How to improve your kicks
A reader has requested that I create a routine for kicks similar to the one I created for the splits. So here it is . . .
As I said for the splits, it's important that you follow the routine so that you can get the kicks that you want in the time that you want. This will take three weeks of strong commitment and dedication. Good luck!
Read the bottom (*) for information about getting high kicks.
To start off . . . See how flexible you are. If you can do the splits or are very close, that's great! If not, that's fine, too. Just make sure you are simultaneously developing your kicks and flexibility (see this post for lots of helpful stretches and a good, 3-week stretching routine).
Week 1: At first, practice kicking without music and without counts for twenty minutes each day, twice a day (including weekends!). It is important to do this twice a day because the skill can be easily lost. Doing it several times is a way of drilling into your mind all of the correct things that you need to be doing–this ensures that you will do it right when you are performing. The purpose of this is to see and feel what a kick is supposed to look like. If you can, tell someone to watch you, record yourself with a video camera, or do it in the mirror. Watch yourself both from the front and from the side. Here are the things that you want to accomplish at this primary step:
Good posture: keep your body stiff, shoulders rolled back and down. Arch your back. This is not an easy step, but it is a very important one.
Straight legs: legs should never be bent in a kick unless specified. Both legs should be straight when kicking. Most teams use one preparation bounce before starting their first kick. Remember to keep your legs as straight as possible during this bounce and use your feet (rather than your knees) to propel yourself.
Staying in one spot: Practice staying in one spot (unless, of course, you are supposed to move while kicking). Personally, I think this is the most difficult step. When kicking, it is so natural to stray from where you started; however, in a routine, this will mess up the formations and kick lines will become jagged or diagonal. This is one of those things that require lots of practice. Tip: stick a piece of masking tape to the floor and use it as your starting point. Be careful, however . . . if at the end, you end up at the same spot, it does not necessarily mean that you haven't moved. This is why it's helpful to videotape yourself or tell someone to watch you. Some people have a tendency to kick out of place and then pop back into the place where they started at the last kick.
Technique: Straight legs is part of the technique. For a front kick, kick to the middle towards your nose (rather than straight up towards your shoulder). Also, side kicks should be at a 45Âº angle from a front kick. The round kick (also called fan kick) is a little tricky. The kick should go in an entire circle (not just straight up and around, forming a “D” shape). Technique, like everything else, takes practice.
Adhering to team style: Several other details may be unique to your team. Some teams have their own “special” kicks and other teams may have certain ways to do certain kicks. Dance is about unison, so remember to ensure that you are practicing the technique from your team. The above details (ex: good posture) are universal and applicable to all teams.
Just a tip . . . Try to kick on the floor. Lay down on your back with good posture–your back should be arched so that the middle of your back is not touching the floor. Now practice your kick technique.
GOAL: Be able to do kicks properly. This week, do not worry so much about kicking in time or kicking up to beat with the music. Develop proper technique. While in the first week, you should be building leg strength from all the practice. Remember to work on your flexibility (for high kicks) by stretching daily.
Aaaah, one third of the way through! Now just two weeks to go. Stay motivated!
Week 2: So you've developed the proper technique. Now it's time to start putting things together. You should practice 30 minutes a day at the least. Here are some 2nd-week things to work on and accomplish:
Kicking in time: now is the time to count out your kicks. Build onto the technique you've developed in week 1. Create a kicking routine or use the kicking sequence that is in the routine you are performing with your team. You should have technique already perfect from week 1. The goal now is to put that technique in time. It is a lot to think about, and like I said, it takes practice. Count slowly if you need to.
Sharpness: this is a secondary step of kicking in time. A high kick should be popped up and back down with sharpness. This requires leg strength, which is developed through practice.
Week 3: Now is the time to put the kicks to music. You should have technique, sharpness, and timing down. Now it is a matter of getting everything up to beat. Again, practice 30+ minutes a day is key.
Results for this vary depending on your level of motivation and the amount that you practice. The less motivated put less into their practice and get less accomplished. Become motivated and utilize all your practice time efficiently. Work hard and strive for the kicks that you want. Practice as much as possible and keep in mind the little details and technique because they make a big difference in the effect that you give the audience.
*Reminder: High kicks come from practice and developing your flexibility. Getting high kicks is great, but the technique (posture, sharpness) is much more important. It is easier to work at building higher kicks after you make them “better” by developing the technique. Once you've developed the technique, more stretching (to develop flexibility) and more practice (to build leg strength) will contribute to higher kicks.
Good luck and tell me about your results!