Most quarterbacks are gym rats when it comes to being in the weight room getting stronger, watching film, and on the field getting their reps throwing the football. The problem is that there is often times a discrepancy between the amount of time being put in to get better and how much improvement there actually is for the quarterback. The reason for this is that for most players, there is a lack of specificity in what they are doing to get better. This is especially true in the weight room. Today, we want to talk about 4 areas of the body that are often times forgotten to be trained by quarterbacks and why these areas are so important for proper QB performance on the field.
1. Gluteus Medius
When accelerating and decelerating in the frontal plane, the gluteus medius muscle plays an extremely prominent role in stabilizing the pelvis. Why would this be important? Well, if there is a lack of strength in this muscle (especially eccentric strength) there’s two extremely common problems that we often see quarterbacks perform in relation to the throwing motion. Number 1, they won’t allow a transfer of weight back in the pre pass position and in the loading phase. If the QB can’t load, then there will not be as much ground force reaction when trying to drive through the throw. You can see this below.
Number 2, if the center of mass doesn’t come back first during the loading phase, then an initiation of the body forward happens first during the loading phase. This is exactly what we don’t want for a quarterback. If this happens, over striding and poor sequencing often happens which leads to inaccurate throws and decreased velocity on throws. This is also very apparent in the video example above as this QB is very over extended in his spine during the throwing motion.
How is this Fixed?
We first have to think about going after the localized area first. This muscle has to be strengthened both eccentrically and concentrically. One of our favorite exercises to do this is a X band walk. During the X band walk, the leg that is leading the walk is working in a concentric manner while the band is stretched, but when the other leg takes a step, that leg is then working eccentrically to control the band. When walking each way. you’re getting great bang for your buck as both areas are being worked.
The gluteus medius is also a very prominent rotator of the hip. This is especially important during the acceleration phase as the hip has to internally rotate for proper mechanics. Making sure that this muscle is strengthened in that fashion is also very important. Below, we have a video that outlines an exercise that can be performed to improve both internal rotation and external rotation strength in the hips for quarterbacks.
#2 Internal and External Obliques
Quarterbacks often times ask how they can get more powerful during the throwing motion. We always tell them that once you clean up some mobility and stability problems, you then have to layer strength and power on top of a great foundation. When talking about power, the internal and external obliques have to be mentioned for rotational power. These muscles are not used very well most of the time because of the compensations that happen during the throwing motion. These common compensations being over extension of the lumbar spine or just a general overall lack of rotation during the throwing motion.
At the end of the loading phase of the motion, if the QB is in a proper position, the body will be made up of the following properties for a right handed quarterback:
- Hips will be open to the target
- Lower trunk will be in a neutral position with the rib cage down
- Mid to upper spine will be rotated to the right
- Ball will be loaded back
There is a lot of tension and torque in the system at this point if it is done right. This is important because the hips always get a lot of credit for being power generators, but the trunk never does. Well, the obliques generate power, but also translate this power further up the chain as the arm starts to come through with the ball.
In order for this to be done properly, the sequencing has to be done just right. This is why we spend so much time talking about pre pass position and the loading phase of the motion. When done wrong, it can have a domino effect on poor mechanics throughout the whole motion. Med ball throws are an excellent way to build rotational power and also the ability to decelerate throughout the motion. The deceleration piece is something that quarterbacks often times really struggle with.
#3 Lower Trapezius
When talking about the traps, people often times forget that the trapezius is a huge muscle that is actually split into 3 different sections because each section has its’ own specific role in how it moves the scapula or shoulder girdle. Today, we want to focus on the lower trapezius because it is often times neglected.
Upward Rotation of Scapula
There are 3 muscles that work to upwardly rotate the scapula when an athlete elevates the arm. These are upper trap, lower trap, and serratus anterior Proper upward rotation of the arm is essential to function, especially for a thrower. This is because if there is a lack of upward rotation, then the scapula won’t move as much and there will be other muscles around the shoulder that try to carry out functions that they shouldn’t. This results in improper use/poor performance, but also pain over a period of time.
The upper trap is often overused and can result in a lot of pain/stiffness in the neck for throwers which can be a problem when it comes to performance. We have to catch the lower trap up to speed to take some of the burden off of the upper trap to perform the function of upward rotation of the scapula. In the video below, we show you how to do that!
When training for the QB position, it is all in the details. A lot of the exercises performed in the weight focus on movement in the sagittal plane (forward and backward), but this isn’t where quarterbacks move a lot of times when playing on the field. Quarterbacks make their money in the frontal plane and transverse plane. (rotation and lateral movement) By focusing on the specificity of movement and the weakness of muscles because of the neglect for certain movements, quarterbacks can get great return for the amount of time they are putting in.
Try these exercises today! I promise that they will help you improve your ability as a player. It is important that SPECIFICITY be something that is always thought about when developing a program for an athlete. In this case, the more that quarterbacks can focus on moving in both the frontal plane and transverse plane, the better. If there are questions, please reach out to me by call/text at 812-343-4226 or by email at [email protected].
-Drew Kiel PT, DPT, CSCS