It’s pretty well accepted that a long stride helps you maximize power in your delivery, resulting in greater velocity. That’s partly why I’m a big believer in the importance creating momentum early in your leg lift (see my article on early momentum). Too many kids are taught that getting to a “balance point” is the most important part of their pitching delivery. This kills momentum, effectively holding them back and making it tougher to move down the mound with a long, powerful stride.
Now, just a word of caution here: it is possible to stride too far. So before you go out trying to stride out as far as you possibly can, you need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Everything you do early in your pitching delivery should be designed to create momentum, generate power, and get you out to a good position at front foot plant. This means creating maximum torque and tension through hip to shoulder separation, landing with the hips open, shoulders closed, and your throwing arm in a good position to throw.
[h5]How a long stride can actually hurt velocity:[/h5]
A lot of times kids hear coaches or parents tell them to get a bigger stride, but they never really explain how (I know this was the case for me growing up). This leads to a couple of problems. First, the pitcher may lack the necessary flexibility – it’s said that Nolan Ryan could actually do a legitimate split. If you work to get a longer stride but don’t have the flexibility, you’ll never be able to get out over your front foot at ball release. This leads to slower hip and trunk rotation and less forward trunk tilt, all important components for maximizing velocity.
If you know you have flexibility/mobility issues I highly recommend checking out Eric Cressey’s “Assess and Correct” program.
Another big issue results from pitchers just stepping out as far as they can with their front foot rather than driving out and riding their back leg. They basically open their hips and chest way too early, totally killing any power they could get through hip to shoulder separation. The stride should really be more like a sideways lunge. You want to begin by leading with your hips and accelerating down the mound by driving with your back leg. You then want to open your front foot towards home plate just before front foot plant. This opens the hips, and by staying closed with your shoulders you’ll be able to create maximum torque.
Now it makes sense that a longer, more explosive stride would help maximize velocity. More force and more speed converts to faster hip and trunk rotation (as long as you stabilize with your front side – see my article on good front-knee action). In fact one recent study helped prove this by finding a significant link between velocity and lateral (sideways) jumping ability. You can see the study here:
“Correlation of Throwing Velocity to the Results of Lower Body Field Tests in Male College Baseball Players”
-Lehman G, Drinkwater EJ, Behm DG.
But a long stride is not the be-all-end-all. In fact some of the game’s best pitchers including Cliff Lee ad Justin Verlander have done very well without particularly long strides.
Despite their relatively short strides, both do enough right in their deliveries to generate power and velocity. That, combined with a remarkable ability to repeat their deliveries and command their pitches has made them two of today’s best pitchers.
So yes, a long stride can help if done correctly, but how you stride is a lot more important than how far you stride. Keep an eye out for more articles on the pitcher’s stride where I’ll focus on mobility drills and training techniques to help you effectively increase your stride for maximum velocity.