Okay, so in my last post I discussed what I consider some misrepresentations out there when it comes to coaches selling parents and pitchers on the importance of “good pitching mechanics.” If you missed it, click here: “Safe” Pitching Mechanics is a Lie

Now to be clear, the point there was NOT that injury prevention is a bad goal or that pitching mechanics don’t matter. And there are absolutely mechanical flaws that can both hinder performance (reducing velocity and consistency) while also putting more stress on the throwing arm. I discussed some of these flaws here:
Little League Mechanics vs. Major League Mechanics.

And that’s why Motion Analysis can be such a valuable tool. When you can see clearly what you’re actually doing in your pitching delivery, it can really speed the learning process. Combine that with a solid gameplan, effective training drills, and the right amount of hard work, and you’ve got a good recipe for making the needed adjustments.

To illustrate this, I’m going to highlight a young pitcher who began using my program early this summer. Now this pitcher is only 9 years old, and usually I don’t like to get too technical with young pitchers (read this article for more on that). But every pitcher is different, and this boy was already showing tremendous explosiveness in his delivery for a boy his age, so I felt he was ready to take it to another level.

However, you never know what kids are going to do when you’re not working with them on a regular basis – will they really put in the work? And in this case, we’re talking about a pitcher on the other side of the country, so I’ve never even had a chance to work with him in person.

So when his dad sent me his latest videos I was pretty blown away! In just a couple of months since my first analysis, he had made outstanding progress in the key areas we talked about. Here are some clips from his recent before & after analysis.

[h5]1. Improving Stride Direction and a Swinging Front Foot[/h5]

[h5]1. Fixing a Collapsing Front Leg to Transfer Power to the Upper Half[/h5]

Now are his mechanics “perfect”? No, of course not (if such a thing exists… and I would argue it doesn’t). And there are certainly some things to keep working on, and I pointed out some of those things in the next video… but one step at a time.

[h5]3. Suggestions for Converting Linear Momentum to Rotational Power[/h5]

So there’s still work to do, but based on the progress he’s already made in such a short time, it’s clear he’s a young pitcher with exceptional desire and work ethic. And if he loves pitching as much as I did, look out… the sky’s the limit!

PS – If you’d like access to the exact same program this pitcher used, I invite you to try the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint.

[h5]What is hip to shoulder separation and how can you improve it?[/h5]

Hip to shoulder separation, or torque, has become sort of a buzz phrase in pitching circles in recent years… and for good reason. It’s what you see in all powerful rotational athletes, and it’s what you typically see with high velocity pitchers.

But how does hip to shoulder separation contribute to velocity, and how can we actually teach pitchers to increase torque in their deliveries?


Take a look at this video of Aroldis Chapman… unreal separation.

The hardest throwers in the big leagues use their lower half to create momentum and power while delaying shoulder rotation. In the process, they create incredible elastic energy and torque (for more, do some research on the stretch shortening cycle). When these pitchers use their hips the right way, you also tend to see their feet synced up.

So when the front foot opens into landing, you also see the back foot pop or roll off the rubber… hips open, shoulders stay closed, back-foot turns.

Kimbrell-Price-Torque-Separation

[h5]Better Tempo Improves Hip to Shoulder Separation[/h5]

I recently worked with a D1 college pitcher home on break. Now this is a guy already pitching at a high level with pretty solid mechanics. But when I first got a look at him, one thing that stood out was a generally slow tempo and what seemed like a tendency to “muscle up” after front foot plant.

Doing a motion analysis confirmed this. Things looked generally smooth, and he showed outstanding flex and whip in his upper half, but it was as if he was holding everything back until front foot plant. As a result, he created very little hip to shoulder separation and appeared upper-half dominant.

At front foot plant his back foot hadn’t yet pulled off the rubber and his hips were still relatively closed. He was missing out on of the best opportunities to generate power and build elastic energy in his core.

Over the next few weeks, we worked on increasing his tempo out of his leg lift to get his body moving more powerfully towards home plate. We did this with a series of drills along with his mound work. Part of this included step behinds to free him up from the confines of the pitching delivery and the idea of having “good pitching mechanics.”

One thing he mentioned was that when it came to long toss he was among the hardest throwers on his college team. He could throw 300+ feet with ease. But it wasn’t translating to his pitching, and looking at his delivery it was clear why…

He was moving too slowly. See, when he threw long toss he was getting his whole body into it, throwing with good momentum. But when he threw off the mound he reverted to having “good mechanics” and resorted to “muscling up.”

After just a few sessions, he made some big improvement.

On the left is his video when he first came in. On the right you can see him now.

Notice how much quicker he now moves down the mound. Instead of getting stuck over his back foot, he’s now moving his hips towards home plate, riding a strong back leg.

Pay attention to his back foot as he goes into front foot plant. He’s now firing with the back leg and creating much better torque at front foot plant.

The main lesson here is to stay away from drills and training techniques that focus on positions rather than the explosive movements needed for a powerful pitching delivery.

Instead of training pitchers to be slow and stiff, focus on getting pitchers to move well. And if you’re going to use pitching drills, make sure they train the hips and lower half… make sure they’re dynamic… ballistic.

You can find a complete system of drills for building a powerful, dynamic pitching delivery inside the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint.

 

[h5]The Towel Drill: A great drill for killing rotational power[/h5]

I almost included the towel drill in my list of least favorite pitching drills, but decided this one needed it’s own separate article. The most common version of the towel drill involves performing your motion with a towel in your throwing hand with the intention of hitting a target that somebody holds out in front of your landing foot. The idea is in order to consistently hit the target, you need to demonstrate good extension, balance and posture. Unfortunately, it can also lead to some very bad habits if you’re not careful.

In my opinion, the towel drill, at best, can be a useful tool for teaching proper sequencing in your delivery… at worst, it can create awful mechanics that actually rob you of power and velocity. If not taught or practiced properly, it trains the pitcher to “reach out” or stride farther, which tends to cause them to open early and lose rotational velocity (hip and trunk rotation are two of the biggest contributors to velocity). As I discussed in a previous article, a long stride does you no good if you open early with your hips. If you want to maximize power and velocity, you need rotational power.

[h5]Focusing on hitting a target out in front of your foot doesn’t make much sense when you consider a pitcher’s actual release point![/h5]

  

Despite lumping the towel drill in the “drills I don’t like” category, I do see some value to working with a towel. Developing a powerful pitching delivery that you can repeat consistently takes work – it can take over 1,000 repetitions to really ingrain new movement patterns. Throwing drills and pitching off the mound should make up a good part of that work, but sometimes it’s helpful to work on your pitching mechanics without a ball.

Working without a ball saves wear and tear on your arm, and also makes it easier to focus on your mechanics since you’re not worried about where the ball is going. Using the towel can be helpful because sometimes when you perform full speed reps with nothing in your hand it can feel like your arm’s going to fly off.

So I’m not against working with the towel, it’s really just the intention of the drill I have an issue with. Here is a great video of major league pitcher George Kontos (fellow Northwestern grad, incidentally) using the towel to work on his delivery. You’ll see there is nobody standing in front of him holding out a target for him to smack.

Notice his late trunk rotation! He is basically just working on his mechanics with a towel in his hand. When I was in the minors, a lot of guys would use a towel to work on their mechanics before the game. But the goal was always performing quality reps of their motion, not smacking a target in front of their foot. Bottom line, I’m not a big fan of it, but if you’re going to do the towel drill at all, do it this way.
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Check out the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint if you want to learn more about drills for developing a powerful pitching delivery

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