic stretching further develops kicking strength and height. Start only with very light weights. Again do not rush!
8. Whilst spending long periods of time developing the side split or similar stretches will help with your static flexibility it will not make you be able to kick at height with power. After all what would be the point in throwing high kicks with limited or no strength other than for demonstrations?
9. When you can do the kick technically correct start to use a kick shield or heavy bag to develop speed and strength of you kicks. Try not to think about power all the time when kicking, try and be relaxed until the moment of impact. Also aim your kick so that you are going to kick right through the target and not just the surface.
10. Now you have developed good technique and height, work on getting more power into your kicks by using your body weight as well. Don't just think about kicking with your leg; rather kick with your whole body! Do this by adding a small 'discreet' step or movement as you are executing your kick. Remember that being able to throw high kicks with power takes time. Work on the technique first, speed, power and then height. It is just as important to rest as much as it is to practice. Kicking with sore or tired muscles will only increase the risk of injury.