Pitching Performance: Understanding Trunk Position at Foot Strike – Part 2
Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
(This article originally ran on Ericcressey.com)
Today is part 2 of a collaborative series on a key portion of the pitching delivery from Matt Blake and me. In case you missed part 1, you can check it out here. In today’s installment, Matt delves into the mechanical side a bit deeper and introduces some drill work and examples of where trunk position can go astray.
In order to understand where this extension at landing is coming from and how we can control it in the throw, we have to look at it with a more global perspective and realize that there were preceding movements that were driving this pattern into the landing position.
In part one, we used a picture of Tim Lincecum to exemplify a heavily extended position, but one thing you’ll notice is that the foot positioning in his stride pattern is actually driving a lot of the extension in the torso at landing. If we take a look further back in his delivery, you’ll notice that he has a considerable front leg swing that pulls a lot of his weight forward, causing him to land closed off. In order to keep the segmental separation unfolding efficiently through his target line, he is forced to include more extension in his throw. Here is a brief clip with a couple markers throughout the delivery to highlight the movements in question.
The issue then becomes that the same leg swing Lincecum uses to create power in his stride pattern is also what makes it susceptible to inconsistency, because of the timing and degree of pre-stretch it requires to make the driveline efficient. Ideally, you would just be able to tell Lincecum to straighten out his stride line, and the problem would be solved. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. He has been using a stride pattern that is front leg swing dominant with a closed orientation at landing for years to help create the necessary tension it takes to throw the ball 95mph. So, to that end, he’s nearly cemented these patterns – for better or worse.
With that in mind, sometimes it’s easier to give a pitcher some drill constraints to help find the tension in a different manner before they get back on the mound and try to recreate the new line of tension for which we’re looking.
In this case, we’ll introduce some simple drills to close the kinetic chain down a bit and move through a progression that goes from static in nature to a more dynamic and athletic movement pattern. Ideally, we’d cue our way through each drill depending on where we need to alter the individual’s line of tension until we’re able to repeat the new motion at full speed on the mound.
To give you an example of one of the more static drills in our “lead-up” sequence to help set the pattern in place, here is a simple demonstration of the “stride drill” with a three-step progression.
In this example, the intensity was obviously low for the sake of demonstration, so some of the variables of the throw are not exact. With that said, we do also use this drill in a more explosive capacity during some of our weighted ball and velocity drill series in order to turn up the intent and attempt to create some hand speed.
To give you an example of what this looks like in an amateur pitcher with an excessive extension pattern that may lead to some inconsistency, here are three videos depicting the wind-up and then corrective stride drill work:
Stride Drill with Load
Obviously, these drills aren’t quite where we want them to be yet, as there is still plenty to correct, but that was the idea: I want you to see where most “live-arm” high school athletes are before they acquire an efficiency of movement. This athlete, in particular, has pretty good stuff and works about 86-89mph with this particular delivery. If he can control his feet a little better and know where his weight is positioned, he can control his pelvis and rib orientation in the stride phase, and he’ll be able to create some cleaner sequencing.
One the flip side of that, I want to emphasize with an athlete like this is that, yes, I do want him to throw hard with intent, but I also want him to be in positions to compete in the strike zone on a consistent basis. These don’t necessarily have to be competing interests if we understand how our movements can work together and not fight each other. The main point ends up being that these drills, if cued properly, are attempting to have him consider more efficient movements, and in turn, a more stable and centered delivery.
At the end of the day, as much as we want to control extension in the delivery, by having a strong anterior core that can help limit the amount of hyperextension we get in the lumbar region, most high level throwers have some level of extension in their sequence. The key for me is getting the athlete to understand if it’s excessive or if it’s controlled extension that we can managed within normal limits on a consistent, repeatable basis. If it’s not, we need to be able to find the corrective measures to bring it under control.
In Part 3, EC will cover some core stability exercise progressions he utilizes to help athletes build stability in these positions. In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about how we manage throwers, be sure to register for one of our Elite Baseball Mentorships. The next one will take place December 8-10.