Bringing Mocap into the Trenches… Sometimes It’s What You CAN’T See

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

Most people who have observed our movement assessment and 4-camera video analysis believe it’s about as good as you can get. Now, with the addition of our Qualisys motion capture system it’s even better.  The results speak for themselves.

Today we’ll take a look at an example of how an issue discovered in the Mocap assessment help set off a red flag and force us into digging a bit deeper into all the parameters of our training protocol. Mocap allows us to get information on many important metrics that you can’t see with the same amount of accuracy when using 2D video alone. What’s even better, many of these data points, like the timing and angular velocity issues that can’t be seen as easily with the eye, have higher correlations to velocity than more “static” positionsBut before we go any further, let me just state this one more time…

It’s not in the numbers themselves, but what we can do with that information… the FIXES!!

This athlete came to us in July. He is a very athletic young man, age 16.  At 6’1” and an initial weight of 147 lbs., we knew if nothing else, there was some work to be done from a strength and nutrition standpoint. Here is a snapshot of his first Rapsodo session with RPP pitching coach Mike Lembo.

Please ignore the velo in the top left, we rarely see an athlete’s true velo displayed during Rapsodo sessions. To be fair, this athlete sits 85 mph tops 86 – 87.  As an aside, he has a spin efficiency of 97%, a high spin rate for his velo, an excellent spin axis at 42 minutes on his FB.

And here’s video of him on Day 1…

During his initial assessment, we put him on Mocap, and while his mechanics were fairly clean, there was a red flag in regard to the amount of “Max Front Knee Angular Velocity”, to put it in more layman’s terms we’re talking about the speed of his “post-up”.

While most people worry more about the distance of lead knee extension (like trying to fully straighten the leg prior to ball release), studies show a small correlation between degrees of knee extension and throwing velocity. This lets us know that while he does throw relatively hard, there is vast room for improvement as lead knee angular velocity has a high correlation to throwing velocity as well as taking stress off of the arm.

While there isn’t much cuing you can give an athlete when dealing with angular velocity issues, we felt that digging a bit deeper for any strength/mobility issues could help get him into a better position to block with his lead leg. This in turn will help him better create a higher angular velo into his post-up. This exemplifies the importance of getting as much information on an athlete when he walks through the door on day 1.

Movement Assessment

Looking back at his movement assessment, I’ve highlighted three main issues that could be affecting his ability to post-up faster/more efficiently and how we go about addressing them.

The “FIX” is often a combination of mobility work, strength work and throwing drills inside the nets…

Let’s break it up into its three components:

Mobility

Tight Hamstrings – One of the main roles of the hamstrings is hip extension. Let me start by saying that tight hamstrings are not always short. Many times they are tight due to being long and are acting as a protective device against back pain due to an extreme anterior pelvic tilt from inactive glutes. But in this athlete’s case they were tight due to shortness. Working on getting some length can help extend the hip and ultimately the leg. This will help with the amount of post-up, allowing him to accelerate over a longer distance.

(Tri-Planar hamstring stretch)

Lead Leg Hip IR – Internal rotation of the lead hip activates the adductors, which in layman’s terms are the “gas “ when rotating into foot plant and extending the lead knee quickly. Getting back some hip mobility, mainly IR, while strengthening the adductors for this athlete seemed to really help.

(Lateral Sl. Board Lunge)

Strength

Lead Leg Hip Abduction Strength – At 6’1” and low body weight, getting this athlete strong in low positions and giving his lead leg a good set of brakes is a must. Eccentric split squats with a 2 sec. iso hold seemed to do the trick..

( Ecc. Split Squats w/ 3-2-0 Tempo)

Throwing Drills

In addition to his lead leg block, he was also not landing stacked due to his trunk being a bit forward at foot plant. This was forcing additional load at foot plant that his frame couldn’t handle, making it hard to efficiently decelerate and redirect energy up and into the trunk quickly and on a more vertical axis.

Rocker Drill – We used the classic rocker drill to get a feel for rotating the hips into and through foot plant to get a feel for creating extension as well as work on getting the torso stacked a bit more.

(Rocker Drill)

CVB “Over-Speed” Drill – We incorporate Lantz Wheeler’s Core Velocity Belt to add an over-speed training element and help improve hip rotation timing and speeds, while helping the athlete realize that he can  accept more force on that front leg.

(CVB “Over-Speed” Drill)

Results and Summary

Fast forward 9 weeks and 11 lbs. (158 lbs.) later… He recently touched 90 mph.

In recent years there has been an overwhelming amount of data and information that’s become available to athletes and coaches. I have seen many coaches sneer at the thought of incorporating technology such as Mocap or VBT. At the same time, I see facilities post data and technology without understanding how to, not only read it but most importantly, apply it.  For me, the buzz comes in finding the athletes that step into my facility the quickest path to getting results in performance, injury prevention and an overall education in the process. I’ve found that combining data and dare I say it, “good ‘ol anatomy and coaching” seems to work best. No complaints so far.

See ya’ in the gym…

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