The throwing motion is an extremely complex movement and often times doesn’t get trained as intricately as it should by most coaches. One ideology that we promote often is that the QB will only throw the ball as well as his body allows him to throw it. Just like other complex movements such as the squat or the deadlift, there are many joints of the body moving all at one time in synchrony to be able to perform a very specific task. When there are mobility, stability, or motor control issues, complex movements become compensated movements very quickly, which predisposes the athlete to decreased performance and increased injury risk. One of these areas that is often times a glaring problem for the QB throwing motion is a lack of hip internal rotation on the drive leg. When a quarterback lacks hip internal rotation on the drive leg, there is automatically a disconnect between the ability to generate power through the hips and translate that power to the trunk, and then up to the rest of the body. Today, we want to give you a literal step by step process that you can perform in order to increase the internal rotation range of motion!
The Delicate Neuromuscular System
One major system that often times gets overlooked in the strength and conditioning/quarterback training world is the neuromuscular system and how that effects movement. One thing that we absolutely know is that the position of the body, especially the torso on the pelvis, is going to greatly affect the movement quality of the athlete. Follow me here. For most athletes that lack hip internal rotation range of motion, there is a neuromuscular component involved in the reason. This means that there is “tone” that is being generated by the system because of faulty positioning. The one way that we can “ brain hack” our way into make change in this system is through the power of breathing. Positional breathing will do a lot of good to increase hip internal rotation because of many reasons. First, we athletes will be training how to use the diaphragm as a main breathing muscle. By using the top of the pelvic funnel as the main breathing muscle, this will increase the ability of the diaphragm to act as a main stabilizer (which it is) and also decrease the amount of use of other accessory muscles for breathing. These muscles include the lats, back extensors, rectus abdominis (6 pack), pecs, and scalenes. By decreasing the amount of tone in these muscles, this frees up the body to be more rotational in nature. This is a great thing for the quarterback because quarterbacks rotate with every throw. Second, by influencing rib cage back in a more “neutral” position, this changes the position of the pelvis. Just by changing the position of the pelvis and the rib cage, this will free up more internal rotation because the hip bone (femur) now has more room to move and isn’t blocked by the pelvis. See picture below to understand what we mean.
Lastly, by working on the extreme range of our breath through max inhale and max exhale, this is moving the rib cage a great deal. This is excellent because we know that each rib connects with one level of the thoracic spine. What does every level of the thoracic spine have to do in order for a QB to be successful? It has to rotate!! By increasing the room between these joints, this mobilizes every joint to b able to rotate more when quarterbacks need to rotate. Below, we show a great exercise that we use with most of our athletes before their dynamic warm-up to “reset” the position of the torso on pelvis.
Posterior Capsule of Hip
When talking about internal rotation demand of the hip, there’s one area that we can not forget to include. This would be the posterior capsule of the hip. This is of extreme importance because the head of the femur will only move as much as the room it has in the joint. When the hip is internally rotated, this head of the femur needs room to glide in the back portion of the joint. If there isn’t room, it literally won’t move. It will feel as if the athlete “is hitting a wall” when trying to move the joint.
Below, we have a picture of the joint capsule, as well as a picture of the femur that is within the hip socket. Hopefully you can picture why this would be important. The biggest problem that we see is that athletes never attack the joint capsule specifically. They will spend tons of time to work on stretching the hips without much success because the stiff capsule is never addressed. Well, we are going to give you a great exercise that you can perform below in order to attack the capsule specifically to get sudden change in the ability to internally rotate the hip.
Closed Chain Hip Internal Rotation
In order to get good results for a quarterback with the ability to internally rotate the hip on the drive leg, we have to put the body in the proper position to do so. We could stretch the external rotators of the hip and really never get results. It’s going to be important to include some specificity of movement in how we perform this next exercise to increase internal rotation.
In the video below, you can see that the athlete is standing up for the exercise. This puts the hip in a “closed chain” which is what we want to mimic the specifics of the QB throwing motion. Instead of the femur moving on the pelvis, now picture the pelvis moving on top of a solid femur. This is an extremely important picture to try and paint in your head because the pelvic position will a lot of times dictate how much an athlete can rotate through their hips. Please watch the video above very thoroughly as the position of the athlete is extremely important in the setup.
What if I don’t work on This?
If you are a quarterback that doesn’t want to work on this, you can pretty much count on automatic decrease in your ability to throw the football. Every day, we get all kinds of questions on how to increase accuracy or how to increase power generation on throws. Well guys, this is often the first area to look because it is such a common impairment that players have. In the pictures above, you can see four high level players. Two have the ability to internally rotate the hip (Brady and Mayfield), while two don’t. (Prescott and ….) Are the latter two players really good players? Absolutely, they are! But would Dak increase his completion percentage on intermediate throws and miss high on throws less if he improved this specifically? YES! This is not a binary 1 situation. Quarterback performance will always be decreased for the players that lack certain physical capabilities. Let’s take the ceiling off of performance!!
Get to Work….
Quarterbacks, you now have no reason to be able to improve this essential movement quality that is needed for success in the throwing motion. This 3 step exercise solution is attacking something all different facets of hip internal rotation quality and it will literally only take 10 minutes to do. Why wouldn’t you do this before you throw? It takes very little equipment and will greatly improve your range of motion quality in your drive hip RIGHT AWAY. With that said, please perform these exercises in the order that I described them. This is for optimal results. Please let us know if you have any questions. You can reach me by call/text at 812-343-4226 or by email at [email protected].
-Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS