When Cleveland Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee in the first half of a 37-24 victory over the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3, he immediately focused on making a strong comeback for the 2014 season.
During the course his rehabilitation, Hoyer found a source of great strength: his core muscles.
In rebuilding the strength in his surgically repaired knee, Hoyer and Gordon Williams, the Browns' assistant athletic trainer, focused on a total body plan. That has led Hoyer to feel stronger in his midsection, and thus, in all of the activity he does on the football field.
"When I go out and throw now after doing three months of these core exercises, even coming off a torn ACL in my push-off foot, when I'm throwing, there's times I feel like I'm throwing the ball a little bit harder," Hoyer said.
"I've always done the usual core stuff that everybody does when they come in here, but with the stuff I've done with him, I actually feel like sometimes, I throw the ball harder. You always hear quarterbacks talk about how important their core is to throwing. Some of this stuff might actually make me a better quarterback as far as throwing the ball because I'm strengthening areas I never really thought or knew about to be honest with you."
As part of his strength-building regimen, Hoyer does multi-plane lunges, which help to mimic the motions he makes every time he turns to hand off to a running back. At first, he lunges forward, and then, goes laterally before taking a step backward while turning to his right.
In all of the exercises Hoyer goes through to rebuild his strength, multi-plane movements are heavily emphasized, as is balance and the ability to draw explosive strength from the muscles in his lower body.
"In football, you concentrate so much on squatting, benching, where everything's in front of you," Williams said. "You kind of train your body to move in just one plane when you do too much of that. This is a more proactive way when you're coming back because now, we're training all these muscles that we've addressed through his corrective stuff to move in multi-planes, work together in ways they're not used to working.
"On the football field, it's real. You've got to be able to stop, cut and change direction. You've got to be able to shift your weight. You've got to be able to turn 180 degrees sometimes."
For every activity that Hoyer does with a strength component, Williams makes sure he incorporates a stability exercise with an emphasis on balance in an effort to avoid compensation injuries in other parts of his body.
He also makes sure to incorporate a recovery day into each week of his training.
"A normal recovery day would be a day where Brian comes in and does soft-tissue, compression stuff just to freshen up the legs a little bit," Williams said. "It, too, makes sure he's not doing too much at this point. Now that he's doing more and more, you don't want to do too much and make the knee swell up or anything like that."
Hoyer added, "It's good to refresh the legs because we do get after it a little bit. Even today, my legs are a little bit sore from the leg workout we did yesterday, not my knee, but the muscles that we're trying to build back up. Imagine taking a month off from lifting and you do that initial lift. Your muscles feel really sore and tight. At this point, we're really stepping it up as far as strengthening is concerned."