How to Create a Better Lead Leg Block

Lead leg block

Whether we’re talking about throwing velocity on the mound or exit velocity at the plate, improving and better utilizing ground reaction forces with a lead leg block is paramount. Training the lead leg to both produce and accept force will help to create a stable base and facilitate hip and torso rotation up the chain.

While it’s true that the lead leg is mostly a product of the back leg moving efficiently and setting up good pelvis position/angle to rotate from (we like to see anywhere from 40-60 degrees at foot plant), once the athlete hits foot plant, it’s all about the lead leg. And, while it’s also true that the amount of extension the lead knee / leg produces does come into play, it’s not nearly as important.  Nor does it correlate nearly as much to either throwing or exit velocity as its ability to decelerate (accept force) and the speed at which the knee / leg extends (produce force) when blocking.

Below are kinematic sequences taken from our Qualisys Motion Capture system from two different pitchers displaying different decel patterns.  On the left, Pitcher 1 displays a good decel pattern. Note the steeper slope of the red (pelvic line) as compared to a more “flattened” slope from Pitcher 2 on the right. This is also displayed in each player’s Mocap metrics further below. As a side note, notice how much more player 2 is using the arm in the throw (higher shoulder IR speed) . This is more than likely due to less force being transferred up the chain from the lead leg.

lead leg block

While there are many factors that can contribute to an efficient lead leg block (see RPP intern bio-mechanist Courtney Semkewyc’s article on foot position and its correlation to velocity here), today we’re going to talk about a few things we can do from a training standpoint to help the athlete to better create and accept force with the lead leg.

Coaches and trainers interested in generating higher pitching and hitting velocity should place a greater emphasis on both:

    • Improving stride leg ground reaction force generation
    • Timing of that force generation during pitching/hitting

Here are three methods we use to help train and improve these attributes:

    1. Eccentric Loading Through the Stride Leg
    2. Improved Control of the Forces Developed in a Posterior Direction
    3. Drill Work / Transfer of Training

1. Eccentric Loading Through the Stride Leg

Improving eccentric knee flexion control through single-leg strength exercises will help the athlete to better manage the high-reaction forces that are needed immediately after stride foot contact. These include:

(Ecc RFESS w/ Hold)

(Med Ball Snap Down)

2. Improved Control of the Forces Developed in a Posterior Direction

Studies by McNally et al (2015) showed that when stride leg forces are developed posteriorly to the target as opposed to medially or laterally as seen in a more  “unstable” landing, kinematics and kinetics were improved-better force transfer achieved accompanied by a  reduced risk of injury.

This can be accomplished through plyometric exercises focusing on generation of forces that react posteriorly such as:

(Med Ball Pulse w/ Stick)

(S. Leg Backward Hops)

These exercises/drills will enable the athlete to decelerate more effectively (“slamming on the breaks”) as well as generate ground reaction force in a more posterior direction. This can greatly benefit pitchers during the arm-cocking phase to help better develop ball velocity or hitters at foot plant to help create greater power in the swing (for more on decel you can click here for “Putting on the Brakes to Throw Gas… What is Decel?” by RPP Strength and Conditioning coach Nancy Newell).

3. Drill Work / Transfer of Training

From a mechanics viewpoint, utilizing pitching and hitting drills to focus on the stride leg and transfer of energy to help to develop neuromuscular efficiency and proprioceptive awareness can go a long way in effectively using the lower half. RPP Pitching Coach Ari Kaufman demonstrates.

(1/2 Kneeling Post-up Throw)

And then transfer training to the mound or at the plate with throwing/hitting drills that focus on controlling stride leg force acceptance posterior ground reaction force by the stride leg. For this, we like over speed training with the Core Velocity Belt. RPP Pitching Coach Mike Lembo demonstrates.

(Over Speed Rocker Drill w/ CVB)

On the hitting side, RPP Director of Hitting Evan Klugerman demonstrates a constraint drill we use here at RPP to put the athlete in a better position to “feel” posterior force production. With the constraint of the platform, the lead leg can feel an efficient turn into the lead leg, rather than leaking forward on the front side.

(Tee Platform Drill – No stride)

See ya’ in the gym…

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

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Studies: Stride Leg Ground Reaction Forces Predict Throwing Velocity in Adult Recreational Baseball Pitchers (Michael P McNally 1, John D Borstad, James A Oñate, Ajit M W Chaudhari)