Sometimes, I read about football.

Specifically, this New York Times article — “Developing Arm Strength Feet First” — caught my eye. It’s about how Giants quarterback Eli Manning develops arm strength by working his core and his legs.

That is why the root of Manning’s arm strength lies in almost every other part of his body, Gilbride said; by honing proper footwork and building his legs and core, Manning is able to throw the deep pass as well as put greater velocity on shorter routes with a smaller window to the receiver’s hands.


When I first read through it, my initial reaction was, “This is news?” Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up as a girl, but I was always taught that my “powerhouse” muscles were those in my abdomen, butt, and thighs. At age 5, I was taught that this was how to stay on and control a horse — because using the reins as one’s own personal safety line is Not Cool to the horse’s mouth. At age 7 or 8, I learned that this was how I should throw a baseball; yes, the arm was the final part of the throw, but the power behind it came from the legs and torso. Same with learning to shoot or pass a basketball and to throw a punch. (To this day, I have a mean right cross.)

So now, with yoga — because arm balances are about my favorite thing in all of ever — it’s very natural for me to think about most of the power and control as coming from places other than my arms. I totally get why someone would depend on legs and core in order to throw a football with power and control.

And yet, thinking about it more, I get why to some people, this might actually be news. (I mean, it could also be Saturday NYT fluff reporting. That happens sometimes.) I’m no stranger to gym visits where there’s a line for every upper body weight rack and machine while nearly all the lower body ones sit empty. Among my students (particularly the football players), “How much do you bench?” is often the question of the day and how well developed a guy is in the arms and chest is considered athletic prowess in and of itself.

So, yeah. I see where people might have missed the knowledge that a strong torso and legs do a lot for stabilizing the body and powering throwing arms. Or — in other cases — powering arm balance arms.


I'm here. I like stuff. Some other stuff, I like less.

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Posted in core
7 comments on “Sometimes, I read about football.
  1. Princess R says:

    I definitely think there’s something to that “being raised a girl” part! 🙂 I do work on my arm muscles too, but I think I’ve always thought of them as “finesse” muscles, while I’m used to calling on my core and legs for speed and sheer power. Especially with my first and second sports (Basketball and Volleyball respectively).

    It is a bit mechanically confusing for me sitting here thinking about it to even try to figure out how to throw from the arm alone… 🙂

    • Tori says:

      I can work through how to do it, but at least for me, it seems like:

      1. There’s no way I’d be able to get even close to the distance that I would using the rest of my body for power.
      2. That would be an excellent way to give myself a shoulder injury.
  2. When I was younger, my older brother taught me how to shoot a basketball and throw a baseball. One of the things I realized pretty quickly was that if I let my arms do all the work, I was never going to get the ball very far because I had spaghetti arms. I had to incorporate my whole body, and to do it with the force of my mind as well.

    I’ve noticed the emphasis on “cosmetic” weight training (arms for guys, and for women….butts?) often comes at the expense of functional weight training.

    • Tori says:

      Interestingly, all of my first-time sports instruction came from women (save for acro yoga, but basing is such a core thing, anyway) who categorically explained things to include core and legs. By the time I did have male coaches and teachers (which did happen for basketball, riding, and yoga, at least), it didn’t really occur to me that they might be doing things differently in terms of body mechanics.

  3. Tapetum says:

    Interesting observations. Since I’ve been doing some serious weight training, a couple of male friends have asked about my training routine. Both of them said, in nearly identical terms, despite not knowing each other well, that they didn’t need lower body training, and both of them modified the routine to take out about half of the leg work. So at least in my experience, some men just don’t think of the body below the chest as being important for training.

  4. Rana says:

    It’s like this in canoeing and climbing too; the impression a casual observer gets is that it’s all about arm strength, but it’s really about core and balance.

    • Tori says:

      So much agreed on the climbing especially. I was trained as a climbing wall facilitator for one summer camp job. The trainer kept emphasizing that it was about keeping the hips in toward the wall and pushing up from the legs rather than pulling up with the arms. Folks who operated on that principle were much more successful at the climbing stuff.

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