Kicking is a critical skill in a range of sports and athletic activities. Soccer, American football and rugby require kicking as a part of routine game play, and activities such as martial arts rely on both offensive and defensive kicks during sparring. Proper engagement of several muscle groups ensures effective kicking that is both powerful and accurate. Training the muscle groups involved in kicking also reduces the likelihood that you'll experience an injury during kicking by supporting proper form and follow-through.
Preparing to kick a ball requires secure planting of the stable foot and extension of the leg and ankle muscles of the kicking foot. In both a running or stationary approach, the non-kicking or stable foot must serve as the grounding point of the body. The muscles of the trunk, including the abdominal core and spinal postural muscles, serve as stabilizing muscles to maintain balance during the kick. The hip of the kicking foot extends, engaging the corresponding gluteal muscles. The muscles of both knees flex through the hamstrings to allow bending of the stable foot and pulling back of the kicking foot. The kicking ankle also flexes to draw back the kicking foot in preparation for contact with the ball.
Once tension has been established through the muscle groups of the kicking foot, the motion of kicking converts movements of extension to movements of flexion and vice versa. The iliopsoas of the kicking hip flex as the leg moves forward to make contact with the ball. The predominantly engaged muscle group of the knee transfers from the hamstrings to the quadriceps as the muscles extend. The ankle, however, typically remains in a flexed position through the preparation and kicking stages. During the kick, the core muscles remain stable, though the shoulder opposing the kicking leg engaged in horizontal adduction through the biceps, anterior deltoid and pectoral muscles.
After contact has been made with the ball, forward momentum continues in the form of a follow-through. An abrupt end to motion puts the muscles involved in the kick at risk for injury, and continued contact with the target imparts more force and increases speed and distance. In the follow-through, the hip coordinated with the kicking foot engages the hamstrings, gluteal muscles and quadriceps in a coordinated act of extension, rotation and abduction that gently turns the body in the direction of the kick. The kicking knee also returns to a flexed state in preparation for returning to a neutral position.
Though the kicking foot experiences most of the action during the act of kicking, the role of the stable foot and the hip is significant, especially in regard to the direction of the ball. A 2000 research study exploring the biomechanics of kicking determined that ball direction is "dictated by support-foot position and ultimately by hip position at ball contact." For athletes, the finding stresses the critical importance of proper placement and angling of the stable planting foot in accurate, targeted kicking. The report also found that the hip flexor group and knee extensors were responsible for preventing overextension of the kicking leg in both drawing the leg backward in preparation and after the kick during follow-through.