I have already made the argument that the body generates the velocity of the pitch and not the arm. This article will continue to prove this point and give the pitcher a better understanding of how elite pitching velocity is generated.
This will challenge conventional wisdom, so please read with an open mind because you will learn that how baseball taught you to throw was backwards. I would also recommend that you do not share this with your coach because most coaches do not study this level of information, unfortunately.
In this article, I will give you two key case studies proving the arm does not generate the velocity and that the stretch shortening cycle is the link to elite pitching velocity.
Science Proves Elite Pitching Velocity is Not Created with Arm
Dr. Jobe FW, Dr. Tibone JE, Dr. Perry J, Dr. Moynes D performed a case study called An EMG Analysis Of The Pitching Shoulder. This study is the proof that the accelerator muscles in the arm do not fire when the arm is moving forward. Which means the arm muscles do not activate to generate the velocity of the pitch. Here is a summary of the study.
Five male subjects’ throwing and pitching motions were analyzed by dynamic electromyography and high speed photography. Electrodes inserted into the deltoid and rotator cuff muscles attempted to define muscle activation patterns during the throwing and pitching cycle. The wind-up or preparation (Stage I) had no consistent pattern. Cocking (Stage II) had a sequential muscle activation pattern of first deltoid activity, followed by the S.I.T. muscles and finally by the subscapularis muscle. Acceleration (Stage III) had a lack of muscle activity, even though the arm was accelerating forward in space. Follow-through (Stage IV) was the most active stage with all the muscles firing intensely. The muscle patterns observed during the cycle were largely characteristic of attempts to decelerate the arm.
So if the accelerator muscles of the arm are not activated when the arm is moving forward then what is actually happening? The answer is elastic energy!
The Pitching Power of Elastic Energy
First, what is elastic energy? The best way to understand elastic energy is a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band it builds elastic energy and this is the energy that launches it off of your finger, if you are shooting it at someone. A rubber band is very similar to a muscle. If you stretch a muscle like a rubber band, it also builds elastic energy. This is proven to be more effective in generating elite pitching velocity than just contracting the muscle for the same effect. The science behind this discover is called the Stretch Shortening Cycle(SSC). The definition as found on Wikipedia is, A stretch-shortening cycle (SSC) can be defined as an active stretch (eccentric contraction) of a muscle followed by an immediate shortening (concentric contraction) of that same muscle. This means, if you can stretch your accelerator muscles to initiate a contraction then you potentially can generate more pitching velocity in your fastball than just contracting the same muscles.
There is no better visual representation of elastic energy and the SSC than Hideo Nomo. This stretching for pitchers must occur after front foot strike when the shoulders begin to open and the arm is still cocked back. After front foot strike you must allow your momentum to thrust your chest forward while your arm is stretching back. This is where the SSC happens in the delivery. Now, before you stop reading this article and take off outside to try it out, you must understand more about how this SSC works. To understand this perspective and training approach even more, I will reference an article from the Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy. You can read the article HERE.
The title of the article is Stretch-Shortening Drills for the Upper Extremities: Theory and Clinical Application. It was writen by, Kevin E. Wilk, PT’, Michael 1. Voight, MEd, PT, ATC, SCS2, Michael A. Keirns, MA,, PT, ATC, SCS3, Vern Cambetta, MA4, lames R. Andrews, MD5, Charles 1. Dillman, PhD6.
The article starts by explaining that the SSC is only effective if the eccentric contraction is of short range and explosive.
The muscle’s ability to use the stored elastic energy is affected by time, magnitude of stretch, and velocity of stretch. Increased force generation during the concentric contraction is most effective when the preceding eccentric contraction is of short range and is performed quickly without delay.
Research does support that the faster a muscle is loaded eccentrically, the greater the concentric force produced.
This is important to understand because when you first feel the results of the improved SSC in your own delivery you are going to want more. This means you are going to try and stretch it out more like Nomo in the pic above. This will only work against you because as the quote states above, the SSC is only effective if it happens quickly and by increasing the range of motion this could potentially slow down the explosiveness of the stretch shortening cycle. I do believe when learning something new it is better to over exaggerate. You will learn how to use the SSC quicker, if you overstretch this position, so you can feel the creation of more elastic energy. Later you can work on its efficiency and explosiveness.
Elastic Energy Pitching and the Catch
As with all good information there comes the catch. There is one mechanism in the body that will limit your potential to generating more elastic energy and it is called the golgi tendon. This tendon is located at the insertion of skeletal muscle fibers. This tendon is there to shut off the firing of the muscle if the tension becomes to damaging to the muscle fiber.
Since the golgi tendon organ serves as a protective mechanism limiting the amount of force produced within a muscle, its stimulation threshold becomes the limiting factor. Desensitization of the golgi tendon organ may be possible, thereby raising the level of inhibition and, ultimately, allowing increased force production with greater loads applied to the musculoskeletal system.
I believe that this desensitization of the golgi tendon occurs when your limits are pushed during training. This is another reason for performing a good strength and conditioning program that is sport specific and built around the SSC.
The implementation of the stretch-shortening program begins initially with the development of an adequate strength and physical condition base. The development of a greater strength base results in greater force generation as a result of both the increased cross-sectional area of the muscle and the resultant elastic component. In order to produce optimal strength gains, a structured plan must be instituted to prevent potential over-use injuries.
It has been the authors’ clinical observation that patients performing stretch-shortening exercise drills have accelerated muscular performance gains compared with individuals who have not trained in this fashion.
The most significant contraindication to an intense stretch-shortening exercise program is non involvement in a weight training program.
This last quote from the article states the importance of a weight training program to not only increase the benefit of training with the SSC but that it is crucial to your health. This should be a wake up call to pitching coaches who preach against weight training to increase elite pitching velocity.
If you are sold on the mechanical and training approach of the Stretch Shortening Cycle then I would recommend you purchase the 3X Pitching Velocity program. The 3X program has a full medicine ball and strength training program that not only helps you develop more elastic energy in your delivery but it has a strength and conditioning program that supports it. Purchase it today and start gaining elite pitching velocity by developing more elastic energy through the SSC!
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