“Scap Loading” is the pinching of the shoulder blades or scapula during hip to shoulder separation. It is an important factor to velocity. Notice the picture here of Greg Maddux “Scap Loading”. The question is, is “Scap Loading” a reaction to the stride or is it a voluntary action to generate more hip to shoulder separation?
The other big issue is “Scap Loading” effective with the glove side? Should a pitcher load both of the scaps in the pitching delivery or should they load one scap harder than the other?
In this article, we will look in depth into “Scap Loading” and how it supports efficient biomechanics for the high velocity pitcher.
Scap Loading Issues
The problem with coaching “Scap Loading” is that it can promote the infamous inverted W. The inverted W is the mechanical flaw linked to many rotator cuff and UCL injuries in professional baseball. This is when the elbows fly above the shoulders during the stride and before the shoulders fire towards the target. “Scap Loading” can lead to this issue because “Scap Loading” is the throwing of the elbows behind the back during the stride. Throwing the elbows behind the back or above the shoulders is both considered putting the shoulders and elbows in what the Physical Therapy world calls the “Red Zone.” This is a vulnerable position for the arms to be in during an explosive movement like pitching.
If you have ever watched a Major League Pitcher in slow motion you will most always find the pitcher putting his elbows behind his back or maybe even above his shoulders. It would be impossible for a Major League Pitcher to throw a 90+mph fastball without some type of “Scap Loading”. This is almost proof that “Scap Loading” is a reaction to the stride. In my experience coaching myself and coaching pitchers is that slower strides create more “Scap Loading”. This is why I do not coach the action of “Scap Loading”. The only time I coach a voluntary action to load the scapular is when a pitcher has such a quick stride that he is having a hard time preventing the shoulders from opening early. This is when I coach the pitcher to only load the scapular of the throwing shoulder. This will sometimes help the pitcher hold the throwing shoulder back into front foot strike, to promote more hip to shoulder separation.
I really believe most pitcher coaches fail when they coach velocity through the upper kinetic chain like when coaching “Scap Loading”. Velocity comes from the body movements through force production of the lower half first and then the conversion of these body movements and power into the upper kinetic chain. This means you will benefit more from coaching the force production in the lower half. This means “Scap Loading” is a failed approach to coaching hip to shoulder separation because hip to shoulder separation is a product of an action of an explosive lower half movement creating a reaction in the inactive upper half at front foot strike. Voluntarily “Scap Loading” the shoulders during the stride to promote hip to shoulder separation will take the focus away from the lower half speed and also activate the shoulders before hip to shoulder separation occurs at front foot strike.
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