Loading The Hips Creates Tension and Energy
One of the most critical components of proper pitching mechanics is the ability to load, keep loaded, and then effectively unload the hips. This is important for many reasons. The first is that it provides an opportunity for proper hip/shoulder separation (article on this upcoming, and it's not going to say what you think) and proper segmented rotation.
Please read our last article about hip loading and finish this one and you'll have a very good base of knowledge about the issue.
It is possible to train these complex movements without a mile deep understanding of the anatomy of the human body and a doctorate in physics. Our last article, this one, and several more to come are designed to give you some simple ideas about how to do just that.
Even pitchers who are typically good at loading and unloading their hips have a tendency to become worse at it in the stretch. Pitchers think they have to be super fast in the stretch (quick is good, but quality pitches matter) so they end up just stepping toward the catcher and throwing.
Why Stepping and Throwing Is A Bad Pitching Mechanic
This is exactly the process that "unloads" the hips, and it's the first step in their stretch. Thus there is no load, so there is no energy stored in the backside or momentum gained toward home. They lose their velocity, deception, and they put a ton of stress on their arms.
I don't know what level you're coaching or playing at, but I would bet that an awful lot of the pitches in your league are happening from the stretch. It's a shame to throw all of these pitches with reduced quality, especially when we don't have to.
Below is a video of Fernando Rodney, who basically throws every pitch from a slide step. I don't usually encourage pitchers to use a slide step too often, but it's usually because they don't do it properly and so their pitch quality is low when they do use it.
I put some arrows and words on the video, so go ahead and take a look at it and pause it in those locations. Read what's there, and then read below the video and we'll discuss.
Again, if you haven't read our first article on hip loading, you might want to do that first, as it lays out several of these details in a little more basic way.
You may have to download the video if your browser is showing a link. If you choose not to do so, you can still use this information. I recommend checking out a video of Rodney all the same if you don't want to download it.
1. The primary thing that I want to point out, is how he brings his front knee back while taking his front hip forward. This is a key step in loading up your hips. Luckily this can be achieved just the same in the stretch (if not better) as the windup.
2. The second thing that happens is his back knee begins to move inward toward his front knee. As he begins his drop into his delivery, his knees remain close together.
This is an indication that his front leg is not "stepping forward". Instead, he's letting his hips ride down the mound and gather momentum. The knees staying within reach of each other ensures that energy is being kept in the hips and in the backside glute.
Momentum isn't helpful unless there's something left to USE that momentum at the end of the motion. Loaded hips are required.
3. The rear hip/glute initiates the forward rotation just before foot plant of the stride leg. It begins to rotate in this step, and finishes it's rotation once the front leg stabilizes.
4. If the core/shoulders have remained loaded (a different topic that we'll talk about later), it's then their turn to rotate and unload.
Use Rodney's Example To Pitch Better From The Stretch
This is a model of exactly how to load your hips in the stretch. If you are able to do this, you will not lose an ounce of quality on your pitches when you go to your stretch, and you'll still be quick to the plate.
Here are a couple tips in summary:
- Create an angle toward home with the back knee, and bring the front knee back to that back knee.
-Let the hips ride, and keep your knees together longer.
-The front leg is easier here for most pitchers. Just keep it locked back behind the hip and keep the knee back toward your back knee.
-The rear side is more important (or at least tougher) in generating a lot of force in the stretch. Knee angle toward home is key.
Another great tip to help you feel this is to turn your back toe toward home slightly. This will make you somewhat "pigeon toed" and will aid the "loaded" feeling. Turn the back toe slightly toward home in your stretch, and now bring that front knee backwards as the first move in your stretch.
You'll feel resistance in the glutes, hips, and the inside of your legs...all the right places. If you keep this feeling as long as possible, while letting the hips go to the catcher, you'll be doing great things.
Try this out and see if it doesn't help you feel more powerful out of your stretch. Please subscribe below and check out our #1 fitness program recommendation from Eric Cressey.