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Justin Herbert Has One of the Strongest Arms in Football. Here’s How He Protects It.

The rising QB talks about how he approaches shoulder mobility and overhauling his diet.

Quarterback Justin Herbert at Tonal House

Justin Herbert has an arm like a cannon. The massive 64-yard dime he tossed against New York last December is, at best, how legends are born. At worst, it’s the best pass thrown in a football game in 2021. 

Skills like Herbert’s don’t happen in a vacuum. He’s learned the importance of “being calm and having your feet planted in the ground, because that’s when you’re going to throw the best,” he said in an exclusive interview with Tonal. “If you get bouncing around too much, that’s when errant throws start happening.” 

Herbert is concerned with more than just accuracy and distance, though. He’s dialed into caring for his shoulder, which is critical to throwing, from supporting the arm through the wind-up and cocking motion, all the way to the follow-through and release. For Herbert, that equates to not only shoring up the joint to support his strength and power but also having the ability to move freely and easily.

“As a quarterback, mobility is one of the most important things that we’re able to do,” said the second-year player who attempted 672 passes last season. “We spend a lot of time working on our shoulders, our flexibility. With how many passes that we throw during practices and games, it’s important to know that you’re getting enough recovery.”

Tonal quote from Justin Herbert

Typically you’ll find Herbert churning out tons of internal and external rotation exercises, cycling through several different pieces of equipment to get the job done. “Usually that takes four or five different machines in the weight room, but that can be replaced by one Tonal trainer,” he said.

How he treats his shoulder and the rest of his body during the season and into the offseason is slightly different. When he’s firing off laser-like passes week after week, he’s not concerned with piling on heavy weight. “You’re not trying to add on strength, you’re more so trying to maintain everything that you have,” he said. 

Herbert then shifts his focus on getting his body back to peak condition, fully recovering, adding muscle, and increasing the strength in his arm during the off-season, he said. Even then, he is hyper focused on ensuring his arm recovers well with rehab and mobility movements. 

Herbert’s secret to minimizing soreness and muscle fatigue in his shoulder and, really, his entire body is stretching. Despite all the time he spends running and lifting, he emphasizes the importance of taking time to warm-up and stretch to “maintain the flexibility that you need to play this game.” 

Justin Herbert working out with Tonal

Fueling for performance is another key aspect to an athlete’s repertoire, and one that Herbert said he knows he needs to address this offseason. In 2020, GQ reported that the 23-year-old had a hankering for Subway sandwiches, specifically steak and cheese and chicken bacon ranch, as well as pizza and cheeseburgers. But Herbert said he realizes that’s not exactly an elite athlete nutrition plan. 

To help get on track, Herbert said he underwent food sensitivity testing, is taking a close look at the vitamins, minerals, and amino acids that he may be deficient in, and plans to hire a private chef. “I’m going to start eating better because if I want to play this game for as long as I can, I think nutrition is huge,” he admitted.  

The improvement is already underway. For breakfast Herbert opts for eggs and toast. He consumes a lot of carbs throughout the day (think: pasta and bread) to help keep his energy up when he’s training regularly during the season. He drinks protein shakes after weight training sessions and turns to tart cherry juice as a recovery beverage, which research has shown can minimize post-workout muscle soreness.

A quarterback’s job is to lead the offense and set the tone for the team, but whether it’s being a leader on the field, or taking ownership of his own habits, Herbert knows it’s an inside job. It starts with you,” he said. “It starts with visualizing the plays you’re running, your job, your mission for every play, knowing your responsibility for the entire team, and making sure that everyone’s on the same page.” 

Football attachments shown for demonstration purposes only; do not try at home.

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