Strength Training

Should Quarterbacks Bench Press?

Florida State-bound QB – Sean Maguire – started training @ DeFranco’s in January in preparation for the start of his college football career!

Q: Hey Joe,

First off. I’ve learned TONS of shit from your webpage and youtube videos and have applied it with great success for myself and my athletes. So thank you for being one of the FEW honest guys in the industry.

Obviously it’s no secret you train football players. My question is if you were working with a quarterback would you change anything regarding shoulder work. I understand that lower body training would likely stay the same, but I was just wondering would you still have them bench pressing with a barbell or do you think that would be too stressful on the rotator cuff and shoulder joint in general? I guess to simplify what would change on a max effort upper body day for a quarterback?

Thanks man!

Justin B.

A: Justin,

I’m not one of those coaches that says, “I never let my quarterbacks perform barbell benches”. I have no problem letting a quaterback barbell bench every now and then during the off-season, but it definitely shouldn’t be the main focus. BTW, I don’t think the barbell bench is as “bad” as most coaches think – as long as you’re teaching your athletes to retract and depress their scapula, tuck their elbows, and ‘push themselves through the bench‘ when pressing. This (proper) technique can drastically reduce the stress on the shoulder joint when barbell benching.


The reason the barbell bench press has been labelled a “dangerous” exercise for quarterbacks is because the barbell locks you into an ‘internally rotated’ position (pronated grip) and your hands cannot move freely (like they can with dumbells). This “fixed”, internally rotated position is associated with impingement of the rotator cuff tendons. One “remedy” for this is to have your throwing athletes press with a neutral grip barbell. In order to go from a pronated grip to a neutral grip, you must supinate your hands/forearms (which means you are externally rotating the humerus). External rotation repositions the humeral head and gives the rotator cuff tendons more “wiggle room”, without impingement, as you press the bar.

So to answer your question; if you’re going to have your quarterbacks perform Max-Effort Upper Body workouts with the rest of the team, I’d suggest focussing on neutral bar pressing variations (flat, incline, floor, different grip widths, accomodating resistance, etc.) and/or dumbell press variations (5-7 rep range). Also, do not forget to incorporate push-up variations with your throwing athletes! (Although I suggust using the push-ups as more of a supplemental exercise.) Push-ups are classified as a closed-chain movement because the distal segment is fixed (hands on floor) and the proximal segment is moving (your body). Closed-chain movements will always be safer than open-chain movements. This is why push-ups are a big part of many shoulder rehabilitation programs.

Now that we’re clear on the barbell benching issue, here are a few other considerations with regards to training quarterbacks…

  • Favor an externally-rotated position for most upper body movements, not just the bench press. Examples: lateral raises w/ the thumbs up, band pull-aparts w/ underhand grip, barbell shrugs w/ double underhand grip, chin-ups w/ neutral or underhand grip, rows w/ neutral or underhand grip, etc.
  • Have your QB’s perform 100 band pull-aparts everyday
  • Incorporate THESE 3 EXERCISES into your warm-up, forever
  • Perform approximately double the volume of upper back exercises, compared to “pressing” exercises. (For example: If you start an upper body workout with 5×5 neutral bar bench presses, follow it up with 4-5 supersetts of rows and band-pullaparts.) 
  • Incorporate medicine ball throw variations into your program…but don’t try to mimic the football-throwing motion! 
  • Biceps curls are actually beneficial! Throwing involves dynamic extension of the elbow joint; incorporating elbow flexion (curls) into your program can actually create balance and health in your elbow joint…they aint just for lookin’ pretty! (Although, chicks do love quarterbacks, so “lookin’ pretty” is actually part of their job description..)

tom-brady-gisele-bundchenTom Brady has the “lookin’ pretty” part down…now if he can only figure out how to beat the Giants 🙂

  • Incorporate squatting with the Safety Bar – don’t just use a regular barbell every session. This will help reduce stress on the shoulders
  • When training the core, focus on “anti-movement” patterns, as opposed to traditional, dynamic movements. Building this type of “true” core strength with help to effectively transfer forces from the lower body through the upper body; this increases throwing power and places less stress on the shoulder joint
  • Incorporate lateral jumps and plyometrics into your program. This is a tremendous way to improve throwing power! Lateral Speed-Skater Jumps, Quarter-turn box jumps and lateral broad jumps are some of my favorites… 
Seton Hall Prep quaterback, Sean Maguire, performs Lateral Speed-Skater Jumps during a recent Lower Body Workout. Incorporating “lateral plyos” into Sean’s dynamic days has been a recipe for success thus far. (Sean’s also throwing to our NFL athletes, which will help him make a smooth transition to the speed of the game at the bigtime D1 level.)



Hope these training tips helped!

-Joe D. 

Have some more tips for “throwing” athletes? Share them with our readers by dropping a comment at the end of this blog post!



It’s Time to TAKE ACTION!

DeFranco’s Gym to host STRETCH TO WIN Course! 

A few months ago, I mentioned that my “flexibility mentors” may be making a rare trip to New Jersey to teach one of their Stretch to Win courses. Well, it’s official; I will be hosting/attending Ann & Chris Frederick’s course in less than two months and I’m pumped! 


For those who are unaware, I took a Stretch to Win Certification Course over 10 years ago and I’ve been utilizing their methods with my athletes ever since! This is why I’m extremely excited to announce that Ann & Chris will be coming to my gym on April 14-15, 2012, to host their Fascial Stretch Therapy Essentials Course! This 2-day course is appropriate for trainers, coaches, chiropractors, therapists, and all other bodyworkers. I will personally be in attendence taking the course myself – so I hope YOU’LL be here learning along with me! This course will be limited to 30 people and it will SELL OUT FAST! As a bonus to the dedicated readers of this website, Ann & Chris have provided an early registration fee for those who reserve their spot before March 4th!

NOTE: Attendees must be able to bring their own stretching/massage table if asked. For more specific information on this course and/or to sign up now, click the link below:

STRETCH TO WIN @ DeFranco’s Gym! 

I’m pumped to learn new ways to improve flexibility, mobility, power, and the overall health of our athletes from two of the best in the biz!

***Go sign up NOW….trust me! Ann & Chris are two badass mofos in the training community and there will be people from all over the world jumping at this opportunity!***

See you in April!

-Joe D. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *