The most important component to enhance pitching torque in the pitching delivery is what is called, “Separation.” This is the separation of the hips and shoulders at front foot strike. This is what builds pitching torque mainly in the core instead of the arm. This component will not only increase velocity but save a pitchers shoulder. Most high school and college pitchers have poor “Separation.” I have written about this component in just about every article on pitching velocity. I will once again define this into more detail.
The picture here of Felix Hernandez pretty much says it all. You can see the “Separation” from his hips to shoulders. It is like he is a towel being rung out to dry. Tim Lincecum calls this tightening his “Rubber Band.” The “Rubber Band” being his core. To understand why this is so effective in increasing velocity and preventing injury, we must first look at the bio-mechanics of pitching.
The Bio-Mechanics of Pitching Torque
During a high powered pitching delivery, the hip pivot opens and builds pitching torque when the back leg triple extends and the front foot lands, as you can see here in the animation. This is the first pivot to build pitching torque and it is important to achieve full range of motion in this pivot to build maximum pitching torque. If the hip pivot does not open completely to the target when the front foot lands, then the pitcher is not building maximum torque because his chances of creating hip to shoulder separation is limited.
The most effective way to open the hips at front foot strike is with momentum or drive leg power. Without momentum being generated through the drive leg, the hip rotation is reduced. The most effective way to develop optimal drive leg power is through triple extension (3X). This 3X combined with front leg extension at front foot strike or 2X, causes the hips to rotate completely open; very similar to how pistons and rods move the drive shaft in an engine. Using momentum to create hip rotation through 3X and 2X is far superior to building core torque than any other approach.
Once hip rotation is created at front foot strike then optimal hip to shoulder or collar separation has occurred. This means the muscles of the core are being stretched like rubber bands. This is every single muscle of the core, from the stomach muscles to all the small muscles that stabilize the spine. The end result is torque. This pitching torque will then continue multiplying the original force from the stride momentum or power, up the kinetic chain.
The next pivot in this chain is the collar pivot. For this pivot to fire at maximum speed through a full range of motion, this pivot must remain closed to the target until front foot strike. Once core torque has occurred then the collar pivot will fire opening the shoulders towards the target. This force will not only cause the collar pivot to rotate open but also to travel forward tilting the torso towards the target. This forward tilt of the torso along with the speed of rotation of the collar pivot, will force the next pivot to move into its full range of motion while building maximum elastic energy.
The next and final pivot is the shoulder pivot. When the collar pivot fires and the arm stays relaxed in the cocked position, this action will create a reaction in the shoulder as the arm externally rotates behind the pitchers head. This external rotation is building torque in the shoulder. Once the shoulder has reached its maximum level of torque, it will then internally rotate and fire the arm, hand and ball towards the target. This third and final pivot is made up of the smallest muscles of the body and therefore must work as a reaction of the transfer of energy through the first two pivots and not as a single action to create all of the pitchers velocity. As a reaction this pivot should mainly be used to guide the ball to the target.
To visually understand how to build torque in all three pivots is a lot easier than actually performing the task. The reason is because we are dealing with three pivots, which are working together to enhance energy. For each pivot to build torque and then to use that torque to generate velocity, takes as much timing as physical strength and coordination. Learning this timing can take an entire career. This is why it is important to continuously analyze your pitching mechanics to make sure you are building maximum torque within the first two pivots and using that torque to generate top velocity in the 3rd and final pivot.
It is very important to remember the keystone to this entire system of pivots is “Separation.” Master this component and the rest will come naturally. Best of luck!
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