Fitness Corner -- Quarterbacks

After an extended hiatus in which he was deeply immersed in thought (and free weights), Texans strength and conditioning coach Dan Riley has made his triumphant return to the popular Fitness Corner column.

Riley and assistant strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright will continue to post selected answers to your questions throughout the year. Join in by shooting over an e-mail to fitness@houstontexans.com.

Here is an archive of past columns. Dan and Ray have also made the club's strength and conditioning manual available. Click here to download it.

I have a son at the college level that will be walking on in the spring at the D-1 level. What is the best way to prepare him for a good showing? He has worked in the weight room regularly over the past year. Is there anything he should focus on to make a big statement?

-- Mark Banks* *

We have several suggestions from a strength and conditioning point of view. Make sure your son is involved in a total body strength program designed to develop his muscular system in a manner that is compatible with the needs of a football player.

We divide the body into five major segments to include the following:

  1. Neck
  1. Hips & Legs
  1. Midsection
  1. Upper Body
  1. Arms

Strengthening the muscles of the neck must be your sons' number one priority. In the upper body, the muscles of the shoulder capsule must also be a priority. Your son should include exercises for the muscles of the rotator cuff, the medial head of the deltoid, and the rear deltoid. These areas must be developed to their maximum to help protect the structural integrity of the entire shoulder capsule.

The throwing motion is a gross motor skill. Throwing a football involves several major muscle groups. Strengthening these muscles may help your son in the following ways:

  1. Improve throwing velocity.
  2. Improve throwing endurance.
  3. Help to minimize stress and trauma to the shoulder and elbow joint.

The major muscles used to throw a ball include the hips and legs, the rotators of the torso, and the lats. The rear delt and rotator cuff contribute significantly to the deceleration of the arm after the ball is released. Place a special emphasis on these areas.

Reporting to practice in great shape is a must. It is important that your son find out if he will be required to complete any physical tests. These might include any or all of the following:

  1. Conditioning test(s) (aerobic run, sprints).
  1. Strength tests (which exercises/how many reps?).
  1. Timed agility test(s) (example: cone drills, short shuttle, etc.).
  1. Position specific drills/skills.

Strength and conditioning tests are very conditioning specific. The more time your son has to practice the exact required strength and conditioning tests, the better he will perform.

For example, running 40-yard sprints will not best prepare your son to run a conditioning test composed of 110-yard sprints. Skills and drills are also very specific. The more information your son can find out, the better prepared he will be physically.

This may provide him with an early opportunity to impress his coaches and teammates with his discipline and work ethic.

We have some of the best quarterback resources right here inside our Texans locker room. We asked Offensive Coordinator Chris Palmer, and his three quarterbacks, if they would help us provide a few tips for your son. Each enthusiastically contributed and we thank them for their suggestions.

Coach Chris Palmer is one of the most eminently qualified quarterback coaches in all of football. He listed the following suggestions and stressed that these are things that ability doesn't play into:

  1. Be on time – or early.
  1. Do everything the coaches ask …and more.
  1. Hustle on every play.
  1. Your effort is second to none.
  1. Bring the same effort and attitude every day.
  1. Study as much film as possible.
  1. Develop a thorough understanding of your offense.

Coach Palmer also suggested that your son work hard on his throwing accuracy. He stressed that zone defenses are common at the college level where an accurate arm is more important than a strong arm.

To work on throwing accuracy during practice Coach Palmer uses a drill where our three quarterbacks practice throwing at targets using a 3-step, 5-step, and 7-step drop.

We have three very disciplined quarterbacks, both on and off the field. Who better to give your son some advice than our own Texans quarterbacks? They have very little free time so we sincerely appreciate their suggestions.

Mike Quinn is an NFL veteran with some great advice for your son.

  1. Play to your strengths.

a. Arm strength.

b. Mobility.

c. Decision-making.

d. Accuracy.

  1. Be yourself while displaying these talents.
  1. Spend extra time working on your weaknesses.
  1. Establish yourself as the hardest worker on the team.
  1. Work hard all the time … not just when people are watching.

Mike made sure we mention that he was also a walk-on, and to wish your son the best of luck.

David Carr is a rookie quarterback yet gives some veteran advice for your son.

  1. Arrive to all meetings early.
  1. Take great notes.
  1. Ask questions.
  1. Watch and learn from the veteran quarterbacks.
  1. Be consistent in everything you do.
  1. When your opportunity comes, do whatever you have to do, to "move the chains."

Tony Banks is another seasoned veteran willing to share some valuable advice.

  1. You can never throw enough.
  1. Practice position specific footwork drills.
  1. Play basketball.
  1. Be smart about lifting. Remember you are a quarterback, not a weightlifter. I didn't know what I was doing in high school and hurt myself.

We have one last suggestion for your son from the Fitness Corner. We mentioned earlier that skill development and conditioning is specific. There are very specific neuromuscular, physiological, and metabolic adaptations, which occur with the execution of any conditioning task. The only way to develop the exact level of conditioning needed to play the game of football is actually play the game of football.

However, you can't play football for 12 months. Therefore we suggest your son incorporate into his conditioning program some *skilled pattern running. *

Skilled pattern running is an attempt to imitate the running patterns your son will use during a practice or a game. It is an excellent conditioning tool for the heart and lungs, and the specific muscles used to play the quarterback position.

We suggest your son make his skilled pattern running as close to practice conditions as possible. Whenever possible we suggest he incorporate the following:

  1. Wear shoulder pads and a helmet.
  1. Throw to moving receivers (preferably receivers with the same quickness and speed as your future teammates).
  1. Take snaps from a center.
  1. Get precise quarterback drops and pass routes from your future quarterback coach.
  1. Practice your drops. This will help eliminate some stiffness and soreness in your hips and legs. Remember, straight-line running will not condition your muscles for the many pass drops you will take in practice.

Have your son obtain the exact drops (skill patterns) he will be using from his future quarterback coach. Organize ten different patterns into a series of ten different pass routes.

The starting position is a cone placed at the line of scrimmage (or the center who is snapping the ball). Your son can perform this conditioning drill by himself (without throwing the ball).

It becomes a better position specific drill if there is a center exchange and your son can actually throw the ball to a receiver. If there is only one receiver have the receiver pick a spot and remain stationary while your son does all of the running. If there are several receivers they can alternate routes to allow them more recovery time.

From the designated starting position perform the first skill pattern (3-step drop, 5-step drop, 7-step drop, naked boot, etc), at game speed and deliver the ball. Once the pattern is completed (or the pass thrown) jog back to the cone at the line of scrimmage.

Once the pattern is completed, or the pass is thrown, time the rest between patterns. Allow 25 – 30 seconds rest between patterns. As conditioning improves decrease recovery time.

As arm strength and conditioning improves, we'd suggest 3 – 5 sets of 10 skill patterns. Allow adequate time between sets for recovery.

We'd like to thank our team of experts, Coach Palmer, Mike, David, and Tony, for taking the time to help us with this installment of the Fitness Corner. We hope we have given your son some information that may be of some value to him.

Go Texans!

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