Leg Kick Save

Leg Kick Save Reaction

Shots from the 6-meter line are particularly challenging to save, given their proximity and the reduced reaction time available. Among the many different techniques a handball goalkeeper have to master, reacting to middle shots from 6-meter distance with a leg kick reaction stands out for its effectiveness and precision.  



Understanding the Leg Kick Reaction

The leg kick reaction is a dynamic and powerful movement designed to save shots targeted at the middle and higher parts of the goal. This technique is not just about reflexes, it’s a calculated response that involves anticipation, good positioning, good timing and agility.


Key Elements of the Leg Kick Reaction

Positioning and Stance

Proper positioning is always one of the most important things. Goalkeepers should maintain a balanced and ready stance, and they should step forward, towards the shooter when the shooter is jumping from the 6-meter line. This position and stepping forward allows for bigger goal coverage, explosive movements, and quick adjustments if needed.  


Anticipation and Reading the Shooter

Success in saving shots from the 6-meter line is in the ability to anticipate the shooter’s intentions. If it’s a breakthrough shot from the 6-meter line, then goalkeepers should closely watch the shooter’s arm angle, shoulder orientation, and eye movement to predict the shot trajectory. If it’s a pivot shot, then goalkeepers need to anticipate and first observe to which side the pivot is turning after receiving the ball. Together with that, goalkeepers need to see what is their defence doing in regards to the pivot player – are they passive or active, are they pushing the pivot, and are they in some way disturbing the shot or not. High focus and concentration are crucial for saves of shots from 6-meter line.  


Explosive Leg Movement

The essence of the leg kick reaction lies in the ability to execute a quick and controlled kick towards the anticipated shot direction. This movement should be driven by both the leg’s power and the core, ensuring that the goalkeeper can extend as far as possible without compromising balance or readiness for subsequent shots. The leg kick movement should start with driving the knee laterally upwards first, which is then followed by “kicking” (extending) the lower part of the leg into the full leg extension. Upper Body Coordination: While the leg kick is the focal point, upper body movements are equally important. Goalkeepers should use their arms and upper body to cover as much of the goal as possible, ready to react to any adjustments in the shot’s direction. The arm that is covering the space above the reacting leg needs to be extended (but not fully extended in the elbow), and the other arm also needs to be widely open – covering as much space as possible. Position of both elbows is extremely important in this reaction, they should never be in the full extension, or in hyper extension, because that could lead to an elbow injury. This is why goalkeepers have to work on arm strength, especially to develop strong biceps muscles, which will keep their elbows safe during these kinds of leg kick reactions on powerful shots from 6-meter line.  


Quick Recovery

After the leg kick, quick recovery and proper positioning are crucial. Whether the shot is saved or not, goalkeepers need to regain their goalkeeping stance promptly, preparing themselves for the potential rebound, or for the next action. This requires agility and strong conditioning.  


Training Drills for Perfecting the Leg Kick Reaction

The first step that I would suggest you for work on the leg kick save reaction, would be “dry” drills. These are the exercises that will teach your goalkeeper how to position and how to use properly the leg kick reaction, before proceeding to the shooting drills in the goal. There are so many very important details when working on this dynamic and complex save reaction with young goalkeepers, so you really to need to make a careful approach. Once when your goalkeepers is capable to make a proper (and explosive) leg kick reaction, you can proceed with suggestions below.  


Reaction Drills

Use a variety of balls (handballs, tennis balls, reaction balls) thrown at different speeds and angles towards the middle part of the goal. This will improve the goalkeeper’s reflexes and their ability to predict and react to fast-moving shots (which is exactly what kind of shots from 6-meter line are).  


Positioning Drills

Practice moving quickly laterally from one post to the other in a ready stance, then react to an audio signal by stepping forward, and then react on a middle shot. These shots can be decided (goalkeeper knows the direction), or undecided (goalkeeper doesn’t know the direction). Emphasize maintaining balance and readiness throughout the movement.  


Leg Strength and Flexibility Exercises

Incorporate exercises that improve leg strength (e.g., squats, lunges) and flexibility (e.g., dynamic stretching, yoga). Strong, flexible legs are key to powerful, controlled kicks.  


Hip Flexor Strength

Strong hip flexors are crucial for a successful and powerful leg kick movement that handball goalkeepers use to save middle shots from the 6-meter line. By focusing on strengthening and maintaining the flexibility of the hip flexors, goalkeepers can improve their performance and prevent injuries. The role of the hip flexors in the dynamic leg kick save reaction movement can’t be overstated for several reasons:

  • Explosive Power – The leg kick save reaction requires a burst of power to move the knee and leg quickly upwards and towards the ball. Strong hip flexors contribute significantly to this explosive power, enabling goalkeepers to extend their leg rapidly and forcefully to save the shot.
  • Range of Motion – Effective leg kicks not only depend on speed but also on the range of motion. Strong and flexible hip flexors allow goalkeepers to achieve a greater range of motion, extending further and increasing the chances of making the save.
  • Injury Prevention – Strong hip flexors, in combination with overall hip and core strength, play a critical role in stabilizing the goalkeeper’s movements. This stabilization is key in preventing injuries that can happen from the quick, repetitive motions involved in making leg kick saves.
  • Recovery and Readiness – After executing a leg kick save, goalkeepers have to quickly return to a ready goalkeeper stance to prepare for any rebounds or subsequent shots. Strong hip flexors facilitate faster recovery and enable goalkeepers to maintain agility and readiness throughout the game.
  • Improved Coordination – The coordination of a leg kick save involves more than just the legs, it’s a whole-body movement that requires synchronicity between the legs, hips, core, and upper body. Strong hip flexors contribute to better overall coordination, allowing goalkeepers to execute more controlled and effective saves.

Given the importance of strong hip flexors, goalkeepers should incorporate specific exercises into their training to build strength and flexibility in this area.  


Real Game Situations Shooting Drills

Engage in drills that simulate game scenarios, with attackers executing shots from the 6-meter line. This not only improves the goalkeeper’s leg kick reaction but also their ability to read the game and anticipate shots.


Cognitive Exercises in Combination With Leg Kick Reaction

Cognitive exercises combined with leg kick reactions offer a holistic training approach for handball goalkeepers, targeting both mental sharpness and physical agility. These exercises are designed to simulate game scenarios, requiring goalkeepers to make split-second decisions based on visual or auditory cues while executing the physical movement of a leg kick save reactions. The objective is to improve reaction times, decision-making under pressure, and the efficiency of movement patterns. By challenging goalkeepers to process information quickly and react accordingly, these exercises prepare them for the high-pressure situations they will face in games, improving overall performance in front of the goal.

Example 1: Color-Coded Drills

Description: Set up several colored markers or use colored lights around the goal area. The coach or a training partner calls out a color, and the goalkeeper must quickly move to the corresponding marker and perform a leg kick reaction as if saving a shot from that direction. This drill improves cognitive processing, agility, and the precision of the leg kick reaction.  

Example 2: Audio Cue Reaction

Description: The goalkeeper stands ready in front of the goal. The coach, positioned behind, plays different sounds from a device. Each sound is associated with a specific direction (e.g., left, right, center) where the goalkeeper will simulate a leg kick save reaction. The drill improves auditory processing and the speed of leg kick reactions, practicing the need to react to unexpected shots.  

Example 3: Video Simulation Drills

Description: Goalkeepers face a screen displaying shots from different angles and speeds. They must react to the visual cues on the screen and execute the appropriate leg kick save. This method improves visual-spatial awareness, cognitive decision-making, and physical response times.  




Video – Leg Kick Reaction Warm-Up Drill

In the video below, you can see one of the many shooting warm up drills that you can use with your goalkeepers for middle save reactions. Before you proceed with this kind of a complex, powerful and dynamic shooting drill, you need to first work with your goalkeeper on a proper methodology for saving middle shots from 6-meter line. To learn how to do that and to get ideas and inspiration for exercises that will help you to teach your goalkeepers how to react properly on high, middle, or low shots from 6 meters, you can purchase my Level 2 Video Course for coaches.  




Video – Arm Movement in Leg Kick Save Reaction

During the leg kick save reaction movement, both arms should be wide opened to cover as much space as possible. The arm above the reacting leg kick side is covering the space above that leg. The other arm is also wide spread, and it’s covering the space on that side, in case if the player would decide to change the shooting side. Many of you have asked me what you can do to get your young goalkeeper to perform proper reaction with both arms in leg kick save reaction for middle shots from 6-meter line.

One of the exercise options that you can try is with a resistance band attached to the goal crossbar, as shown in the video below. You can use a simple resistance band as the one shown in the video, or you can use a resistance band with handles.

You should always take care of a proper elbow angle and position (avoid backwards “swing” like movement with arms and avoid an over extension of elbows in this reaction), in order to prevent potential elbow injuries during the impact of the ball.

The leg kick movement should be done in two phases:

  1. external rotation and knee raise and
  2. knee extension, lower leg kick.

In that way, the leg kick reaction is faster. Versus a slower version of lifting up an extended leg (without the lateral knee raise first).

The most common mistake that many young goalkeepers are making in this kind of save reaction is that they are lifting up straight / extended leg with the knee locked straight. Further progression of this exercise can include a resistance band on the knee or ankle of the reacting leg.  




Video – Exercise For The Leg Kick Save Reaction

In the video below, you can see an exercise option for proper positioning for the wide position for the shot from the 6-meter line, and the leg kick save reaction for saves of middle shots from that wide line shot position.

The goalkeeper starts by touching the opposite post, which is making a challenge and it’s taking a goalkeeper “out” and further away from the proper position. Then the goalkeeper needs to compensate fast for the loss of a proper position with timely lateral movement and proper positioning for the wide position from which the 6-meter middle shot is coming. After positioning on the wide shooting position, the goalkeeper is making the step forward towards the shooter, which is then followed with the leg kick save reaction.

Depending on what exactly you are working on with your goalkeepers, you can use this exercise, and any of it’s possible different options and combinations.  




Video – Leg Kick Save Reaction On Two Step Boards

In the video below, you can find two combo exercises on step boards for leg kick save movement, combined with a lateral movement.

Before you start using any of the two combo drills from the video, first you need to make sure that your goalkeeper is good in performing properly the leg kick movement.


There are a lot of important details about the leg kick movement (proper way to do it and how to teach your goalkeeper to do it) and I speak about all of that in great detail in my self-paced Level 2 online video course which you can get here.


The Topics That You Can Find In My Level 2 Video Course

  • Saves of shots from 6 meters line – introduction
  • Saves of shots from 6 meters line – the first step forward and proper positioning
  • Saves of the high, middle and low shots from 6 meters line – introduction, theory and save techniques work with young goalkeepers
  • Saves of the wing shots – introduction, proper positioning, proper technique, theory
  • Wing stance and understanding the difference between the wing stance and the basic stance
  • Understanding the difference between small and big wing angles of shooting from the wing positions
  • Saves of the high, middle and low shots from the small wing angle of shooting
  • Saves of high, middle and low shots from the normal wing angle of shooting – theory and save techniques in work with young goalkeepers




Video – Knee Raises and Leg Kick Save Reactions

In the video below you can see some of the ideas and steps of progression for saves of middle shots from 6-meter line by using the leg kick save reaction technique.




Video – Double Save Reaction for 6-Meter Shots

In the video below, you can see one of the ways for how you can work on leg kick reaction for saves of middle shots from 6-meter line.

The goalkeeper is first reacting to the shot in the hands – which is always a great reminder for a goalkeeper to start the save reaction from the goalkeeper basic stance. After that, the goalkeeper reacted to the middle height shot with the leg kick reaction.

Resistance band is a great tool in work on saves of 6-meter line shots, because it gives the resistance to push forward, towards the ball, and to go more agile into the save reaction. The leg kick reaction is a dynamic and powerful movement designed to save shots targeted at the middle and higher parts of the goal. 




Video – Leg Kick Reactions With Footwork and Rhythm on The Step Board

Leg kick is a very common element of goalkeeper technique for majority of male and female goalkeepers, no matter what kind of a goalkeeping style they have.

In this video you can see a few options of exercises for working on the leg kick save reaction, footwork and rhythm with your goalkeepers. The third option tends to be the most challenging in sense of coordination and rhythm, especially if you are working with young goalkeepers, so please make sure to make a slow progression towards that exercise.

  • OPTION 1 – Leg kick reaction after stepping up on the step board with the supporting leg
  • OPTION 2 – Leg kick with the “outside” leg after the sideways stepping over the step board
  • OPTION 3 – Leg kick with the “inside” leg after the sideways stepping over the step board




Video – Leg Kick Save Reactions With Visual and Vestibular Activation

In the video below, you can see one of the combo drills that I love using when working on several different elements of handball goalkeeper training: visual input and visual processing speed, speed of information processing, vestibular (balance) system activation, spatial awareness and orientation, leg kick reaction, reacting and non-reacting arm position and movement during the leg kick reaction, improving reaction speed.

Adding cognitive challenges in handball goalkeeper training are essential for developing a well-rounded, mentally agile goalkeeper. By focusing on goalkeeper technique while including cognitive aspects of goalkeeping, goalkeeper coaches can elevate goalkeepers’ performance, ensuring they are not only physically but also mentally prepared to face the demands of high-level competitions!

To actually save a ball, a goalkeeper needs to combine the visual input with activation of the body’s motor system to get the body in the correct place in front of the goal.

A goalkeeper which can process more visual information in a shorter period of time and make a proper motor output – response – save reaction, will always have an advantage in competition! That’s why you want to work on these things with your goalkeepers.

I love implementing elements of vestibular training in handball goalkeeper training, which is actually a balance system training. The vestibular system is a key part of our inner ear and brain that helps regulate balance and spatial orientation. When we talk about vestibular system activation, we’re referring to stimulating this system to function properly. This activation can involve various movements or exercises that encourage the vestibular system to process balance information more effectively. These might include different combinations and options of head movements, eyes movements, balancing tasks, jump turns, or other physical activities that challenge your sense of equilibrium.

In the context of handball goalkeeping, activating the vestibular system is quite important because it involves a high degree of balance, agility, and spatial orientation – all of which are directly influenced by the vestibular system.

In the video below, there are a few different steps:

  1. After giving an audio stimuli – a hand clap,  lift up left or right arm to point to the left or right side
  2. The goalkeeper makes a 180 jump turn in basic stance, and quickly perceives which arm did the coach lift up (L or R)
  3. The goalkeeper needs to make the leg kick reaction to the pointed side, before which the step forward needs to be made with the opposite side leg
  4. The same exercise with addition of shots with a bigger, soft ball to the side of the leg kick reaction
  5. The same exercise with a smaller ball (to increase the difficulty)






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All content (such as text, data, graphics files, images, illustrations, videos, sound files), and all other materials contained in www.vanjaradic.fi are copyrighted unless otherwise noted and are the property of Vanja Radic Coaching. If you want to cite or use any part of the content from my website, you need to get the permission first, so please contact me for that matter.