Olympic Lifting is critical for training 3X power and is a very controversial style of training for baseball pitchers. It has become even more controversial with the popularity of TopVelocity.net.
The main reason for this controversy is that Olympic Lifting really doesn't fit the conventional mold of pitching. Olympic lifting has been developing explosive high performance athletes in all sports for years and baseball pitchers have been no exception. The problem is most pitching coaches either have a poor understand of strength and conditioning, or they never used it in their careers, or they have no idea how to implement this style of training into their programs, so they use scare tactics to remove the threat of the subject to their coaching careers. How to deal with this type of coach could fill volumes and I will not get into it here.
In my latest article called, How To Develop Extreme 3X Power To Increase Pitching Velocity, I listed a case study that showed how important strength is to ballistic movements like high velocity pitching. This is why Olympic Lifters use massive amounts of back squats, front squats and clean pulls to build their strength base but there is more to power production than just strength.
A case study performed at the Department of Exercise and Sport Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, called, Load- and skill-related changes in segmental contributions to a weightlifting movement defined a critical aspect to power production. Here is the results from the study:
The results indicated that the skilled subjects lifted heavier loads by increasing the average power, but not the peak power, about the knee and ankle joints. In addition, the changes with load were more subtle than a mere quantitative scaling and also seemed to be associated with a skill element in the form of variation in the duration of the phases of power production and absorption. Similarly, statistical differences (independent t-test) due to skill did not involve changes in the magnitude of power but rather the temporal organization of the movement. Thus, the ability to successfully execute the double-knee-bend movement depends on an athlete's ability to both generate a sufficient magnitude of joint power and to organize the phases of power production and absorption into an appropriate temporal sequence.
Read the entire study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3367754
This case study proves that increased power production generated throw the double knee bend during an Olympic Lift is more the product of an increase in average power than peak power and more the product of the timing of the movement. Most conventional pitchers and coaches would have no clue why this is important to pitching velocity when it is in itself revolutionary. Let's examine this case study further so everyone reading this can learn why this study is revolutionary for the pitcher.
The 3X Double Knee Bend
This is the beginning of triple extension (3X) in Olympic Lifting and also high velocity pitching. This is the extension of the knee and ankle joint which is most of the power created during the 3X movement. This is what high velocity pitchers and Olympic Lifters have in common. They both use this 3X movement to generate power. This study proved that as the weight increased from 69, 77, and 86% of their competition maximum the peak power generated by the athlete didn't increase as much as the average power generated through the entire movement. The main factor was the timing of the movement.
What makes this revolutionary is that this study proves that when performance is enhanced through 3X, strength becomes less of a factor and the timing becomes the main issue. When timing becomes a factor this means motor control. Now, remember that this movement is the same 3X movement of the high velocity pitcher as defined in the 3X approach to Pitching. This is telling a pitcher that to increase 3X power in his delivery he must first have enough strength, as defined in my previous article, and second he must have the motor control to time the movement efficiently and effectively to generate his maximum power production. The lesson here is that just building strength isn't enough for the high performance athlete/pitcher. Motor control is the next major factor to take it to the next level and the only way a pitcher is going to develop this motor control to generate maximum power production through 3X is by using the Olympic Lifts. We just can't get away from these lifts to try and please these conventional pitching coaches can we? They are a game changer!
Implementing the 3X Double Knee Bend
This is the million dollar question, How do we implement maximum power through 3X? 3X Pitching has defined the sequence of 3X for the pitcher as starting with the extension of the knee, ankle then hip flexor. The sequence is a little different with Olympic Lifting because hip rotation is not occurring. During an Olympic Lift the sequence goes knee extension, hip flexor extension and then ankle extension. The hip rotation with pitching is the conversion to torque which means the initial phase of power production is over. The 3X double knee bend only defines this initial phase.
To answer this million dollar question above I turn to my mentor Olympic Lifting Coach Gayle Hatch. Here is a quote from his website on the issues with coaching this key mechanical component of the 3X double knee bend.
To teach this action will result in premature weight transference to the balls of the feet and loss of upward momentum in the phase between the first and second pull. These key points should be kept in mind while executing the pull: phase 1 - leg extension (In the initial pull from the floor, the barbell moves back toward the lifter. This allows a more stable, balanced position from which to exert force), phase 2 - hip extension, phase 3 - jump shrug. Start with feet hip width apart, hips above knees, back flat, shoulders in advance of the bar, arms straight, elbows out. Correct position as bar crosses the knees is extremely important. Leg extension complete, bar over center of feet, back angle constant, arms straight, elbows out, shoulders over bar. At the beginning of the "explosion phase", the feet are flat, hips extended, arms straight, elbows out. Proper body position at the finish of the pull reflects good technique. Legs and hips extended jump and shrug coordinated. All motion directed up. If the athlete performs other aspects of the movement correctly, then the double knee bend will occur naturally.
Visit Coach Hatch's website to learn more:http://www.gaylehatch.com/double_knee_bend.htm
Coach Hatch is taking the same approach as 3x Pitching which is we can describe and define the movement but the only way it will be programed into our motor control is by performing it in a high performance environment. This means using a lift or exercise that requires triple extension (3X) and forces the athlete to generate up to 86% of his maximum power production. What better exercises or lift than an Olympic Lift? This is why the 3X Pitching Velocity Program comes with the education on 3X Pitching and most importantly the lifts, exercises and drills to train and implement the movements into your pitching delivery.
The gem of information that Coach Hatch has blessed us with in his quote above is not just proper technique for performing the 3X double knee bend within the Olympic Lifts but also within the high velocity pitching delivery. Let's take note and learn more revolutionary information on how to build more 3X power in our pitching deliveries.
I have bolded the gems in his quote that are critical components that will support maximum power production through 3X in the pitching delivery. They are:
- In the initial pull from the floor, the barbell moves back toward the lifter. This allows a more stable, balanced position from which to exert force - This is the same as the high velocity pitcher tilting (The Tilt) his shoulders back over his butt during his stride. This puts more weight on his quads which puts him in a more stable and balanced position to generate force.
- Back angle constant - This means do not crouch forward or over your belt buckle during your stride and then erect your torso into a vertical position at front foot strike. This goes along the lines of the importance of the Tilt. Keeping the back angle constant creates more stability and better balance for maximum power production.
- "Explosion phase", the feet are flat - This is 3X Dorsiflexion. You will KILL power production if you do not keep your foot flat on the ground until just before front foot strike. If you do not keep your foot flat until the last minute of the explosion phase you will create a premature weight transference to the balls of the feet and loss of upward momentum as advised by Coach Hatch which is linear momentum for the pitcher.
In conclusion, we can learn from all other sports and specifically benefit from all other sports as pitchers. The problem is this game is very close minded and therefore has stunted its evolution. Olympic Lifting is a high performance sport that has changed the game of all sports and baseball is the next one on its radar!