Tom Brady’s Lead Arm

After another MVP season, Tom Brady has drawn much attention from his book and Facebook documentary. We got a chance to see what happens behind the scenes in many previously unknown areas in his life. One question that frequently emerged in the QB world was “What is Tom doing with his lead arm?”

Before we jump into Brady’s arm, let’s chat about the lead arm and its role in the throw.
Although the lead arm can be problematic when throwing a football, when utilized correctly it provides a balanced and symmetrical point of separation allowing the hips to create more torque/ rotation when timed correctly in conjunction with the shoulders. It helps keep the shoulders closed the right amount allowing for optimum sequencing and dissociation. For that matter, I think you will find that many QB already have a relatively natural lead arm movement installed because it’s a natural part of a throw. Uninformed coaching can make it interfere rather than add to the throw. Incorrect coaching terms that are commonly used to teach lead arm movement are “rip the lead arm around” or “don’t move it all.”

* Through the linear phase (drive/load) of the throw – Lead arm mirrors back arm and moves slightly inside of the target midline after separation in a horizontal L shape.
* Through the angular phase (rotation) – The lead arm moves to a vertical L stabilizing position above the lead foot. It helps provide a brace or break for the leading shoulder.
* Through deceleration phase (stop/finish) of the throw – It remains neutral to help slow/stop the turn. Keeping it within critical of mass to help prevent postural imbalances. Essentially not pulling it outside the frame of the body. (Tom House points this out in Tom Vs. Time episode 2)

The stabilization of the lead arm occurs after the two vertical L positions from both arms. Not before that. At this point, we want to make sure that we do not “pull or rip” the lead arm away from the throw to create more perceived power. Simply, we want to brace the lead arm in a manner in which remains close to critical mass. This helps “crack the whip” or throwing arm after the hips fire in sequence. Thus the lead arm acts as a break for the lead side. The non-throwing side of the body is the axis of rotation, and if stopped correctly, it creates a force couple with the throwing side.

You can see in the pictures how noticeably frozen the arm is in front of his body. I guess that his arm finish position is so pronounced during training because Brady knows that his posture has been an issue and makes sure to emphasize not pulling it out of the frame of his torso, or more specifically not past the lead hip. You can see Tom House correcting him on this very issue during the documentary.

The key coaching point to help achieve this timing in the throw is Symmetry through Separation and stabilization at the finish. Comparatively, look how Matt Ryan and Drew Brees moves their arms after separation. Front arm matches the back arm almost to a point where you wouldn’t be able to tell the left vs. right. This balanced move is critical to making sure you don’t over rotate and allow proper timing for hip rotation.

A rapidly increasing trend in quarterback coaching is to eliminate all movement and stabilize the lead arm immediately after separation, stuck against the body, pinning the lead elbow it next to the torso with no movement. This seems to be an overcorrection by coaches from the “old school” rip the left elbow to create more power. We must understand by compromising the front arm position we are interfering with natural throw timing. The front matches the back. See below Drew Brees and Matt Ryan. There are variations in symmetry in many throwers, I feel that Brees and Ryan are great examples consistency and effective movement strategies.

As bizarre as it looks, I understand what Brady is doing and why he is doing it. I would say there are some variations for every QB regarding what they do with the lead arm on the finish, but the principles are the same. Symmetry with your arms on separation, don’t pull it, and then stabilize it. Instead, you don’t have to replicate what Brady is doing with your lead arm on the finish but understand how it moves and the principles behind it. Generally speaking, when coaching we spend little time on changing arm movements unless its something that has been incorrectly coached into the athlete. My primary focus when coaching is proximal, i.e. the hips, torso and focusing on stability and fluid movements.

Hope this helps…

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