What is Late Arm Action? Why and How You Should Address it?

Pitching is a sequence of events that occur in a very short span. Breaking the movement down into its components can help isolate issues as the kinetic chain ultimately delivers the pitch at the point of release. An important topic that pitchers should be aware of is “Arm Action” or more notably a “Late Arm Action”, which can create many issues down the chain.  So, let’s discuss it…

    • What is it?
    • Why is it important?
    • What are the contributing factors?
    • How can you address it?

A Late Arm – What is it?

A late arm is when the arm is not up and ready to spiral into scap load and eventually layback. We generally look for ext. rotation at foot plant to be anywhere between 40-75 degrees. If the arm is visible behind the body when viewing mechanics from the front this may signify that the arm has gotten up “early” . While neither is great for creating a smooth efficient arm path, today we’ll be talking about the latter.

Why is it Important?

There are several reasons why you should make sure your arm is “not” late to the party, including:

Proper Sequencing – When the arm is late between hand break to foot plant, it can set off a multitude of mechanical sequencing issues that stem from starting “behind the line” and having to play catch up throughout the rest of the delivery. These can include :

    • Poor scap load
    • Forearm flyout
    • Pushing with the elbow
    • Poor max external rotation

Minimize Stress / Injury Prevention – In addition to causing sequencing issues downstream, a late arm can cause more “provocative” positions for the arm and shoulder to accept the extreme forces at foot plant as well as the stress of trying to get into a good layback position while the trunk has begun to rotate.

Velo / Command – When the arm is late the body sets off compensatory patterns in order to try to efficiently get rid of the ball. Unfortunately, these positions often achieve just the opposite and can make it difficult to locate and throw strikes and even rob athletes of a higher velocity ceiling.

What are Potential Contributing Factors?

While there are many factors that can contribute to a late arm, for today I’ve listed five of the top issues we see here at RPP on a daily basis.

“Muscling up” Arm Action (Smooth Arm Path with Momentum)

This is a common issue with many younger athletes who are not yet aware of their lower half. It can also negatively affect a smooth spiral into and out of layback.

This can be addressed by keeping a relaxed and continuous momentum in the arm path from take away to max ER. This will  help prevent “muscling up” the throw which tightens up the arm and sets up heavy guardrails preventing a loose, “whip like” arm action.

Look for: a tense face from stride phase to foot plant as well as the upper trap shrugging through hand break.

        • Suggested Correctives: Figure 8 Rocker, Toss-in Drill, Walking Wind-up

Figure 8 Rocker

Vaulting / Over Striding

Many times, athletes will push too hard off the back leg in order to try to create higher velocities. This directs force vertically, making it hard to segment the lower half from the upper half as well as create “over striding”. This can eventually lead to an early lower half landing at foot plant and ultimately not giving the arm enough time to get up.

Look for: Pushing or vaulting into triple extension at foot plant. This can also be recognized by an early heel lift with the back foot signifying an “early “ start to rotation, making it difficult to get the throwing arm up in time to effectively spiral through and into layback.

        • Suggested Correctives: CVB (Hinge), Step Back Drill

Core Velocity Belt ( Hinge)

Early Trunk Rotation @ FP

Rotating the trunk pre-maturely can put the shoulder in an inefficient position to get up (ext. rotation).

Early trunk rotation not only puts the body in a poor position to effectively scap load and eventually get up in time, but also compromises the SSC during recoil as well as put the upper body in a more compromised position to accept ground reaction force and effectively block with the lead leg. These last two have more to do with injury prevention than anything.

Look for: big stretch through Torso.  Torso should be between 0-10 degrees at foot plant.

        • Suggested Correctives: Step Behind Drill, Jeter Drill

Step Behind Drill

Forward Trunk Tilt @ FP

Otherwise known as “trunk stack”, this is the ability to keep the pelvis and upper body “stacked” from the beginning of the linear move all the way into FP. Failure to do so will make it difficult to achieve efficient rotation as well as putting the upper half in a poor position to get up and spiral.

Many times, a forward oriented trunk can be a downstream effect of vaulting but is all the same still a timing issue. Bottom line-Stay stacked.

Look for: Failure to keep the pelvis and upper body stacked from the beginning of linear move into FP.

        • Suggested Correctives: CVB (Hinge), Step Back Drill, Rocker Drill

Step Back Drill

Late Hand Break

A late hand break signifies that the ball begins coming out of the glove late going into the loading phase and causing the athlete to play “catch up” in order to get the arm up in time.

While there really isn’t a corrective for this disconnect it is still important to make the athlete “aware” of the issue so it can be adjusted with an earlier take away out of the glove.

        • Suggested Correctives: Awareness!

 See ya’ in the gym…

By Nunzio Signore

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