Learning How to Decelerate

Whenever thinking about the quarterback throwing motion from the outside in, it looks pretty simple to most. What if I were to tell you that the QB throwing motion is just as intricate as the golf swing? Well, it is! Quarterbacks of all ages will develop different motions based off of pre-requisite mobility/stability that they have, how they are taught, and the different motor patterns that they will acquire as they practice. No two quarterbacks look exactly the same, but as long as they follow a base set of principles in relation to the quarterback throwing motion, they will give themselves a chance to be successful. One part of the QB throwing motion that is often overlooked is the deceleration phase into the follow through. It’s great to be powerful and explosive to throw with velocity, but if you can’t control the body after the throw, you are setting yourself up for failure. This is like driving a Lamborghini without brakes. This doesn’t sound fun does it? Any time a QB fails to decelerate, he puts himself at high risk to be very inaccurate and also puts himself at high risk of injury. Check out today’s post to see what proper deceleration is and how to improve it!

Who is at Risk?

So how do you know if you fall into this category? When thinking about proper deceleration of the throw, let’s talk about how we want to transition into the throw from the release point of the football to the follow through. At the release point of the football, we would ideally want to see full hip extension/hip internal rotation on the drive leg, full opening of the front foot with the hips facing the target, a torso that is vertical and stable, and a hand that is guiding the football forward with the hand in front of the elbow. Guys that throw the ball well consistently have this position. You can see an example below of what I’m talking about.

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What if This Doesn't Look Ideal?

What we have to realize as quarterbacks and coaches is that the throwing motion is comparable to a line of dominos. If something is misaligned, then there’s definitely going to be issues as we go further and further down into the motion. Here’s a good example of what I mean:

A quarterback takes a rhythm 5 drop to throw the speed out to the left. He doesn’t have enough eccentric hip abductor strength in the drive hip (very common, Dwayne Haskins still has this issue), so instead of transferring his weight back with his shoulders parallel to his hips, he lateral side bends to the right. This happens all too often with the left shoulder popping up for a right handed quarterback when they try to load before they throw. So now, the quarterback will “enter the tunnel” into the throwing motion poorly. We have said it before. “If you enter well, then you will exit well!” As the quarterback goes into the loading phase, he’s not in a good position so he won’t load well. As he accelerates forward, he will most likely be over extended in the lumbar spine or have some other compensatory measure to throw. His release point will then be very flawed in which he will decelerate and follow through poorly, which will predispose him to decreased performance and injury. Do you see how there is a big time domino effect?

We have put a ton of time breaking this down and thinking about this. The quarterback position isn’t one where you can just go out and practice to have success. Right now, this is why the quarterbacks that work with high work ethic, but with no PROPER guide hit a ceiling pretty quick. You have to realize this quarterback coaches. Leave your ego at the door if you want your guys to get better. It takes a village.

 

Who?

Many times, the populations of quarterbacks that have trouble decelerating are taller players that lack some strength and stability. These guys might be able to produce a lot of force through their hips because of their great mobility through their hips and spine, but they lack stability in their hips and trunk which doesn’t allow them to control their movement. Are you a taller player that has accuracy issues? What about a quarterback that consistently misses high when throwing the speed out of skinny post on rhythm? Yes, we are talking to you guys!

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Accuracy

Like I just mentioned above, guys that have trouble decelerating in their throws often have accuracy issues as well. Based on the example that I gave above, this makes sense though. Once you enter in a bad position, you’re obviously going to exit in a poor position as well. Common problems that we see during the deceleration phase/follow through include not allowing the drive foot to finish parallel to the plant foot (it trails behind the rest of the body), the drive foot flying through too much, falling off to the left during the follow through, the trunk coming way too far forward which causes a loss of center of mass, or falling back during the follow through. That’s a lot right? Most of these issues are related to a loss of balance when trying to transfer the weight from the right foot to the left foot. This loss of balance is caused by a lack of stability in certain areas when the body is creating force through the whole kinetic chain to propel the ball forward. Are you saying that my balance issues are related to weakness/instability that I have? Yes. Are you saying that if I don't improve this in specific ways that I won’t get better at my accuracy? Ding, ding, ding!

Injury Prevention

Like I just mentioned above, guys that have trouble decelerating in their throws often have accuracy issues as well. Based on the example that I gave above, this makes sense though. Once you enter in a bad position, you’re obviously going to exit in a poor position as well. Common problems that we see during the deceleration phase/follow through include not allowing the drive foot to finish parallel to the plant foot (it trails behind the rest of the body), the drive foot flying through too much, falling off to the left during the follow through, the trunk coming way too far forward which causes a loss of center of mass, or falling back during the follow through. That’s a lot right? Most of these issues are related to a loss of balance when trying to transfer the weight from the right foot to the left foot. This loss of balance is caused by a lack of stability in certain areas when the body is creating force through the whole kinetic chain to propel the ball forward. Are you saying that my balance issues are related to weakness/instability that I have? Yes. Are you saying that if I don't improve this in specific ways that I won’t get better at my accuracy? Ding, ding, ding!

How Do I Fix?

Well, you stabilize, stabilize, stabilize and work on the eccentric phases of the motion specifically. Here are 3 exercises below to help you start this process!

    1. The Ultimate Side Plank - The ultimate side plank is built for stabilization in all planes. The band is trying to pull the athlete in a rotary motion in which the athlete has to not let happen. The athlete also has to keep the shoulders on top of the hips to not side bend, as well as keeping the rib cage down. This is about as good as it gets for quarterbacks to create stabilization in the trunk! From a shoulder standpoint, the shoulder that is down has to stabilize in order to maintain proper position which is turning on the rotator cuff. The arm that is holding the band also has to stabilize by keeping the scapula depressed down while the band opens up all the anterior musculature of the shoulder. This exercise is gold!

2. Single Leg Quarterback Eccentrics- This exercise is mimicking how the quarterback should properly decelerate after the release of the football. The band is trying to pull the athlete forward which is challenging the trunk to stay upright. We have the player standing on a pad to increase the stability of the gluteus medius on the left leg, We have a light weight in the throwing hand to practice deceleration in a PNF diagonal pattern which is similar to the throwing motion. The best thing about this exercise is that the band is causing the body to counterrotate while the arm is coming through. Quarterbacks have a lot of trouble with this during the sequencing. This is an awesome one!

3. Serratus Anterior Activation- A lot of the rotator cuff issues that were talked about above result from an unstable scapula. An unstable scapula is due to weakness of the serratus anterior a lot of times. This exercise targets just that! Reach, Round, Rotate!

Get Better

So what is to learn from all this information? If you are someone that has some of the issues that I have talked about above then you better figure out where you are presenting with dysfunction and then learn how to fix it! You could spend years practicing, throwing, performing without the success that you want if you don’t understand where your flaws are coming from. Assess, correct, repeat, get better! This is the only way. Get in touch with us if you have questions or you want us to help solve your specific issues! All the best.

-Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS 

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