It makes sense that we look to copy the best. It is logical that kids want to look like their favorite players on TV. It stands to reason that the athletes who play at the highest levels make the best models. But, is this really the case?
The answer, from what I can tell, is yes and no. Yes, NFL quarterbacks are the best models, as they are the best players in the game. But no, simply copying an NFL quarterback is not the best method of improvement. There are a few issues with copying guys at the top of the game:
WIth those things stated, what I’ve seen from young quarterbacks who are being told to copy what they see on TV are guys who lack an understanding of timing and spacing, and guys who try to make too many highlight reel throws. Unfortunately, when you base your theory of the position on highlight reels, rather than fundamentals, that’s the end result.
One of the more frustrating things about this thought process is when we consider coaches who use the pros as their model or better yet, scapegoats, for teaching things that are ill advised shortcuts to the end product, without teaching the basics, or worse yet, simply wrong. I see it all the time on instagram - coaches preaching something ridiculous about mechanics, using a pro model, generally on an exceedingly small sample size and out of context.
In the end, the conclusion is fairly simple - the guys on TV are great, but young quarterbacks would be best served working on fundamentals first, and using the NFL models only when context and skills align with what needs to be learned.
There are a lot of "keys" to performance - accuracy, velocity, decision making, athleticism, leadership, footwork, just to name a few. However, what single trait stands above all of them? I would argue consistency. You need to be consistently accurate for it to matter; you need to always have a strong arm; you need to make intelligent decisions all the time. So, the question is, how do we become consistent quarterbacks?
The answer is again, consistency. If you want to throw accurately with velocity consistently, if you want to make good decisions consistently, if you want to win consistently, then you need to work hard and smart consistently. A lot of quarterbacks call me a few weeks before the season starts and asked to get tuned up for the season; others come in for a few weeks and start throwing the ball better and then think they are ready. Inevitably, these quarterbacks will face ups and downs beyond those of the more consistent worker. So, the philosophical answer to how we achieve consistently good performance is to have a consistently good work ethic and direction.
Less philosophically and more tangible, we need to work hard on the right drills at the right times. Early in the off-season it is important to improve mechanics. In the middle of the off-season we need to apply those adjusted mechanics to our other fundamentals like footwork, drops, and reads. As the off-season ends, we should be winding down adjustments and increasing full speed, quality repetitions. At no point is this process a sprint; it needs to be a long term project, with a bit being done each week, consistently, to gradually improve. This can't be done in a week-long sprint, or a weekend clinic. Spending 2-3 hours every week working on the right things over the course of an entire off-season can turn a quarterback from a bench warmer into a star.
Work hard consistently, work smart consistently. Consistency is a virtue.
While football players work out year round to get bigger and stronger, the quarterback needs to be careful about how he approaches work in the weight room. Being that the shoulder complex is used so often from an unusual position in ways that other positions don't have to worry about, quarterbacks with any amount of inflammation or tissue damage risk much longer, more serious injuries if they don't program their workouts properly. With that in mind, here are a few exercises to avoid.
1) The Barbell Bench Press
While it's true than any athlete with restricted shoulder mobility or stability can get an injury while benching, quarterbacks are particularly at risk since they throw so often. Bench often creates an impingement in the shoulder because the way the ball and joint socket operates becomes controlled by the barbell, instead of being allowed to move more freely like in a push up or dumbbell press. There is also no direct correlation between bench production and throwing velocity. Ever notice how few quarterbacks do the bench test at the NFL combine? It's for a reason - no bench for the QB. Instead, do a dumbbell press or push ups.
2) Biceps Curls
The biceps connect in such a way that if they are tightened, the inwardly rotate the shoulder, which can be a problem for quarterbacks. We've all seen gym rats with bulging arms, but their shoulder turn forwards and they lose their posture. For someone who throws often, this will tend to lead to tendinitis , bursitis, or other injuries. Instead, work on some chin ups and other pulling/rowing exercises - your biceps will get hit, but so will all the scapula stabilizers and postural muscles, allowing you to maintain stability and health and still put on some bulk.
3) Wide Grip Pull Ups
Wide grip pull ups put the shoulders in a lot of external rotation relative to the load they are trying to handle. This can be a problem for quarterbacks who likely have some level of inflammation from throwing. While this one doesn't necessarily have as high of a percentage of related injuries as the previous two points, it's still one that few quarterbacks need, and even fewer can do right. Simply doing a neutral grip chin up will get the job done with tasking the shoulder joint nearly as much.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at adrayson@SportPerformanceU.com.
Quarterback Coach Alex Drayson will put up articles, thoughts, and reviews to help you stimulate your journey towards being the best QB you can be