Baseball Pitching Velocity Training

In acquiring a new skill or mastering pitching mechanics there are two models defining the stages of learning you could use to develop a motor skill like the arm path of the high-velocity pitcher. This would include Fitt’s and Posner’s three-stage model and Gentile’s two-stage model. Both models work to help you to better understand what it takes to acquire a new skill or overwrite an old one. These models have been around for over forty years and still are very impactful today. In this article, you will learn the difference between these two models and the best model to mastering pitching mechanics,

Models to Mastering Pitching Mechanics

The difference between the two stages of learning is, Gentiles model was developed after Fitt’s and Posner's model and considers the effects of the environment on the skill acquisition (Magill & Anderson, 2017). For example, Gentiles model defines the closed and open skill which requires fixation and diversification of the environment. A closed skill is built around an environment that isn’t changing and to achieve the goal the athlete must develop consistency of movement. The open skill is built around an environment that is changing and to achieve the goal the athlete must learn to adapt to the ever-changing requirements of the skill. Fitt’s and Posner’s model defines an evolution of skill acquisition from the cognitive stage through the associative stages to the autonomous stage. The cognitive stage is the mental stage where the athlete asks questions and defines the step by step process of movement. The associative stage or the motor stage where the athlete has learned the fundamentals of the skill and are working to refine the movement patterns. Finally, the autonomous stage is when the skill is performed automatically and the athlete no longer needs to be conscious of the movement.

The motor pattern of the arm path of the high-velocity pitcher would be classified as a closed-skill movement. A good example of an open-skill movement would be the infielder fielding the ball. When teaching a young pitcher, the arm path of the high-velocity pitcher, all the movements that come before the arm action must be in place to create the optimal arm path. The landing leg and torso stability is the foundation of an optimal arm path. You will not be able to develop consistency and repeatability for each pitch if you do not have this foundation set. This will hurt the performance and potential of the arm.

Before I start teaching a pitcher the biomechanics of the arm path of a high-velocity pitcher I first teach them Fitt’s and Posner’s 3 stages of learning. I find this model most effective in giving them the best understanding of the reality that they will master the movement. Once they understand the steps it takes to get to the autonomous stage they usually are more prepared for all the work that is to come in the training. Here are some key techniques that I use to help them through each stage.

The Best Model for Mastering Pitching Mechanics

In the cognitive stage, I begin with the basics of the movement. I go over my 2-phase delivery which breaks the pitching delivery into two parts. Then I teach them the individual segments of the kinetic chain and how they optimize. I do my best to demonstrate all my teachings myself so they can see me perform them or sometimes I use videos of professional pitchers for visual learning. Finally, I go over their constraints following an evaluation of their anthropometrics, performance movements, and biomechanics so they understand what is causing them to move the way they do. Once they connect the dots from their current pitching delivery to their optimized pitching delivery I then show them the programming to make the changes and stress the importance of consistency over time to make improvements. I spend most of the time in the first stage.

Once we graduate to the associative stage I get heavy into all the drill training. I use tools, video analysis, and motion sensors to give them tons of feedback on their movements. This feedback includes positioning, timing, and force production. The goal is to get them to a level where they identify the error before I do. Once this begins to evolve I then add more variation to continue the learning process. Once there isn’t any more variation to feed them then I work to develop consistency in the new motor skill. This will eventually bring them to the final stage.

The autonomous stage is a graduation and a moment of celebration in my facility. This is usually when the athlete is so comfortable with the movement that they want to teach everyone else how they did it. They usually become coaches in my facility. The only thing left to do at this point is to prepare the new skill for competition. This is where we set up the environment to emulate competition and work to develop precision of the movement in any situation. I have found tremendous success in teaching my method using Fitt’s and Posner's 3 Stages and Learning and I don’t think there is a better way to do it.

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Mastering Pitching Mechanics Reference
Magill, R. A., & Anderson, D. I. (2017).  Motor learning and control: Concepts and applications (11th ed.).  New York, NY: McGraw Hill.