QB drills to improve accuracy and arm strength

By Charlie Stubbs

Not all good quarterbacks are born with natural skills. Many are self-made. They take what abilities they possess and develop them through a program of intensive and consistent work – in and out of season.

It is important that quarterbacks are taught the proper fundamentals needed to play at a high level. Many coaches and athletes place scheme before fundamentals. You will not be successful doing this. As a result, quarterback coaches should have a list of drills that will be utilized when coaching this position.

The following are drills that can improve a quarterback’s accuracy, arm strength and velocity.

Circle drill

The quarterback runs in circles about 10 yards from the receiver, concentrating on leading the receiver, throwing off-balance and turning the shoulders toward the target. This drill should be executed to both the left and right.

3-step drop

  • Place three targets (receivers) at three spots on the field.
  • QB gets the snap from center. If no center available, snap to each other.
  • Gather the snap and take a three-step drop. It is critical to release the ball on the third step in order to build rhythm.
  • Start by throwing to the receiver on the left.
  • After the throw, retrieve the ball from the receiver while the next QB is at the line of scrimmage and beginning his sequence.
  • Once up again, throw to the middle, then right and so on.


  • Rhythm
  • Aim point outside (outside number)
  • Aim point inside (middle number)

5-step drop


  • Use the same target areas as with three-step drop, only move spots back to 10 yards, 12 yards and 10 yards.
  • Position of spots may be varied based on the style of offense.
  • Gather the snap and take a five-step drop. It is critical to release the ball on the fifth step in order to build rhythm.
  • Start by throwing to the receiver on the left.
  • After the throw, retrieve the ball from the receiver while the next QB is at the line of scrimmage and beginning his sequence.
  • Once up again, throw to the middle, then right and so on.
  • When throwing to the inside receiver, QB steps up and throws.
  • Remember, the quarterback should move his back foot first as he steps up.

Variation: Add two linebackers to the drill. Now, the QB must keep his feet alive and be ready to read the linebackers’ movement. Throw away from the flow of the linebackers or down the middle if they split.

Variation: Keep two linebackers in the drill and continue to work with the same receiver alignment, but now the linebackers do not give a read until after the QB has begun to slide and step up in the pocket.

Straight arm into the net drill

Whenever a quarterback throws the ball to another player, the goal should be accuracy. For this reason, never throw to another player in this particular drill since the entire purpose of this drill is to improve the “whip” and strength of the throwing arm.

In this drill, throw the ball as hard as the QB possibly can without concern about accuracy. You will need some type of net or target for the quarterback to throw at.

The QB stands about 10 yards in front of the net gripping the ball in his passing hand. Raise the ball directly overhead with both hands so that the passing arm is straight up and down. From this position, throw the ball as hard as hard as possible without drawing the ball either backward or downward prior to throwing. Avoid the natural tendency to flex the elbow or to draw the ball back just before starting to throw.

Continually remind the QB to throw the ball as hard as he can. With enough practice, he will eventually find that by whipping his arm down and snapping his wrist, he will be able to throw into the net with considerable power. Players who have worked on this drill have found that it has added another 10 yards of distance to their throws.

Throwing on the run into the net drill

This is another drill designed to improve the strength in a quarterback’s passing arm by throwing hard into the net without having to worry too much about accuracy.

The QB lines up to one side and about five yards away from the net, then sprints out or rolls out and throws the ball as hard as he can into the net while running at full speed. Remind the QB to run with the ball in both hands at chin level and then twist the upper body as the shoulders are parallel to the net.

Off-balance drill

When discussing proper passing techniques, it is usually emphasized that whenever possible the passer should be balanced and should step toward the receiver he is throwing to. It is certainly always preferable that this be done. However, there will be occasions when a quarterback should throw while spinning out of the grasp of a tackler or when fading back away from some hard rushing defensive lineman.

In this drill, the quarterback should deliberately throw while off-balance so that when forced to do this in a game he will realize it is now necessary to put more power into the throw in order for the ball to carry the same distance. Ordinarily, when throwing to a receiver 15 to 20 yards away, a quarterback will step toward the receiver and it is not necessary to throw particularly hard. When throwing the same distance while fading back away from the receiver, momentum is going in the other direction, and it is now necessary to throw with the same amount of power he would normally use on a 30 to 40 yards pass. Otherwise, the ball will drop short, which is one of the major reasons why passes are so often intercepted when a passer throws off-balance.

In this drill, the quarterback throws while fading straight back, moving laterally to either side or when falling back at a 45-degree angle in either direction. With practice, your QB will find that he can still throw fairly accurately once he realizes how much extra arm whip is necessary to make the ball reach the receiver.

Some QBs have a stronger natural throwing arm than others. A great passer, however, is one who becomes great because of his willingness to constantly work to perfect his throwing motion and to strengthen his passing arm. You can improve if you are willing to work.

Link to original article in USA Football by Charlie Stubbs.

Charlie Stubbs was the head football coach at Nicholls State University from 2010-14. He also served as offensive coordinator at Oregon State, Memphis, UT-Martin, UNLV, Tulsa, Louisville and Central Missouri.