Identifying Leaks in the Delivery – Knee at First Foot Strike

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

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At our recent Pitching Seminar held at RPP, I presented a PowerPoint presentation on Identifying energy leaks in the delivery. The response from players and coaches alike (thanks Sean McGrath – Pitching Coach at U. Mass Lowell) made me realize there is a bit of a void when it comes to reviewing mechanics based on movement. This prompted me to start a series on the topic. Today is about “Knee at First Foot Strike”.

When the knee angle at First Foot Strike (FFS) is below optimal range, this sets off a chain of events, including:

  • Stability issues at the shoulder,
  • Problems with command due to an erratic trunk tilt at ball release, and possibly
  • Decel problems due to a lack of hip internal rotation from being locked out in a flexed position.

Because an inadequate knee angle at FFS is a direct sign of poor eccentric strength in the lead leg, it is much more common in younger athletes with laxity (loose joints).  Let’s look at a couple of examples. First, we have a 15 year old athlete:

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Let’s compare that to a more structurally mature 18 year old with 3 additional years of strength training experience.

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Note the difference in trunk position at ball release of each (photos on right). In the top photo, the lack of lead leg strength forces the core to have to take up more slack than it can handle. Due to the fact that most athletes at this age have very little core strength as well, the younger athlete has to get “fake layback” by going into extension and placing undo stress in the lower lumbar and anterior shoulder as well as creating an erratic and inconsistent delivery.

The bottom line is we can’t create a good strong throw with any kind of consistency without having a stable platform to work from. In addition, from a velocity standpoint a strong front leg position tells the back leg (the gas) that the brakes are strong enough to absorb anything coming its way. In other words, an athlete will only throw as hard as he feels the front leg can handle.

This is a great example of how a pitching lesson is not really going to correct a poor knee angle at foot strike. Strength is THE limiting factor so spending some good quality time in the weight room could be just what the doctor ordered.

See ya’ in the gym…

 

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