[h3]The Importance of Early Momentum in Your Pitching Delivery[/h3]

When I was a kid learning to pitch, conventional wisdom taught that getting to a good balance point was the most important part of the pitching motion. I used to practice it daily, lifting my leg and holding it at the top, over and over again, sometimes until my legs started to shake… What a waste! It’s simply not what successful, hard throwing big league pitchers do. Creating momentum by getting your center of gravity moving towards home plate early in your motion is critical for generating power and developing good timing in your pitching delivery.

Old time pitchers knew this intuitively, that’s why they developed those big full windups, swinging their arms for timing and rhythm and then moving fluidly through their deliveries. Somewhere along the way we started teaching kids to stop at the height of their leg lift to “get balanced.” We then started teaching them to get to a good “power position” before throwing. We started focusing on all of these “points” in the pitching motion rather than looking at the pitching delivery as what it should be – a fluid total-body movement involving the efficient transfer power from the lower half to the upper half, out to the arm and into the ball at pitch release.

[h5]Do you see Koufax stopping here to get to a balance point??[/h5]

By getting to a “balance point” and pausing at the height of your leg lift you’re actually killing momentum and disrupting your natural rhythm and timing. To build early momentum you really want get your hips moving towards home plate as you get loaded up in your leg lift. This is where power starts! It’s about basic laws of physics, mainly inertia: a body at rest tends to stay at rest; a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

If you’ve ever tried pushing a car in neutral, you know the importance of gaining momentum.
When you first start pushing, it’s going to take some time and effort to get the car moving. But once you get the wheels moving it becomes easier and easier and you can get to a point where you’re actually running behind it because now inertia and momentum are working with you. The same principles are at play in your pitching delivery! You need to get things moving early to allow for a more powerful stride to maximize velocity.

I’m not suggesting you rush your motion, rather just work on getting your weight inside your back foot early to start building momentum towards home plate in your stride. You then use this momentum to assist your back leg drive to gradually accelerate down the mound and explode into ball release. All you have to do is take a look at the motion of any successful power pitcher to see the importance of a powerful stride. Achieving high velocity begins with your legs. A series of studies by leading sports research center ASMI, “Comparison of High Velocity and Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries” supports this with an interesting finding:

“…early in the pitching motion, the two groups were dissimilar in the timing of their movements, while their later movement timing was much more similar.”

You can read more of the study here:

This actually makes a lot of sense, since the early part of the pitching delivery, the stride phase, involves your legs and trunk while the later movements are more upper half, throwing arm dominated. High velocity pitchers do a better job building early momentum in their load to help them drive towards home plate with a powerful stride.

Not only does creating momentum early help you generate more power, it also promotes good timing and rhythm in your delivery, helping you get your arms and legs in sync. It’s not just the high velocity guys that do this, but you can look at guys like Greg Maddux, known more for their control.









Pausing at the top kills momentum, breaks your rhythm, disrupts natural timing, and hurts control.Getting your hips moving early leads to a more fluid, well synchronized pitching delivery. So just remember, as a pitcher, momentum is your friend.

[h5]Click below for a Complete System of Drills for developing
a Powerful, Dynamic Pitching Delivery[/h5] BP-Blueprint-Package-2

One of the toughest movements for young pitchers to master is good front knee action in their pitching deliveries. Bracing up with the front leg after front foot plant is absolutely critical for maximizing velocity, and scientific studies back this up. ASMI (the leading research institute in the field of pitching biomechanics) did a series of studies looking at the differences between high velocity pitchers and low velocity pitchers. Here is a quote from their website:

“…the higher ball velocity pitchers demonstrated less lead knee flexion velocity after front foot contact and greater lead knee extension velocity at the time of ball release. Extending the lead knee in this manner may provide stabilization allowing better energy transfer from the trunk to the throwing arm, and could be a critical factor in pitch velocity.”

You can see the rest of their findings here:

Comparison of High Velocity and Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries
Matsuo T, Escamilla RF, Fleisig GS, Barrentine SW, Andrews JF. Comparison of kinematic and temporal parameters between different pitch velocity groups.

To help understand how this works, imagine you’re riding a bicycle at full speed and suddenly slam on the front brake. What happens? The front wheel will stop and inertia will launch the back of the bike up in the air sending you over the handlebars. Well the same thing is happening in your pitching delivery. If you collapse the front knee, it’s basically an energy leak, some of that momentum and force from your stride gets lost and doesn’t get transferred well to your upper half. The more powerfully you drive towards home plate and brace up with your front leg, the more powerfully you will transfer force to your upper half, catapulting over your front leg and accelerating your arm for maximum velocity.

One important note: when talking about good front knee action and extension, I’m specifically talking about what you want to be happening at ball release. I am NOT advising that  you should land with a stiff or locked out front knee. This would be very jarring, increasing the stress on the arm and hurting your control. You want to land flexed and firm with that front leg, and then brace up into ball release.

Here is a video of Andrew Bailey that shows what I’m talking about:

One way to gauge how well you brace up with your front leg is to look at how you finish. If you brace up well, your hips should never get past your front foot after you throw. If your body continues on towards home plate after the pitch, you are not bracing up effectively. For proper front knee action, you should be landing with a strong front leg (again, flexed and firm) with your front foot then pushing hard into the ground to resist all of the momentum and force you created in your stride. Your front hip basically acts as a pivot for your trunk to rotate around. So if you are soft or weak with that pivot you lose some rotational velocity. Your front leg should really be extending (knee straightening) and pushing back into your front hip after foot plant, leading to better hip rotation, sending all of that force from your stride into your upper half as you throw.

This takes tremendous leg strength. Not only do are you moving powerfully with your stride, but the slope of the pitching mound enhances gravitational force so that at front foot plant you land with force equal to up to 175% of your body weight. If you are weak with that front knee, not only do you lose power, you’ll have a tough time being strong and stable at pitch release, which can hurt control.

There are several reasons pitchers may have a hard time bracing up well with their front knee. Sometimes it’s just a matter of breaking bad habits and developing new muscle memory through repetition and deliberate practice. But very often, the problem stems from deficiencies in strength and mobility. Many young pitchers just don’t have the leg strength yet to brace up well after front foot plant. They may also suffer from poor hip mobility that limits their range of motion and forces them to compensate by leaking open with their front knee. This is where a good strength and conditioning program can make a big difference. Developing the strength, mobility and motor coordination to execute this movement properly takes work, but if you work hard at it, the reward is better velocity and consistency.

Some more examples of good front knee action:


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