Today my interview is with Lantz Wheeler, the man behind Baseball Think Tank and the creator of the Core Velocity Belt. I had the pleasure of meeting him recently while we were both speaking at the Inside Baseball Coaches Clinic conference in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.
Good morning Lantz and thanks for your time. I just want to say that it was great to meet you recently at the Inside Baseball conference. I feel like we share a very similar passion for the arts of both movement and pitching mechanics. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me today. You speak a lot about the importance of using your lower half as a pitcher. Can you explain in simple terms what that means to Lantz Wheeler?
Lantz: Good morning Nunz. Well, that’s a good question. There are so many cues and so many teachings out there that it can get very confusing. Really using the lower half to me is about using your center of mass, from the top of the thighs to the belly button. It’s about being able to control and manipulate that portion of your body in such a way that allows the body to move a little bit more freely and a little faster. At the end of the day, the goal for the lower body is just trying to get from Point A to Point B as fast and as efficiently as possible.
Nunzio: Why do you think so many pitchers have such a hard time using their lower half?
Lantz: I think it comes down to cues and it comes down to teaching. For most guys if you didn’t teach or show them anything I think they would have more success to naturally use their lower half. So, in my opinion much of the teachings and the cues just really affect movement incorrectly and I think inefficient communication (bad cues) and much of the miscues in coaching ultimately appear in the form of inefficient movement.
Nunzio: Exactly. That was my next question. I always tell my guys that there is no pitching or batting coach alive that can get an athlete into a mechanically correct position if his body is just not going to be able to get there.
Lantz: I think that’s why so many people miss the boat. Most folks don’t understand that mechanics is a product of movement. Movement comes first and so much of what you see with “bad mechanics” comes down to bad movements.
Nunzio: You talk a lot about the hip following the eyes. Can you talk about that for second?
Lantz: There are three things that we look for when observing a pitcher. The arm has peers and is subject to peer pressure from other body parts. For one thing it has the glove side and for good or bad these other body parts have an impact on the arm. The same goes for the other two big influencers. First being the head/eye because the rest of the body is going to follow the eyes. And the other one is the feet. I think if you are looking at the center of the body, the hips, the core, the glove side, the head/eyes and ultimately the feet, so often you can track poor mechanics with something that’s happened with those three parts of the body that I referred to above.
What many folks don’t understand about bad mechanics is that a lot of the time that’s just the body going to great lengths to protect itself. It’s a lot of silly examples but with the body and the mind the number one goal is self-preservation. A lot of times what you see with bad mechanics is movement first and bad mechanics second. It’s really just the body trying to protect itself. That’s why the eyes and the head play such a big role in mechanics.
Nunzio: So, it’s often about the body generally wanting to get there any way it can, but safely.
Lantz: Yes, absolutely. And that impacts everything else.
Nunzio: When we are analyzing video here in the Pitching Lab, two of the problems we notice often are (a) late arm action and (b) pitchers going into lumbar extension when trying to lay back. Do you encounter this problem a lot? And if so what do you do to deal with this?
Lantz: That’s a good one. As far as the arm laying back, I think a lot of times that has to do more with inertia and with the glove side. And whenever you see extension in the lumbar, those are the guys that have inefficiencies in their hip and they are just trying to recruit other body parts elsewhere which makes sense because the faster that I can move the center part of my body, the faster the arm is going to want to move along with it. I am betting that if you look below the lumbar you will find your problem there.
Nunzio: What was your inspiration for the Core Velocity Belt?
Lantz: Oh wow! That’s been over 10 years now and it was one of the times I was giving pitching lessons. We were up in a basketball gym and I went to pick up my daughter after school. She thought the best way to entertain herself for 3 to 4 hours was to wrap the old Velcro tubing that pitchers use for rehab around her waist. She is on the floor with her shoes off water skiing on the floor backed up against the wall with belt attached around her waist. She would drop down on her butt and the thing would pull her. And the idea just came to me. The scene I saw kind of just told me that this would be perfect for pitchers. I went home that night and I had my wife sew up an early version of it and we finally figured it all out a few years ago.
Nunzio: Well it’s a great product and we use it here in our Pitching Lab sessions. I even use it during our med ball throws with my position players. It makes them aware of their lower half. Basically if they can feel it and become aware of it they can use it. We have had great success with it.
In simple terms can you tell me the biggest benefit of the Core Velocity Belt. Is it hip first movement? Is it hip and shoulder separation? What do you think?
Lantz: The simplest answer is that it’s all about movement. The Belt helps the pitcher stop thinking about pitching mechanics and allows the pitcher to do what they do naturally.
Nunzio: That’s awesome Lantz. Thanks so much for your time. This has been great.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, NASM, CPT, PES, FMS)