How to Throw a Football in 6 Steps
Have you ever observed people throw the football with extraordinary power and accuracy? How do they do it? Throwing a perfect spiral football is not as difficult as you think with the correct technique and with a little practice you can also make big improvements in your ability to throw the football.
When it comes to throwing the football there are a couple key things you must understand within the throwing motion in order to get a great spiral. This post can be used a resource whether you are just starting out or have years of experience to help you simplify how to properly throw. You may also check out our full explainer video here.
Steps To Throw a Football Properly
In this article, I’ll be explaining how to throw a football in 6 simple steps to help you improve your arm motion and keep your throwing arm healthy. I’ll also give you some drills to work on if you want to take your game to the next level. If you follow these steps, you’ll learn how to perfectly throw a football in no time.
Let’s have a look at the 6 steps I follow to throw a football:
Step 1: Placing Index Finger and Middle Finger
For a perfect spiral, you need to have a good grip of the football. My recommendation is to spread out your fingers as much as possible. Additionally, I put my index finger towards the top of the football which leaves a good amount of space between the index finger and middle finger in the top lace. Then the ring finger is two laces down from that and the pinky finger is all the way down on the bottom half of the football.
In order to throw a perfect spiral the index finger should be the last finger to be touching the ball as it leaves your hand. This grip will not work for everyone but you do want to establish a comfortable grip with plenty of space in the fingers to have the best control of the football while throwing.
Here are the steps to properly hold a football:
- Place your throwing hand on the ball with your index finger closest to the point of the ball.
- Rest your middle finger on top of the white laces.
- Place the ring finger between the third and fourth laces from the top.
- Between the fifth and sixth laces from the back, insert your pinky finger.
- Wrap your thumb to be as close to the middle of the football as possible.
Quarterbacks vary usually vary between three and four fingers on the laces, with the remaining fingers wrapped around the back of the ball. Now that you know how to properly hold a football and use your throwing hand, let’s move on to the next step: bringing your throwing arm back.
Step 2: Bring Your Throwing Arm Back
In order to properly load to throw the ball you must start with the ball in the correct position. The ball wants to be somewhere between chest and belly button height before starting the motion. Also, the nose of the football should be facing straight down, not up or to the side like seen above.
At this point the non throwing hand should also be holding onto the football to make sure you are able to properly grip the ball. (I am trying to help you understand how to throw the football better but also prepare you for actually playing quarterback)
From here, the next action should be a backwards movement from the hand and wrist. The nose of the football based on the action of the wrist can be facing down like on the right above or straight back like on the left.
It is important that the ball is not facing to the side or up. These are both key indicators that the ball was not loaded correctly and the shoulder position will probably be compromised because of it.
The reason the load is so important is because it ensures the right muscles will but utilized in the throw. Additionally, it helps the quarterback build momentum through the arm to help throw the ball. The idea is to put a stretch on the shoulder that allows the quarterback to generate a lot of speed in the arm during the throw.
Getting your load down helps you generate the power in your throw and also will help create more consistency in the motion which will lead to more accuracy over time.
Step 2: Get Your Feet At Least Shoulder Width Apart
Having a great base when throwing the football is really important when it comes to throwing distance and velocity. Depending on how far away the target is or whether they are to the left or right determines where you want to put the front foot.
Many coaches tell quarterbacks they must point the front toe at the throwing target when throwing and there has been no evidence to prove that must happen. However, having a base wider than the hips is very important in order to have a powerful throwing motion.
It is important when setting up or when in the pocket to be light on your feet. Ready to take a step forward and throw the ball at any time. When practicing and warming up it is important not to create bad habits with the feet that will show itself in the game.
You’ll also want to make sure to keep your knees slightly bent so that the weight is distributed on the balls of your feet and you are ready to move at any time and in any direction. Your upper body and lower body work together to maximize your accuracy and power, so that you can throw farther and hit your intended receiver every time.
Step 3: Solid Front Step With Back Foot Push Off
This is probably the most important part of the throw that does not have to do with the arm. So be sure to read everything here and make sure you understand everything.
The step is something where you want to be gaining momentum into the throw but you want to keep as much weight on the back foot as possible during the initial step. This means when taking the step do not allow all of your body weight to transition forward right away.
Instead, keep your weight in the back foot by pushing down into the ground and simultaneously pivoting the back foot. This will keep the throwing motion smooth but will also give you plenty of power to throw the ball.
A common mistake I see when working with quarterbacks is they will immediately shift all their weight forward when taking the initial step. This takes all of the power away from the hips and legs. See above how Josh Allen keeps his weight in the back foot by really keeping the head over the back knee. This is why he has one of the strongest arms in all of football.
Step 4: Elbow Forward, Wrist Rotating
The next part goes into having an effective throwing release as a quarterback. Many times I see quarterbacks who waste so much time and power by allowing the football to get way behind their head instead of keeping their release quick and compact.
At this point in the throw the quarterback should have already pushed off the back leg or is about the push off the back leg. The arm has already loaded and the process of bringing the arm forward is about to begin.
The most important part about this step is the position of the wrist. The main goal here is to get the wrist around and ball facing forward as quickly as possible. you can see in the picture above that I have great control of the ball with all fingers on it and the shoulders even with my head.
From here, I just need to release the ball flicking down with the wrist and let the football spin out of my hand. All quarterbacks who can throw the ball far are able to get the arm into this position or something close to it before they release the ball.
Step 5: Extend The Elbow
Another common mistake I see quarterbacks make is limit the extension of the arm after the ball is released. This is a simple step to understand and correct in my opinion but the difference in the throw can be tremendous.
Make sure when you release the ball the elbow full extends as the thumb of the throwing arm is coming down towards the opposite hip pocket. Try not to limit the motion of the arm here as it is important to have a complete follow through after the ball leaves the hand.
Step 6: Internally Rotate The Shoulder And Flick The Wrist
This is the final step of throwing the football even though it is happening kind of simultaneously with the elbow extension. You can see above that this is happening during the release of the ball and continuing through the the follow through.
What is important here is being able to generate a lot of power out of the wrist and shoulder as the ball is leaving your hands. It may be difficult to see in the pictures but my wrist is flicking downwards on the ball while I am rapidly internally rotation my shoulder so my thumb is facing down.
When trying to find pictures of this online it made me realize during this release make sure to keep the chest up. This is different than a pitcher in baseball who has their down down after the release. When throwing a football be sure to keep the spine position upwards keeping the chest level with the intended target.
You can also follow along by watching our video below:
How To Throw a Football Farther
Once you’ve figured out your throwing motion and arm motion, it’s time to work on arm strength and follow through.
How To Increase Your Arm Strength:
- Do some weightlifting exercises specifically for your arms, shoulders and throwing hand
- Work to improve the range of motion in the shoulder, spine and wrist
- Make sure you are eating a healthy diet and getting plenty of protein in order to build muscle.
- Get plenty of rest so your muscles can recover and grow stronger.
How To Improve Your Follow Through:
- Extend your arm fully in the direction you want the ball to go.
- Snap your wrist as you release the ball.
- Follow through by continuing to point your fingers in the direction the ball is going.
- Don’t let your elbow drop down as you throw; keep it up at shoulder height.
Once you have increased arm strength and learned how to properly follow through, you will be able to throw a football farther than ever before! Just remember to practice regularly in order to get the vest results.
Perfect Your Passing Game at Performance Lab of California
I hope this information was useful to you and you understood the mechanics to throw a football and achieve a perfect spiral. It takes a while before you can master any skill, you just need to keep consistent with your practice in order to get the best results.
Just remember that a lot of what goes into being a successful quarterback is not throwing a perfect spiral every time but being a great leader. There are many quarterbacks in the national football league who make millions of dollars, not because they have the strongest throwing arm but because they can win games and manage the offense. Keep working on these fundamental skills and you can get there too.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you guys have any programs to improve how to throw a football?
Yes, our most common program is our Throw 60 program which is primarily an online program for quarterbacks. Here we teach you key mechanics to improve your throwing motion and throwing distance.
The program includes 1 on 1 coaching, customized programming, video tutorials, specific drills and exercises and much more. You can find out more here
What else does Performance Lab Offer?
There are many things that we offer for youth athletes including personalized programming, speed training, at home learning and much more. For Quarterbacks looking to learn more about the quarterback position and everything that goes into how to throw a football I recommend checking out Quarterback University. By far the most in depth program for athletes looking to improve.
Here is the link to find out more: Quarterback University
Thank you for reading this blog post and there is plenty more information on our website or on our YouTube channel if you want to learn more.
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If there is anything more we can do to help do not hesitate to reach out either by sending us an email using the form below or by simply giving us a call, we are always here to help. The journey to improve throwing the ball takes time and consistency so do not expect to see immediate results. Instead rely on disciple and hard work in order to achieve whatever goal you are set out to accomplish.
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