Every year we have the privilege of working with a large number of pitchers between October and March. While these athletes come in many different shapes and sizes, all requiring their own individual strength and mobility programming, this wasn’t the case when it came to analyzing mechanics on the mound. Let me explain.
When analyzing a pitcher’s mechanics we generally consider three things that can help you throw the baseball harder (Thanks Matt Blake!!):
1. Distribution of Stress throughout the Entire Kinetic Chain
By distributing stress throughout the entire kinetic chain we can efficiently and repeatedly move through functional lines of power while distributing the energy produced into segments throughout the throw, instead of relying on one or two key spots (see below):
A good example would be a pitcher who is not engaging his lower half, and instead using all arm to create his velocity. Eventually his arm will shut down. Power and velo build from the ground up the chain.
2. Joint Centration
There’s an old saying when something is in great rhythm “the stars are all aligned”. Well, the same can be said for your joints. Joint centration is a common term used to explain the proper alignment of joints in the body. In short, proper centration allows for the best possible distribution of loads during movement.
When moving through the various positions in the delivery, all of the joint must be aligned or “centered” (centration) to create maximum length-tension relationships between the various segments of the body without reaching end range of the joint.
This helps the athlete create the most fluid, stress free movements. The image of Zach Greinke below (left) is an example of great joint centration compared to Tim Lincecum below (right) which is not. While both pitchers below have performed at a very high level, one continues to do so injury free while the other has gone under the knife multiple times.
3. Mobility / Stability Limitations
This one is crucial. Certain joints need to be mobile to allow the athlete to move into desired positions through the delivery while certain ones need to be stable to create a strong platform to throw from. This is where the joint-by-joint approach and a clear understanding of functional anatomy comes into play.
In my experience, these three topics expose themselves one way or another through a thorough assessment and/or through mechanical disconnects. Although there are many, it has been my experience that these 5 below can be attributed to all the others we look for in a video review:
- Weight distribution at peak leg lift
- Lack of pelvic/glute engagement
- Lack of linear momentum
- Open/closed at first foot strike
- Knee angle at ball release
Unfortunately due to a lack of understanding of functional anatomy, the current traditional coaching paradigm often fails to understand that if you can nail down these 5 movement patterns, the other disconnects will usually take care of themselves.
Trying to force an unnatural movement into an “ideal position” through verbal cuing goes against the natural flow of motor learning. Some examples of this in the pitching delivery would include “postural tilt at foot strike” and “early lead leg action”. Nothing can frustrate an athlete more than trying to repeatedly address an issue that never gets fixed.
On the other hand, put it all together and you get something really great to watch…such as Zack Greinke:
Save yourself a lot of time and headache… find the source first.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
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