I wanted to share some videos and drills today which are vital in improving pitching mechanics. The topic here is loading the hips, which is pretty complex so I'll pick one certain aspect of it for right now;
Storing energy in our hips for a longer period of time so that we have more rotational power at the end of the motion when we need it.
To explain these pitching mechanics a bit better, let's think about hitting for a second. When we're hitting, we load some weight backward and then shift it hard forward into the ball. Our front leg stops our shift forward and rotation happens around that front leg.
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The more momentum we had going forward when our front leg stabilized, the more forceful the rotation will be, thus the more power in our swing. Other factors of course impact the force of our rotation, like core strength and stride direction. There's also one more very important variable in the force of our rotation, and that is how the hips were loaded and unloaded.
I used hitting in the last paragraph because more people seem to understand that than they do pitching mechanics, however the truth is that both are nearly identical. If you want to read the last few sentences again, go ahead. But this time replace the hitter in your mind with a pitcher, and you'll see that the mechanics are very similar. The best news of all is that if you understand this concept and train to become better at it, you'll improve both your pitching and hitting.
Okay so let's talk about what loading the hips means. Essentially loading the hips means that they are closed to the direction you're moving. Loaded just means that there's energy there that you can use to rotate into a throw or swing. There are more technical anatomical explanations, but we'll save those for another day.
As I said above, the more momentum that has been generated prior to the front leg stabilizing the more energy there will be into rotation. The more energy there is in rotation, the more energy there will be in the throw or swing.
So we've got to keep our hips loaded (closed) during our pitching motion for as long as possible. That way we can build momentum down the mound prior to footstrike, thus building the maximum amount of energy that we can use in our final rotation. If we unload (open) our hips too early, we leak all of that momentum that we could have turned into rotational power in the throw. Clear as mud?
Here's a great video of Zack Greinke, I'll write some things for you to look at below the video:
We're basically looking at the end of his motion here, and here are some things to notice:
- Look how late into the motion his hips are still closed. Even at the 26 second mark, his hips haven't opened and he's almost landing on his front foot already. If you put a lot of younger guys on video like this, you'll see that the front side opens much earlier and releases most of the potential energy being stored in the hips.
- Notice how his toe doesn't point toward the catcher until almost the point where he lands. This is key in keeping the hips loaded, the toe must stay closed.
- Watch how much rotation there is into foot strike and after it. The glutes are taking over and the hips are starting their unloading just before the front foot lands. This powerful rotation is then transferred up the body until it delivers the ball.
The takeaways from this article are that a pitcher needs to keep his hips loaded (closed) until just before foot strike. Keep the toe closed, keep the front knee behind the front hip longer, and don't release the hips until you get to the end of the motion. We'll continue with our "Loading the Hips" series soon, stay tuned!
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