How to Kick a Knuckleball (Power Without Spin)

Reading Time: 5 minutes

In soccer, kicking the ball without spin is called a knuckleball. The ball won’t spin as it flies through the air.

This type of shot is powerful and can be unpredictable for the goalie.

Today, we’ll cover these keys points:

  • Posture for a free-kick
  • The sweet spot to strike the ball
  • Kicking a knuckleball

A knuckleball aimed at the top corner will give the goalie little chance of stopping it.

Madrid Spain 23.02.2022 Uefa Champions League Round of 16 first leg between Atletico De Madrid and Manchester United Cristiano Ronaldo shoots the free kick with a knuckleball. ○ Soccer Blade

How to kick a soccer ball without spin

To kick a soccer ball without spin, you’ll want to focus on these 4 areas:

  1. Set up
  2. Run up
  3. Ball striking
  4. Follow through

We’ll use a free-kick as an example scenario and cover these 4 in more detail. Then, you can start practicing the technique and perfecting your knuckleball.

Real Madrid v Manchester United UEFA Super Cup
Real Madrid v Manchester United UEFA Super Cup

1. Set up

Firstly, make sure your soccer ball is regulation size. That is a size 5 soccer ball. Also, you’ll want the ball to be well-inflated.

Soccer balls that are too soft get more spin.

We want to avoid spin with this technique, so get the ball pumped up.

When you’ve got this sorted, you’ll want to find a good place to practice. Shooting against a wall can be a good idea because the ball will return to you.

It means you can spend more time practicing and less time running after the ball. For set-up distance, it’s best to be outside the 18-yard box. So, start about 20-25 yards away from your target. That should be a good distance.

If you’re uncomfortable with kicking that distance, it’s fine to take the ball closer.

Once you’ve selected your distance, find the valve of the soccer ball. This is the part you pump air through to inflate it. Place the ball so that the valve is facing you and position it so that the valve is in the center.

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This will help you to strike the ball in the right spot.

Now, before you kick the ball let’s cover the run-up.

penalty kick shootout in soccer
penalty kick shootout in soccer

2. Run-up

For the run-up, you can use your normal one if you already take a lot of free-kicks. But if you don’t take free kicks or haven’t practiced them, we’ve got you covered.

Stand at the ball and take 4 steps backward. Don’t take little steps but the biggest steps you can comfortably take.

Just don’t overstretch.

When you’re 4 steps back, take 2 side steps to your left if you’re right-footed – 2 steps to the right if you’re left-footed. This will create a slight angle for your approach, which is best for kicking a knuckleball.

Before you run up, stand tall with your chest up and shoulders back.

Imagine you’re going to fight with the ball and are making yourself look bigger.

Check out this video of Ronaldo’s famous free-kick against Portsmouth in the English Premier League to get an idea.

Cristiano Ronaldo Free Kick Vs Portsmouth Sky Sports Commentary 2008 HD
Cristiano Ronaldo Free Kick Vs Portsmouth 2008

Notice how he stands before taking the kick. He almost looks like a gunslinger in an old western movie.

Copy this posture because you want your body to be quite upright when you’re striking the ball.

When you’re running up to strike the ball, keep the weight on the balls of your feet. This will give you good momentum for a powerful strike.

You’ll want to plant your supporting foot level with the ball, and about 6 inches to the side, when you’re about to strike the ball.

So, if you’re right-footed, you’ll plant your left foot level with the ball and 6 inches to the left side. If you’re left-footed, you’ll plant your right foot level with the ball and 6 inches to the right side.

Soccer player shooting at goal

3. Ball striking

Striking the ball in the right spot is essential so you don’t get any spin. Remember we positioned the valve in the center of the ball? You’ll want to strike the ball about 2 inches below the valve.

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This will give your shot the best height without giving any spin.

If you strike the ball exactly in the center, you won’t get any height on your shot. And striking it too far below the center will give you too much height and some backspin.

Now that we know where to strike the ball, let’s look at the best way to strike it.

You’ll want to use your laces for a powerful shot without any spin.

Avoid kicking with the inside or the outside of your foot. And don’t use the toe of your foot.

For the knuckleball, you should strike with the sweet spot of your cleats. The sweet spot is around the area of the bottom 3 holes for your laces.

If you’re right-footed, the sweet spot is the bottom 3 holes and slightly to the left. It’s the bottom 3 holes and slightly to the right if you’re left-footed.

Striking with the sweet spot of your foot about 2 inches below the valve is the best for creating no spin.

Watch this short video to get a better idea:

The Ultimate Knuckle Ball Tutorial

Remember to hold your posture when you’re striking the ball. You don’t want to be too stooped over.

Stay tall without leaning back.

4. Follow through

Once you strike the ball, your follow-through is important.

You don’t want to take a full follow-through. But you don’t want to stop immediately upon impact, either.

To start, you can mark a line ahead of the ball with tape. Make it about 2 feet in front. You’ll want to think about keeping your follow-through inside this line.

Now, your momentum might take your further forward and over the line. That’s fine. We just want you to think about keeping the follow-through short.

If you try to keep the follow-through within the line, you won’t do a full follow-through.

And we want to avoid a full follow-through.

Having a line there is a good reminder. It’ll make sure you concentrate on keeping the follow-through short and sharp.

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When practicing the knuckleball, don’t worry about hitting the target to start with. Just focus on the 4 areas of the technique.

Get the ball flying without any spin. Then, you can start aiming for specific targets.

The knuckleball is probably the hardest shooting technique in soccer. It takes plenty of practice to master. So, don’t worry if you can’t do it for a while.

Keep practicing and have fun perfecting your technique. You’ll get there!

Soccer Analyst and Publisher at Soccer Blade | Soccer Blade | + posts

Joel is a seasoned soccer journalist and analyst with many years of experience in the field. Joel specializes in game analysis, player profiles, transfer news, and has a keen eye for the tactical nuances of the game. He played at various levels in the game and coached teams - he is happy to share his insight with you.

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Playing Soccer FAQ

Is soccer a contact sport?

While tackling with excessive force, charging, and striking opponents are illegal in soccer, players often overstep the boundaries. Although this generally results in appropriate sanctions being awarded, it doesn’t prevent significant contact from occurring.

What do soccer teams do at halftime?

At halftime, soccer teams exit the field. They return to their bench area. For youth teams, they may not have a locker room. However, many college and professional teams do head back to the locker room. 
The break is an opportunity for teams to collect themselves. They may talk about what is going well in the game, and what they need to resolve.

How do I join a soccer team?

Attend trials for schools, teams in your local area. If no trials are due, then contact the coach to see if you can join a practice. Search for local soccer teams and try a few to see if it suits your ability and it also needs to be a place that you would enjoy. Scholarships are also available depending on your age, ability, and location. 

Why does a soccer ball curve?

The angle and speed with which the soccer player’s boot strikes the ball determine how far the ball travels. The ball won’t curve or spin if the player hits it right in the middle with their foot following through in a completely straight line.

What are some injuries players get when playing soccer? 

The most common knee and ankle injuries are mild to severe sprains, strains, and tears. Other less common knee and ankle injuries include dislocations and fractures.

What are some ways to pass a soccer ball?

+ Inside foot: Using the area above and inside of the big toe.
+ Outside foot: This creates a spin on the ball to swerve the ball around players
+ The Laces: A powerful volley can be performed with a straight leg swing.
+ Spin: If the toes get underneath the ball with some force you create a backspin.
+ Back heel: Connect the heel with the ball to reverse play.
+ Header: Often used for clearing and shooting, but can be a creative passing move.
+ Body: Use any part of the body to deflect the ball into the path you desire.

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