How To Increase Shooting Power
To work on increasing your shot power, you need to work on each component and movement involved in producing a powerful shot. These are balance and stability, knee extension and hip flexion.
Balance & Stability
The first thing we need to address is the stability of the leg you’re standing on when taking a shot. For example, if you’re right-footed, you need to plant your left leg and it needs to be stable to help you keep your balance as you swing your right leg.
Without balance and stability, you’re unable to produce the force needed to strike the ball with power.
Static balance exercises can help:
- Stand on one leg with a slight bend in the knee.
- Aim to hold your balance for 30 seconds and work towards a full minute.
- Progress the exercise by doing it with your eyes closed or throwing and catching a ball as you balance.
Once you’re able to balance on each leg for 30 seconds to 1 minute, add some ball work to the exercise.
For example, if you’re a right-footed striker of the ball, a good drill would be to volley a ball back to a teammate with your right foot (keeping it off the ground) while you balance on your left foot, continue volleying for a set number of kicks or length of time.
This is great for balance, with the additional bonus of it being football specific.
Knee extension is straightening your leg, so it takes a strong, forceful knee extension to be able to strike a ball with great force.
Improving your quad strength will help you to produce a more powerful strike of the ball. Double-leg exercises such as squats and deadlifts can be used to build quad strength, as can single-leg supported exercises such as split squats and lunges or any variation that involves stepping forward onto one leg and then pushing back as powerfully as you can.
The leg extension machine in the gym is another option.
Not all strength and conditioning coaches favour leg extensions as some believe it’s not a functional movement. However, the angle of the knee in this exercise is able to mimic the angle of your knee when taking a shot, so there’s strong potential for a cross-over into developing a stronger, more powerful strike.
Adding Speed To Knee Extension
The next step after increasing the force which each of the muscles involved in kicking can apply is to add speed to the movement, that combination of increased strength and increased speed leads to increased shot power.
This can be achieved using free-weight exercises such as box squats, where you descend slowly to the box and then power back out of the squat position at speed to return to a standing position. However, for more advanced athletes in the gym, adding accommodating resistance can be useful.
In squats or deadlifts for example, adding chains or bands to the bar will make the exercise easier towards the bottom of the movement and then harder towards the top. This can help to produce more power than regular lifts by removing the need to decelerate at the top.
Using regular back squats as an example, there’s a need to slow down towards the top of the movement to avoid finishing with a jump. With accommodating resistance however, you can power up from the bottom to the top at speed without the need to slow down.
Accommodating resistance exercises should only be used once you have a good base of strength and power. If you can back squat 1.5 x your bodyweight, you’ll benefit from using accommodating resistance in training.
Bringing your knee up to your chest is a movement that demonstrates hip flexion. One training option is to use a hip flexion machine, but a more accessible exercise is to use a short, looped resistance band.
- Loop the band under your left foot to stand on it and put your right foot inside it.
- Lift your right knee as high as you can against the resistance of the band.
This exercise should be done with a light band initially to master the movement and control your balance. Increasing the resistance with a stronger band will then help to build strength.
The next progression is to return to a lighter band and add speed to the lifts, using a running arm movement to help maintain balance and rhythm as you develop power in the moves.
Hip flexor and groin pain can be an issue for footballers, so begin with a light band for no more than 2 or 3 sets of 5 reps. If you’re pain free, progress to a stronger band and gradually increase the reps to 10 or 15. When you then begin working on speed, return to a lighter band and around 5 reps per set.
Working on stability, balance, knee extension and hip flexion will help to increase your shot strength, but shooting practice is equally as important. If you want to improve your shot strength, you need to practice striking the ball with a good connection and with as much force as possible. To increase stability throughout the movement further, try tensing your stomach as you strike the ball, you’ll be amazed at the difference such a simple strategy can make on your striking power and quality.
Hard striking of the ball should be treated as a power exercise and should only be done following a thorough warm up. Power training, such as sprinting, requires extended rest periods and shooting practice should be no different. It makes sense to go for quality rather than quantity to avoid fatigue limiting your performance, therefore every shot should be as strong as possible with rest scheduled between each strike.
Imagine it in terms of percentage, if you can kick a ball at 100% maximum power, there’s no point practicing kicks that only equate to 75% of your maximal power due to fatigue.
Shoot, go and get the ball, relax a minute and then take another shot. If you limit the number of shots you take to no more than 5 and take a rest of 30 seconds to a minute between them, you’re going to get closer to maximal power and you’ll get more speed on the ball.