Just about every kid who plays sports knows what a heel kick, or butt kick, warm up drill is.
And yet nearly 100% of them do it incorrectly.
It is unfortunate, because one simple change can take it from a really bad to a very useful corrective sprint exercise.
HEEL KICKS DONE WRONG
Sprinters are at their fastest when they can get their back side leg to snap forward through the most efficient path, and as we all learned in school the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. When watching someone sprint, you want to see their back-side foot snap in front of the body in as close to a straight line path as possible once it leaves the ground.
This means that as the back-side foot rises off the ground, it travels forward as it is coming up.
But what does the standard heel kick ingrain in our athletes?
The exact opposite, a heel path that is 100% vertical and behind the body. Not surprisingly, slower athletes have more of a butt kick style to their back-side leg mechanics than faster athletes.
And this is what we are teaching our kids to do in a typical heel/butt kick warm up exercise.
HEEL KICKS DONE RIGHT
With one simple change, this same drill can reinforce proper technique
By making one simple change - 'snap up your heel under your body' - you now reinforce the proper leg path to sprint faster.
I don't call these 'heel kicks', but prefer to call them 'Wall Slides' because you can use the image of having a wall directly behind you that you can't kick through. The idea being you slide your foot up the wall as high as you can, but shouldn't kick back and through the imaginary wall.
This actually, as you can see from the sprinter above, makes it more of a high knee/heel kick hybrid. This is a good thing!
Developing speed is not easy, but by hammering away at better technique you can make noticeable gains over time. It is a function of paying attention to the little things, knowing how sprinting works, and repetition.
Ditch your heel kicks for wall slides, and bring your kids one step closer to maximizing their athletic potential.