How to Throw a Spiral

Three Parts:Gripping the Ball CorrectlyThrowing a SpiralImproving Your Spirals

We've all been there: you're playing some backyard football, you drop back into the pocket and spot your buddy streaking wide-open toward the end zone, then throw up a pass that looks more like a lame goose falling out of the sky than a pass. It doesn't need to happen again.

Part 1
Gripping the Ball Correctly

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    Use a correctly sized ball. If you're throwing a ball that's too big for you, it's very difficult to throw a tight spiral.[1] Even if you're using the right technique, you might end up with something that looks more like a wounded duck. If you want to throw a spiral, get the right kind of ball:
    • Size 9 is the official size for pro, college, and all players ages 14+
    • Size 8 should be used for players ages 12-14
    • Sizes 6 and 7 should be used for pee-wee football and young children
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    Position your fingers in between the laces. If you want to throw a spiral, the best way to hold the football is to place the ring and pinkie finger of your throwing hand in between the laces, and your thumb underneath them, on the other side of the ball. The thumb should be just underneath the white ring on the football, which you can use as a guide.
    • Some quarterbacks place the middle finger along the laces as well. It depends on how large your hand is and what feels most comfortable for you.
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    Place your index finger near the tip. Your index finger should be over a seam, close to or on the tip of the football, with your thumb and index finger making a right angle with each other.
    • You'll need to experiment some to see what feels the most comfortable for you and your hand strength in terms of your index finger placement. Depending on how big your hands are, your finger will be closer to your other fingers, or the tip.[2]
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    Use your fingertips to grip the ball. For the ball to spiral effectively, you'll need to spin it with your hand, which becomes very difficult if you're not gripping the ball with your fingertips. Practice grabbing the ball with the pads of your fingertips, your knuckles arched slightly off the surface of the ball.
    • Don't "palm" the football. Try to keep space between the center of the palm and the ball, or you'll increase the chances of a wobbly throw.
    • Keep your hold firm enough to rotate your hand without the ball slipping out, but not so firm your fingers start to get tired.

Part 2
Throwing a Spiral

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    Position your feet correctly. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Flex your knees slightly, and position your body so you're standing sideways. So, if you’re right-handed, you should be facing to the right with your left foot forward.
    • Distribute your weight so that it's back on hind leg. Good passes need to be stepped into, so distributing your weight back will allow you to put more power into your throws as you wind up.
    • The foot opposite your throwing arm should be forward, aimed at your target in the direction that you're throwing.
    • It's also good to keep your feet moving, "buzzing" them to stay on your toes. Never stand flat-footed when you're throwing the football.
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    Use the proper throwing motion. As you prepare to throw and find your target, keep your upper arm perpendicular with your body and your forearm at a right angle. Use your other hand to keep the ball steady, maintaining a solid grip on the football.
    • Keep your elbow at a 90 degree angle at all times as you cock the ball back to throw it. Rotate your throwing arm at the shoulder, pushing it straight back, but keeping the football and your hand pointing up.
    • Throwing the football involves your whole body, using it in one fluid motion to twist yourself into the throw. Step forward with your front foot, pushing your non-throwing hand out in front of your for balance.
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    Release the ball correctly. Think of it like the tomahawk chop cheer. When you throw a football correctly, it should feel as though you are pushing the ball straight-ahead, and your palm should face down as you finish the throw. Release the ball at the highest point in the throw before you arm starts rotating down. If you release it too high, the throw will wobble, and if you release it too late, it'll end up on the ground.
    • When you release the ball, spin it with your fingers to initiate the spiral. As you step into the throw, pitch your throwing hand forward, spinning the ball as you release it. Basically, you want to use your fingers to roll the ball out of your hand. Make sure that your hand and arm extend so that your index finger is the last one on the ball.
    • Some football players like Philip Rivers and Tim Tebow use more a side-arm style of throwing the ball to throw spirals effectively, while other quarterbacks like Joe Montana have a more vertical throwing motion. Most quarterbacks fall somewhere in between.
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    Follow through. If you stop your throwing motion as soon as you let go of the ball, it will wobble. This is one of the most common causes of a wobbly toss, so it's important to follow through every time you throw, even on short throws. Rotate your throwing thumb toward the opposite thigh. Make sure the inside of the index finger is the last part of your body that touches the football.

Part 3
Improving Your Spirals

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    Practice making this motion smoothly. It's true, there are a lot of components to throwing a football correctly, and a lot of it will only make sense with practice. The most important part of the spiral action is completing all the mechanics of the throw as smoothly as possible, so practice until you can do it in your sleep.
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    Practice throwing short distances. If you're trying to launch hail Marys, it's likely that most of them will end up looking like wobblers. To get the mechanics of the spiral down, it's a good idea to practice throwing tight and accurate short passes, no more than 10 or 15 yards when you're first starting out. As you built strength and comfort at that distance, you can start throwing spirals at a farther distance.
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    Stretch your body out before you throw. Tight muscles result in wobbly tosses and pulled muscles. Before you throw a football, you need to be stretched out. Take 10-15 minutes before you toss the football around to make sure you're stretched out properly, and you'll notice a difference in the quality of your spirals as well as the sore muscles you won't have the next day. Try the following stretches:
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    Strengthen your upper body. The right mechanics are the most important part of throwing spirals, but having the strength to do it is also important, especially when you start throwing at longer distances. If you want to strengthen your upper body, start working out your biceps, triceps, and pectoral muscles, as well as the muscles in your forearms.
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    Strengthen your hands. Hand and wrist strength is likewise a very important part of your throwing motion. As much time as you devote to throwing the football and practicing your mechanics should be spent in the gym, working out your arms and hands, if you want to throw spirals reliably and accurately.

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