The Most Common Pitching Arm Action Problem

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Okay, in today’s article I’m going to talk about one of the most common arm action issues I see with amateur pitchers: Swinging the arm up early.

I believe a big reason you see this one so much can be traced to some “misguided” advice and a coaching cue that became popular years ago. You may have heard it before: “Thumbs to the thigh, fingers to the sky.” See, here’s the thing:

Getting the arm back and up should NOT be the objective!

As I mentioned in my discussion of on the 2-seam fastball, the quality of any pitch is dictated by how the ball leaves your hand. So you really want to develop a fluid, efficient arm action. It’s all about getting to ball release consistently and efficiently. This is why I’m so down on bad pitching drills that kill momentum and work against developing good timing.

To show you what I’m talking about, here’s a shot from a recent Motion Analysis.

Pitcher-High-Arm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This pitcher throws low 80’s, has good overall rhythm and moves pretty well with his lower half. But what jumped out was his arm action. Almost immediately after beginning his stride, he swung his throwing arm back and up, almost as if “reaching for the sky.”

I’ve got him set up here next to Dylan Bundy, one of the top prospects in the Orioles organization. One thing you see with Bundy (and most elite pitchers), is that the throwing arm doesn’t get up until right at or just before front foot plant. This timing enables a fluid transfer of momentum and good arm whip as he throws.

Here’s a comparison of Justin Verlander and Dylan Bundy side by side.

Notice both pitchers stay relaxed and get the arm up right at front foot plant.

So why is a “high arm” bad?
  • Potential for increased injury risk: swinging the arm up too early often results in arriving with a high elbow at front foot plant – a red flag for increased risk of shoulder impingement.
  • Timing issue: When the goal is on getting the throwing arm up can lead to imbalance where the front side and back side get out of sync. In your pitching motion you generally want your front side to match your throwing side – or what coaches often refer to as “equal & opposite.”
  • Loss of momentum, reduced arm whip: When you get the arm up early, your momentum basically stalls out, and you end up having to “muscle up” to get it going again.
  • Arm drag: Lack of whip can also lead to arm drag where you end up pulling arm through.

Bottom line: increased risk of injury, reduced velocity… neither good.

So what are some potential fixes?
  • Improve your tempo – for more on that read this article: Better Tempo Increases Torque
  • Delay hand break and stay relaxed with your arms.
  • Using corrective drills can also help (especially when focused on creating early momentum before hand break).
 
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