The Best Shoulder Warm Up For a Quarterback

One of the most common questions that we get asked on a consistent basis is “what is the best warm-up exercise to get the shoulder ready before throwing?” Whenever we hear this in a singular text, as if the shoulder was just one joint, we always want to educate that the shoulder girdle is one of the most complex joints in the body. It’s so complex that it is made up of four joints in which many of the muscles that surround the shoulder joint also attach to the shoulder blade (scapula). There’s actually 17 muscles that attach to the shoulder blade. Isn’t that amazing? Today, we want to give you a series of exercises that you can perform as part of your warm-up to get the shoulder girdle ready before you throw. This is a post that you don’t want to overlook!

1. Bruegger’s Exercise

One of the most common questions that we get asked on a consistent basis is “what is the best warm-up exercise to get the shoulder ready before throwing?” Whenever we hear this in a singular text, as if the shoulder was just one joint, we always want to educate that the shoulder girdle is one of the most complex joints in the body. It’s so complex that it is made up of four joints in which many of the muscles that surround the shoulder joint also attach to the shoulder blade (scapula). There’s actually 17 muscles that attach to the shoulder blade. Isn’t that amazing? Today, we want to give you a series of exercises that you can perform as part of your warm-up to get the shoulder girdle ready before you throw. This is a post that you don’t want to overlook!

2. Plank Plus with Shoulder External Rotation Bias

One thing that we know is that a TON of quarterbacks are very lat dominant. What I mean by this is that the latissimus dorsi can have some tone or be very stiff that will cause problems during the throwing motion and also cause problems for joint centration during general movement overhead. This is due to lots of throwing of course, but also do to too much vertical pulling or improper technique during vertical pulling. (lat pull downs, chin ups, pull ups) When this muscle gets stiff, it tends to take away from another undervalued muscle that is very important for the stabilization of the scapula during overhead movement called the serratus anterior. Below, there is a picture of this muscle helping with upward rotation of the shoulder when going overhead.

The problem here is that these muscles often fight against each other whenever the arm is brought overhead. Tightness in the lats will cause a malfunctioning serrates anterior. With this said, we have an exercise below that is targeting the serrates anterior with the down regulation  of the lat muscles. Since the hands are in full external rotation this will decrease lat involvement and aid in the use of the serrates anterior, which is the muscle we need to turn on! By turning this muscle on before you throw, it will significantly help with your accuracy on throws, but also help with decreasing risk of shoulder impingement. Talk about some bang for your buck huh?

3. Arm Bar

When talking about “warming up” the shoulder many people think about stretches that players can do to “get loose” before they actually throw. There’s really three components to the localized area of the shoulder that players need to worry about. There’s the mobility of the joints, the stability of the joints, and the actual movement of these muscles together in synchrony (motor control) that are all crucial for proper shoulder use. This exercise is targeting the rotator cuff as a stabilizer and also targeting the pecs from a mobility standpoint. These darn internal rotators of the shoulder always seem to get really stiff which takes away from the ability of the rotator cuff. By internal rotators of the shoulder I’m referring back to lats, which we talked about before, and the pecs. Ever wonder why we say not to bench press? This is why!

During the arm bar, the player is bringing his knee up on the side that isn’t down to lock down the lumbar spine and then rotating the thoracic spine slightly while the arm is in horizontal abduction. This horizontal abduction puts max stretch on the pecs, which is a great thing. This is mimicking the end of the loading phase for a QB during the motion. The kettle bell or dumbbell will then be added to the hand that is suspended to turn on the rotator cuff, which is the primary stabilizer of the glenohumeral joint. Once again, this is super important to have stability at the end of the loading phase as well because of the high velocity being produced during the throwing motion. This is definitely a great exercise!

4. Banded Bully

This exercise is another one of our favorites for quarterbacks because a lot of times quarterbacks have a tendency to lack some shoulder internal rotation. This is due to increased external rotation of the shoulder because of high volumes of throws over a long period of time. We want to claim some of that internal rotation range of motion back to aid in the use of the shoulder, but to also not allow the shoulder capsule to get stiff in certain areas. As the shoulder loses the ability to internally rotate, the capsule on the backside of the humerus has a tendency to also get stiff which can cause pain and decreased use of the shoulder complex as time goes on.

Physical therapist and strength and conditioning coach Kelly Starrett made this exercise mainstream years ago and it is still one of our go to’s. Once again, you will need a band and somewhere to anchor the band. You can hear more about the details of how to get setup for this exercise in the video below!

We would suggest adding all of these exercises to what you are already doing because these will help out tremendously in decreasing injury risk, as well as increasing your performance in practice and in games. The biggest problem that we see with the shoulder complex is that many times these muscles that don’t get used a whole lot such as the lower trap and serrates anterior start to become neglected as muscles such as the lats and pecs become super prominent. The lack of this good relationship starts to cause problems in the way that the shoulder blade moves on the rib cage and eventually causes pain when moving the arm overhead. All three of us Kiel brothers had consistent shoulder pain over the course of our careers and didn’t know why. Well, this is exactly why! Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns at all. You can reach me at drew@theqbdocs.com or call/text at 812-343-4226.

Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS

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