Not All Hip Shoulder Separation is Created Equal

hip and shoulder separation

One of the main creators of a more powerful throw is the torque we get through a good hip shoulder separation from the upper half. But when it comes to how much, more is not necessarily always better. Today we’ll talk briefly about why, as well as look at some things we can do in the weight room to help. But first, let’s go over what creates good hip / shoulder separation?

    • Elasticity
    • Good core stiffness

The terms “stiffness” and “separation” contradict one another but the synchronization between the two are vital to creating upper body torque. Without a stiff, strong core you can’t transfer energy efficiently but without the separation you don’t have any energy and speed to transfer in the first place. Let’s take a look.

1. Elasticity

The elasticity we get from our trunk / core involves not just one but a series of muscles and tendons that run from the front hip to the back (dominant-side) arm. This is known as a “sling” or “serape”. During hip / shoulder separation these muscles get lengthened and stretched to create tension much like a slingshot being pulled back.

2. Core Stiffness

Great core strength will not only help pull the athlete further into separation / rotation (pull the slingshot back), but it will provide the stiffness / strength to hold it there until first foot strike. This will cause all the power created in the upper half to be stored and then released late into the delivery, creating a much faster and more powerful throw with later arm speed and higher velocity ceiling.

Different strokes for different folks!

As I’ve said many times, not all athletes are built the same so their training programs pitching mechanics should be tailored individually from athlete-to-athlete. Here’s why.

If we consciously try to produce more separation than we can produce in hopes of creating a bigger range of motion, we might actually see a decrease in velocity if it isn’t synced up with the rest of our mechanics.  On the other hand, if we try to be too quick or consciously hold the trunk back while coming down the mound, we may slow ourselves down creating leaks such as a late arm or early arm speed. This will hijack valuable energy needed to reach higher velocities.

Physical characteristics such as mobility, strength, limb length and elasticity taken during the assessment should tell us what type of athlete we are dealing with anatomically. This should help us choose the ideal mechanics and range of motion based off the athlete’s individual profile.

For example, taller athletes tend to be more elastic and are capable of a much larger “pre-stretch” of the trunk. This will allow them to open the front leg earlier than their shorter and stiffer counterparts in order to allow for more separation to occur.

(Randy Johnson)

However, for this taller, more elastic athlete, the ability to “harness and hold” that stretch requires great core stiffness. Exercises like this one could be just what the doctor ordered to ensure he doesn’t “unwind” prematurely.

(Core Stability at Stride Length)

A shorter more “compact” pitcher that doesn’t have much ROM here will have a tendency to stay closed with the front foot and hip for as long as possible as they make their way down the mound to deliver a quick powerful rotation.

(Zach Greinke)

For this type of athlete, doubling up on hip and t-spine mobility to maintain good ROM is clutch.

(Quadruped T-spine Mobility)

(Supine Knee-to-Knee)


Knowing what hip and shoulder separation means is one thing. Knowing what causes it and how to optimize it is a whole other thing. It requires a knowledge of anatomy as well as drills in the weight room and in the tunnel. The two go hand-in-hand.

For a more analytical view on this topic please click here.

See ya’ in the gym…

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

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