Triple Extension or 3X is the extension of the drive leg ankle, knee and hip flexor. Triple Extending the drive leg as the front side opens, drives the hips completely through to the target. If triple extension occurs quick enough and with enough force at the end of the stride, while the shoulders stay closed and relaxed, this will create optimal hip to shoulder separation.
Many studies have confirmed the correlation of hip to shoulder separation to pitching velocity (1,2,3,4,5). Therefore if you are going to increase velocity, you must learn to increase hip to shoulder separation by learning triple extension (3X) and 3X foot sync. Once you learn how to incorporate full triple extension into your pitching delivery, you will not see its benefits until you master the final factor. The final factor in learning any new muscle memory is the timing factor. The timing factor of 3X is critical to creating 40-60 degrees of hip to shoulder separation which research has shown to be the Major League average.
3X Timing Factor
The 3X Pitching component before 3X occurs is the "Load" position. This is when your lift leg is coming down into a linear position and your squatting on your drive leg, as your hips begin to build momentum towards the target. The speed of your lower body at this position is moving at a slow pace. You are mainly working to get everything in position for 3X. Most pitchers who do not understand the timing of 3X would try to triple extend quickly while still in the "Load" position. This would prevent good hip to shoulder separation at front foot strike and the pitcher would leap towards his front foot landing instead of driving into front foot strike.
To prevent premature 3X, you must wait for your hips to be as far away from the rubber as possible with your drive leg still bent, linear and ready to fire. Your lift leg is just about ready to land. Notice the photo of Joba Chamberlain in this position. Now that you know when to fire your drive leg into 3X you must now understand the speed of the movement.
Remember momentum must continue to accelerate to ball release. Therefore if you accelerate too early in your delivery it will cause you to decelerate before ball release. You want the climax of your speed to hit when the ball is launching out of your hand. As for the speed of triple extension, you must start your leg drive after the "Load" position at a slow pace to make sure your drive leg and hip are moving before your back shoulder. Once you feel the separation of back hip to back shoulder begin and your core is starting to tighten then this is when you explode into full triple extension. If you do not feel the separation of hips to shoulders before you triple extend then you could easily triple extend your drive leg and your back shoulder would move along with it, killing your chance of creating optimal hip to shoulder separation. So, once you feel your core tightening, then it is time to fire that drive leg into 3X and push your hips to your target.
Notice in the image of Cody, here he does not accelerate his lower half and triple extend until he is coming out of the load position and his lift leg is starting to open and land. You will notice that it looks like his knee is driving down into the ground. This is the effect of the extension of the drive leg as the body is moving down hill.
Another indicator that you created good core torque is if you can hear your drive foot dragging before your shoulders and chest start towards the target. This dragging sound should happen just before your chest is thrusting forward. Notice in the image of Cody that his shoulders begin following the hips towards the target just after his drive foot is dragging. Most young pitchers will see in video analysis that their drive foot drag happens after their shoulders commit towards the target.
In conclusion, you will not be able to implement 3X effectively into your pitching delivery and increase pitching velocity until you have mastered the timing factor of 3X into front foot strike.
3X Pitching References
- Tom House, PhD, et al. National Pitching Association Velocity Study conducted 2005-2006.
- Glenn S. Fleisig, James R. Andrews, et al. Comparison Of High Velocity And Low Velocity Pitch Deliveries. ASMI 2007.
- Dave Fortenbaugh, MS, Glenn S. Fleisig, PhD,* and James R. Andrews, MD. Baseball Pitching Biomechanics in Relation to Injury Risk and Performance. Sports Health. 2009 July; 1(4): 314–320.
- Rod Whiteley, University of Sydney, Australia. Baseball throwing mechanics as they relate to pathology and performance – A review. ©Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2007) 6, 1-20.
- Keizo Takahashi, Norihisa Fujii, and Michiyoshi Ae. Kinematic Comparisons Of Different Pitch Velocity Groups In Baseball Using Motion Model Method. Doctoral Program in Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan. Institute of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, Japan.