"Up, Down and Out," "Slow Controlled Stride," "Keep balance and land soft on front leg." How many pitching coaches and parents are regurgitating these coaching tips everyday to young pitchers? Too many to count! This poorly researched information is also plastered all over the web. This conventional wisdom is ruining pitchers and the latest research is proving this to be true.
A recent publication hosted at the US National Library of Medicine called, The Kinetic Chain in Overhand Pitching is a collaboration of research put together by some prominent medical doctors. These doctors include; Shane T. Seroyer, MD, Shane J. Nho, MD, Bernard R. Bach, MD, Charles A. Bush-Joseph, MD, Gregory P. Nicholson, MD, and Anthony A. Romeo, MD. In this comprehensive study of the bio-mechanics of the high velocity pitcher, they referenced some critical data proving the detrimental effects of inhibiting the hip and trunk movements during the stride, on the shoulder and arm of a pitcher. Here is an excerpt from this research citing a case study which produced this data:
In previous work, Kibler and Chandler calculated that a 20% decrease in kinetic energy delivered from the hip and trunk to the arm requires a 34% increase in the rotational velocity of the shoulder to impart the same amount of force to the hand.
Source of reference: Kibler WB, Chandler J. Baseball and tennis. In: Griffin LY, editor. , ed. Rehabilitation of the Injured Knee. St. Louis, MO: Mosby; 1995:219-226.
Read the entire publication here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445080/
If this information was put into the mainstream of pitching instruction the conventional wisdom of today would dramatically change. This data should be an eye opener to the conventional pitching coach. It should challenge his approach to the core. If you are a pitcher who has a coach who follows the conventional wisdom of the game I would highly recommend that you bring this data to his attention.
Why this data is so pivotal is because it is evidence that slowing down, shortening, or over controlling a pitchers stride forces him to use more of his shoulders and arms to generate pitching velocity and what occurs when the arm and shoulders are required to do more work in the pitching delivery? This makes the pitcher more vulnerable to injuring the small muscles in the rotator cuff and elbow. Couple a slow and short striding youth pitcher with 3000+ pitches per year of travel ball, this is over the recommended yearly pitch count for a youth pitcher as provided by ASMI in their Position Statement on Youth Pitching, and you have a 11-14 year old pitcher on the verge of ruining his entire pitching career, which is becoming way to common in today's game with all of this valuable information at our finger tips.
Stride Increases Pitching Velocity and Protects the Arm
I am going to continue to reference the publication above because if you haven't read it, it is loaded with priceless pitching information.
The main focus of the publication is the understanding of the entire kinetic chain, which is also the foundation of 3X Pitching. Specifically the effects of the lower extremities on the end result. Here is an excerpt from the publication that defines this interaction and how it effects pitching velocity and injury prevention:
The complex interaction of the lower extremities and core musculature in the kinetic chain reduces the kinetic contributions of the shoulder joint. Thus, the pitching motion should not be thought of as an upper extremity action, rather an integrated motion of the entire body that culminates with rapid motion of the upper extremity. Improvement of velocity can result from optimization of the kinetic chain, which likely also reduces the kinetic contributions of the shoulder to produce top velocity. Reduced kinetic stresses on the shoulder may prevent injury, leading to greater durability and health of the throwing shoulder.
This proves the critical importance of the stride to the healthy high velocity pitcher. It is defining the fact that the pitcher must learn the complex interactions of the lower extremities and core musculature to become a healthy high velocity pitcher. They continue to define these interaction in the section on the pitcher's Stride.
The stride functions to increase the distance over which linear and angular trunk motions occur, allowing for increased energy production for transfer to the upper extremity. The stance knee and hip extend and lead to the initiation of pelvic rotation and forward tilt, followed by upper torso rotation. The pelvis achieves maximum rotational velocities of 400 to 700 degrees per second during this phase. The abdominal obliques eccentrically contract to prevent excess lumbar hyper-extension during upper torso rotation and flexion. The stance leg gluteus maximus fires to maintain slight dominant-sided extension and provide pelvis and trunk stabilization during coiling.
In this excerpt, they do something ground breaking. They define the link between the linear movement and the rotation of the upper torso. Outside of 3X Pitching, this is the first publication where I have discovered any mention of triple extension (3X) leading into hip to shoulder separation. This publication was posted in 2010, maybe TopVelocity.net had something to do with this!
They go on to state that the extension of the knee and hip of the stance leg or the drive leg initiates the pelvic rotation and forward trunk tilt, followed by upper torso rotation. They also make the point that these functions must increase distances to allow for increased energy production to be transferred to the upper extremity in the previous sentence. Wow, they nailed 3X Pitching down in two sentences! Of course, they do not illustrate how a pitcher can implement these movements but that is why we have the 3X Pitching Velocity Program, right? The excerpt above finishes with the institution of the core for building torque by preventing excess lumbar hyper-extension due to the maximum hip rotation velocities of up to 700 degrees per second. It also mentions that the glutes play a role in this trunk stability.
They finish defining the Stride phase by labeling the importance of the landing leg to pitching velocity in this excerpt here:
Less maximum lead knee flexion angular velocity, increased knee extension (mean 58°),and knee extension angular velocity at the instant of ball release are associated with increased velocity.
3X Pitching has defined the importance of the front leg to pitching velocity for years now but the added understanding of its angular velocity is eye opening. Just as much as a pitcher must focus on the reactability of triple extension of his drive leg before front foot strike, as recommended in the 3X Pitching Mechanics, this reaction must be just as impressive in the front leg extension (2X) before pitch release. What better way to train this explosive reaction time than with the Olympic Lifts as listed in the 3X Pitching Velocity Program?
The publication leaves us with some comparison data between professional pitchers and amateur pitchers, which really closes the case on the destruction of conventional wisdom in this game. It's research showed:
Professional pitchers predominantly use the subscapularis and latissimus dorsi for acceleration, whereas amateurs use more of the rotator cuff muscles with an active pectoralis minor and a relatively quiescent latissimus dorsi.
The difference of pitching with a large muscle like the latissimus dorsi as opposed to a small muscle group like the rotator cuff is night and day. The problem is when these amateur pitchers can not make the transition from the rotator cuff to the lats when moving up levels of the game. This is what leads to every single shoulder injury with all young pitchers. This transition will only occur without possible injury following the direction of this publication. The stride must take the stress from the arm through increased distance and speed.
The concluding sentence of the publication gives the low velocity pitcher hope and his first step towards increasing pitching velocity and most important not becoming a victim of conventional wisdom and eventually a career ending injury. The 3X Pitching Velocity Program can take it from here!
Inefficiency or failure of the kinetic chain can increase the kinetic requirements of the shoulder to maintain top velocity and performance. Knowledge of the kinetic chain and key temporal parameters of the throwing motion can improve technique that can assist in performance enhancement, rehabilitation, and injury prevention.
Once again you can read the entire publication here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3445080/