Achieving success begins with the end in mind. You have to know what you want to happen in order to plan how to make it happen. So I do a lot of “working backward” from the desired result through all the necessary and dependent steps necessary so that I “end up” at the beginning. Confused yet? Good, good, let’s unravel that by working backward.
The desired result of almost any pass play is a touchdown;
- Balance (Platform)
Working backward – boom.
First step: The Last Step of the Drop
Since we want to focus on the drop step here – everything that leads up to the throw, then we are only interested in starting with the Balance phase right now. Assuming the throwing mechanics are optimized, and the ball is going to go where you want it to, the most important thing is your “platform”, the balance and alignment of your body to the target.
The most important part of the final step of the drop, the “trigger foot”, is that it accurately sets the “vector” of the throw, which you can learn more about in other posts. So keeping it focused on just one thing, we are going to look in depth at the trigger step and why we say it’s not really a step at all.
Stepping vs. Dropping
We want to drop into the final step, not step into it. Here is why: a “step” is slower than dropping your weight into a loaded position.
- It’s slow
- It’s weak
- It’s inaccurate
A “step” reaches down to the ground, straightening the leg, pointing the toe, and keeping weight on the front leg. Your foot’s on the ground, but weight hasn’t transferred to the trigger foot yet, so you can’t throw yet. Your body knows it has to have a loaded leg under your hip to throw the ball powerfully, so if that leg is straight, you will naturally sink your hips, lowering your weight, and shifting weight from the front foot to the trigger foot. This takes time. Time that your receivers are leaving windows, and DBs are closing on routes.
Because the leg is straight, it’s not loaded to extend. Imagine punching a punching bag with your arm already locked out straight. Yeah, you’re going to lose that fight, with an inanimate object. Same thing with your leg. Straight leg can’t push, jump, run, anything. So if we throw the ball with this high hip, and long leg, virtually no power is coming from our lower body which makes a weak throw (or requires you to overthrow with the arm to compensate for power which will almost always sacrifice accuracy.)
“Stepping” with the last step and having the long leg and delayed weight transfer often causes the foot to be angled the wrong way and forcing the body to be misaligned to the target, mainly causing you to “swing” the shoulder around to the target. If the body is not lined up properly then we rely on the arm to compensate for that – forcing a mechanic that may drop the elbow, or force the arm to come across the body to horizontally, and ultimately costing power as well.
By “dropping” down onto the trigger foot rather than reaching the step, the opposite from the above drawbacks are true.
- It’s fast
- It’s powerful
- It’s accurate
Speed is ultimately about the time it takes to transfer weight from one foot to the other. “Dropping” down onto the trigger foot completely eliminates weight transfer time. Rather than being on the front foot, reaching the back foot to contact the ground, then shifting weight from the front to the back while being on two feet simultaneously, dropping onto the trigger involves picking up the front foot while dropping and landing on the trigger foot simultaneously. Zero weight transfer time. Fast.
The strongest muscle in the human body is the glute – it’s called “maximus” for a reason; it’s big, and powerful, and the main engine for almost all ground-based athletic movements like running, jumping, tackling, throwing etc. We want to engage this muscle, as well as the rest of the large leg muscles to generate the power to shift slide the hips to the target. A straight leg can’t extend which means zero power. A bent leg will accelerate from compressed to extended which is what creates power, lots of it.
“Dropping” onto the trigger foot makes body alignment to the target happen almost immediately so the front shoulder automatically “loads” to the target instead of you having to “swing” it around to the target (taking time, decreasing accuracy). The body has a natural phenomenon called “neutrality” or the “neutral zone” which means basically the body wants to always be at rest with no contracted movements. Pick your arm up and hold it out to your side…what does your arm want to do? It wants to relax and align in a neutral position. Stand on both feet, toes forward, now turn your right foot 90 degrees out so your feet are perpendicular – a little awkward, yes. Now shift weight from your left foot 100% to your right foot – standing on just the right foot, and your body will start to align to the right foot’s angle. It doesn’t like being twisted like it was. Now keep relaxing, even bounce a little to relax those muscles that want to stay contacted to hold you in the twist, and wallah, your body will have neutralized itself to the right foot and has turned your shoulder 90 degrees from the original position. Dropping explosively on the trigger makes that neutral zone happen virtually immediately, making you ready to throw immediately rather than waiting for the shoulder to swing around, core to stabilize, and feet to balance.
Drop, Push, Throw
This trigger step is a responsive, quick, athletic movement where the quarterback drops onto the trigger foot, immediately pushes the body toward the target, then executes the throwing mechanic. The speed of this movement is the same speed as you can literally say, “drop, push, throw”.
So let’s take a look at the drills we use to “drop” rather than “step”, which is a dynamic athletic movement and requires coordination and ankle stabilization and enough leg strength to “catch” your body weight and redirect that weight forward into the throw. Here are a few simple exercises you can use to address those 3 things.
- Coordination – Jump Rope
- Ankle Stabilization – Single leg toe touch
- Leg Strength – Squats, Lunges, Side Squats
Here’s a video breaking down the drills we use to train this essential mechanic.
So here we are, at the end of an article about starting with the end. Even my head is spinning a little now.
But it’s pretty simple really: IF you can throw accurately, it doesn’t matter if your platform is not balanced, aligned, and strong, and IF you’re balanced, it doesn’t matter much if you’re late with the delivery.
The single step you need to focus on to guarantee the best throwing platform is the last step of the drop, which is a “drop” and not really a “step” at all. Savvy?
Want to learn everything about footwork and arm mechanics? Check out the video training product, “The Quarterback Mechanic Vol. I”.