5 Things You Need to Create Stability and Power at Foot Strike

When talking about how force is transferred from foot strike up into the arm, I like to use the “crashing a car into a wall with crash test dummies” analogy.

(Crash Test Dummies)

Let me explain.

At the position of first foot strike, the force from “blocking” drives the front leg (femur) back and into the acetabulum (socket). This blocking is the trigger that tells the arm to load the lat and get into lay-back. As soon as the front hip (not knee!!) starts to extend (post up), the elastic energy that’s built up in the lat from hip/shoulder separation during lay-back is released, accelerating the arm (the crash test dummies) towards the mound.  Now, let’s cover what you need to make this happen efficiently and explosively.

    1. You Need Great Single-leg Strength
    2. Hip Mobility
    3. Core Strength and Stiffness
    4. T-Spine Mobility (rotation/extension)
    5. Cuff Strength and Firing Time

Here we go…

1. You Need Great Single-leg Strength

To create good ball and socket congruency (femur centered in the hip) at foot strike to successfully accept and transfer that force from the ground and up into the core and eventually the arm to create the catapult effect.

(Rev. SSB Lunge)

2. Great Hip Mobility (especially on the front hip)

This allows the athlete to not only get into, but maintain, this position while continuing to move down the mound. This requires great hip IR to help prevent us from running out of room at ball release when the front knee is almost fully extended and getting ready to decelerate through the finish in order to prevent the arm from “slamming shut”. Mobility in the back hip is crucial as well in order to start the delivery moving in the right direction to begin with.

(90 / 90 Hip Flow)

3. Great Core Strength and Stiffness

Successfully creating a great pre-stretch in the upper half, while transferring force up the chain and into the arm, requires great core strength. It also gives us the stiffness needed to “hold” the upper body in place while the lower half starts to rotate, helping to create valuable torque when the upper body finally does start to rotate.

(Static Lunge w/Band Rotation)

4. T-Spine Mobility (rotation/extension)

On the other side of the mobility equation, t-spine extension is needed to help us adequately load the lats and get into a greater lay back at foot strike. More is not always better however, as some of these athletes will actually adopt an overly-extended (flat) upper back posture from going into aggressive lay-back eights months out of the year.  For these athletes, rather than programming drills to create more thoracic extension, you are better off giving them drills that encourage flexion. Reaching exercises with the arms, that also round through the upper back can get them back on track as well as help strengthen serratus.

(Band Res Wall Slides)

5. Rotator Cuff Strength and Firing Time

The cuff has to be strong and timed up to center the humeral head (ball) on the glenoid fossa (socket) while the arm is accelerating. Perturbations work great to help teach the smaller stabilizers to fire quicker and more efficiently rather than using the bigger prime movers such as the lat and deltoid. Firing time of the cuff is just as important as cuff strength in regards to injury prevention.

(1/2 Kneeling Band Perts)

See ya’ in the gym…

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

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