The majority of pitchers who commit to the 3X Pitching Velocity program initially struggle with the new motor coordination of triple extension and especially the critical ankle kick. The reason is because low velocity pitchers do not use this component effectively as the driving force behind their pitching velocity. An effective triple extension of the drive leg is the foundation of the power pitcher. To help those low velocity pitchers to understand this critical pitching velocity component, I will dive into the nuts and bolts of the critical ankle kick and the linear Force Vector.
They say a picture tells a thousand words and this animated clip of the leg drive of low velocity pitchers to high velocity pitchers says it all. You can obviously see the ankle extending through in the high velocity clips and the ankle just popping up in the low velocity clips.
The Mechanics of Triple Extension and the Ankle Kick
You should know by now from reading only a few articles on this site that triple extension is the extension of the ankle, knee and hip flexor and it is the foundation of 3X Pitching. The question I get asked a lot is, “Is this the order of extension as well?” The is a good question and the answer is the order of extension with high velocity pitchers is first the knee extension, followed by the ankle extension or ankle kick and then the hip flexor extension. This article will only cover the ankle extension.
The reason the ankle kick is so important is because it has a big effect on pushing the hip flexor forward as the front hip opens. If the hip flexor does not push forward at front foot strike then hip rotation is limited. The goal here is optimal hip to shoulder separation because of its major impact on pitching velocity as proved in the NPA 2005-2006 Velocity case study. The key to this optimal hip to shoulder separation, as proven in 3X Pitching, is creating early hip rotation at front foot strike. The pitcher will have the biggest impact on hip rotation at front foot strike if the hip flexor of the drive leg is pushed open at front foot strike and the ankle kick is the power component that will make this happen.
The only way the ankle kick is going push the hip flexor forward into extension is if the Force Vector is linear enough to allow this to happen. This is where most low velocity pitchers struggle with synchronizing the two joints together. The Force Vector is the angle of the ankle to knee, which is the angle of force. The reason it is so critical to converting the power of the ankle kick into hip rotation is because just like a gun, if this power isn’t directed precisely towards the target then it could blow up in your face. To convert this ankle kick power into hip rotation which will then continue to multiple force towards the target, everything most be in-line towards the target. This means all of the power components are linear. For this to happen the pitcher must move the hips far enough away from the drive leg foot to allow for the Force Vector to be in line with the hips and the target at the same time. If the pitcher’s hips are not moving early and or fast enough during the stride then this alignment of the Force Vector and the hips may never happen.
The Mechanics Behind the Linear Force Vector
If you look at the pictures again of the low velocity to high velocity pitchers you will see that the high velocity pitchers Force Vectors are a lot more linear during the ankle kick. The key to getting into this linear position before the ankle kick is first taking the hips as far as possible forward without causing extension in the drive leg and at the same time lowering your center of gravity. Second, once you are ready to start building power, you will then extend the knee with an explosive leg drive movement. At the same time you will drive the back leg shin into the ground allowing the weight of the foot to shift onto the inside part of the foot. The weight should be balanced on the power pads to heel. This will finally put the pitcher’s drive leg into the perfect linear position to allow the power of the ankle kick to push the hips forward finishing triple extension with the extension of the hip flexor.
The challenge now becomes does the pitcher have the flexibility and strength of the joints to put the drive leg into this linear alignment and does the pitcher have the power to generate force from it. Most low velocity pitchers do not posses this athleticism. This is why this critical power position must be developed through both a strength and conditioning program and a throwing program if the low velocity pitcher is going to move up a level into the high velocity category.
I highly recommend, that to avoid beating your head against the wall, a low velocity pitcher should first focus on developing himself into a power athlete before ever trying to develop himself into a power pitcher. This is the approach of the 3X Pitching Velocity Program and it is a great place to start this transformation!