By popular request...
By popular request...
Every softball parent has a chef's knife and a hockey mask in the trunk of the car.
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please don't delete... gonna edit this post as an index... or 'table of contents' when the thread is complete... or at least my part.. Thx!
Run Better, Pitch Better
The Power Line (The Goal)
Teaching student athletes to run is often one of the most overlooked fundamentals in softball. Every year, I find myself dedicating a good portion of the pre-season working on this fundamental with teams; and every pitcher I work with spends a good deal of time developing this skill, too.
In pitching, the power-line is often a reference to an imaginary line extending from the pitchers drive toe, to their target. In running, The Power Line is referred to as a postural line that runs from head to foot (the ankle). It is best summarized as an imaginary straight - but angled - line starting at your ankle and running up your knee, hip, shoulders, and head. This illustration sums it up really well…
As you can see, the body angle forms The Power Line. Notice that ALL the joints (ankle, knee, hip, shoulder) of the body are nearly in-line. The other areas noted in the illustration are the following:
A) High Knee Drive – The best way to enable your hips to move through a full range of motion is to have substantial knee drive; getting your thighs perpendicular to the torso should be a focus.
B) Shin Angle – The forward lower leg should be at, or near the same angle as The Power Line, NOT perpendicular to the ground. The more upright the angle of the shin, the more the ground will absorb your energy… this will slow you down. Many people that teach running limit it to bringing the knee high; it’s also important to encourage a high range of motion of the leg below the knee.
C) Ankle Dorsi-Flexion – By keeping your toes pointing towards your shins as your knee comes up, the Achilles tendon and calf muscles become engaged; helping you transfer energy form your hips and thighs to your feet and into the ground.
Teaching proper running mechanics to your DD, will undoubtedly make her a better softball player. How will it help her with pitching? Take a look at these high-level pitchers… and the positions they reach at the beginning of each pitch they throw…
Good drive mechanics will result in a pitcher reaching this diagonal, straight-line position. Some call it a lean, or simply a rock forward – but this is not enough. Forming this Power Line position is the result of an immediate transfer of energy from stride leg to drive leg, just like we do when running (properly). Simply teaching a backward/forward rocking motion or lean often results in these first two positions (which are not correct); the last one is correct:
I’m horribly satisfied with my stick figures… as they would make a great bumper sticker…
If this becomes a thread that generates a lot of interest, I’ll continue with some drills and further insights on how to help your DD explode off the plate AND down the baselines. If not, I hope this helps you and your DD become a better pitcher and runner! ~JS
Last edited by javasource; 01-19-2017 at 09:05 PM.
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Completely agree on the necessity to bend the drive knee - as it helps lessen the pitchers desire to transfer weight too early - which often results in a lazy/slow stride foot. I want the pitchers feet to quickly transfer weight. I also don't want them to get to the point of no return... or the fall on the face feeling... as this is a difficult feeling to recover from, typically resulting in the weight remaining too far forward, a compromised resistance to the plant, and makes it a little more difficult to put emphasis on getting the stride knee out.
I also don't teach the stride foot 'rocking chair' that is often utilized by many younger pitchers. I like to see the stride foot heel remain on the ground, creating a stretch of the Achilles and calf muscles, until the moment of immediate weight transfer... which happens to be timed with a back-swing (when used).
This is simply a summarized response to your questions, I'll expand on this with some drills - and more of the routine that I use... hopefully tomorrow... seems to be a 'bug' running around our house...
Thanks for sharing, Rope.
I've no interest in fueling the debate as to whether or not a backswing is good/bad, I'll just refer those people to the hansen principle with four of the best pictured above. They all use it, and I know that it is a useful teaching tool, regarding timing. You can always learn this way, and change it later, too.
To me, an optimal pre-motion consists of a few keys: For RHP, weight transfer in a right, left, right fashion - assisted by a slide or 'sweep' of the plate, a decent lean, and a backswing - that starts BM's overlap sequence... or AKA, timing. This backswing acts as a good balance mechanism, as well as a cue to reach this first point in overlap...
Which brings me to your second question... The amount of overlap is contingent on the athlete and stride style. Two great examples of this on here are the DD's of Boomers2012 and txNick - both of which you, or others, can look up to reference. KK (txnick) has an amazing stride - marked by her stride leg staying elevated for an extended time. Lizzy (Boomers2012) has a very aggressive style, that leads to her getting her stride foot down much sooner. Neither are right or wrong, just unique to the DD. This is not to say they can't work on it... Because of the elevated stride KK uses, she will need to activate her stride leg much sooner than Lizzy. If put side by side in video - you'd see Lizzy reach her first point in 'overlap' before KK, but they both reach it now, and marvelously.
I was really hoping to have a few more posts up by now... but I'm playing Doctor in an infirmary known as my home...
Thanks for asking great questions. knightsb. Hopefully, I've answered them... and I definitely will expand on your two key points in subsequent posts.
Ok…. Back from my mini-vacation to Hades...
I really like this statement/observation from starsnuffer:
I've found that once a pitcher has matured a bit and has sound mechanics (about sophomore year in HS) they benefit much more from running/sprinting/agility training then they do from their actual pitching/softball practices.
This brings me to an effective routine that builds on the Power Line concept from the original post. I recently stumbled on an article during halftime of my DD’s basketball game – and was pretty stoked to see it mirror a routine I’ve been using for years. Be warned, it may not appear that exciting – but ingraining proper running mechanics will yield some of the most significant returns for your DD when she steps on that field.
Although I like Hal’s recommendation, he’s not close enough to allow me to push him around…
That said… I’ll use Wall Sprints instead...
NEVER sacrifice proper form for speed. It’s never the quantity of workout that matters, it’s the quality. Speed is the result of these routines – and must not be the goal in performing them.
Starting Position for all exercises, is on one leg, like this:
Put your hands on a wall in front of your shoulders. Keep your arms straight. Step back until your body is roughly at a 45-degree angle. Lift one leg off the ground as shown above. Posture is paramount; maintain The Power Line. Maintain the shin angle and focus on reaching a high knee drive WITH a dorsi-flexed ankle (See OP for more detailed explanation).
Single Leg March: Slowly raise and lower the same leg. Lower it so that it is side by side with your rear foot – and raise it so that you achieve the position in the picture above. Perform 10 repetitions with each leg.
Slow March – Slowly march, alternating legs. Perform 20 repetitions.
Two-Count March – Perform one march by switching quickly from one leg to the other. Hold the landing for 2 seconds - then switch legs. Continue in alternating fashion. Repetitions = 8-10.
2-Step, Two Count March – Same as the Two Count March, but perform two marches.
3-Step, Two Count March – Same as above, but with three marches…
Rapid Fire March – Assume the starting position and perform as many marches as possible in 10 seconds. DO NOT SACRIFICE FORM FOR SPEED!
I’ll try to continuously evolve this thread each day, introducing new concepts and building on existing ones. My goal is not to just teach beginners – but also help experienced players, parents, and other coaches (if they so desire). Be warned, there will be all types of info on here… boring technical stuff, routines, video, and who knows what else.
Teaching over the internet is not an easy thing… If I generalize or list single examples – it’s not that I’m discounting other methods or strategies, but just trying to choose those that are easiest to communicate via the internet (for me). There are far too many articulations to list… and these are better taught in person… so… yeah… be careful – and seek out good PC’s and trainers if they are available. ~JS
Last edited by javasource; 01-19-2017 at 09:07 PM.
Ken B (02-25-2014)
Disclaimer: I’m about to get pretty nerdy in subsequent posts… and will touch on some very in-depth subjects, that I really urge you all to try and understand, if you're that type...
I’m in no way suggesting you sit your DD down and try to get her to understand a lot of what I post – but if she wants to know, how crappy is not knowing the answer for her?
The goal – for me – is to post information that allows you to understand the body as it relates to pitching – so that you can become efficient: efficient in your decisions, efficient in you and your DD’s time investment, and efficient in your instruction (for other PC’s). You should take comfort in the fact that while you are performing the right routines (because you understand this stuff), other pitchers are performing wrist snaps… and whatnot…
I find that this understanding of what is happening behind the scenes will make you more receptive and prepared for the unique challenges that your DD or student will pose at some time in your journey together, too. No two pitchers are cut from the same cloth.
Can you pitch effectively without knowing this stuff? Sure. Will you and your DD find the right instructor, the right trainer, the right drills, etc..? Possibly. The point is that in offering you all this information, perhaps this road you travel with your DD will be a much smoother journey… and some where along the way you’ll gain little advantages over those that do not know.
Perhaps your DD wasn’t born as one of the elite… and knowing some of this stuff will help you and her level the playing field a bit… and if she was born ‘elite’… she’ll be that much better…
Anyway, that’s the end of the disclaimer… I will get to stuff ‘on the rubber’ in a little bit… but feel many could benefit from the stuff behind the scenes, just as much – if not more. Takes notes, ask questions… just don’t be a turd. And keep in my mind... this is all only my humble opinion... I learned years ago from my wife that I'm not always right... well, actually... that's what I let her think...
'Behind' the Scenes (terrible pun, I know...)
Part 1 of 2
Developing a strong core is, IMO, the most effective preventative to all pitching related injuries. A strong core is essential in establishing good drive mechanics, too. A balanced and strong core is the result of positive muscle recruitment, which is the result of developed hip and pelvis stabilizers.
How important is this?
In a previous post, I listed some Wall Sprint drills. These drills require good postural fundamentals, and specifically isolate ‘lower extremity’ conditioning/programming. Furthermore, these conditioning elements are very specific to motions performed while pitching and running. I find that any conditioning regiment your DD or students implement should closely mimic motions they are training for… and I’ll quote Oliver again…“…lower extremity contributes 50–55% of the total energy generated by the body during performance of an upper extremity task. To transfer energy through the kinetic chain from the lower extremity to the upper extremity, a softball pitcher must have good neuromuscular control of the lower extremity. - Gretchen D. Oliver PhD, ATC, LAT
In other words, get you’re a$$ moving!“…clinicians should incorporate strengthening exercises that mimic the timing of maximal muscle activation most used during the pitching phase…
…there is a need for core strengthening to help properly transfer energy to decrease the stress placed on the shoulder when performing a successful pitch. Core strengthening should focus on gluteal activations and on trunk rotational activities.”
Rick Pauly recently posted a great rotational conditioning element: Core Stability and Torque
One important note for beginners: Resistance (band) exercise is the safest and most effective way to increase your strength and power, as well as, develop neuromuscular control. All youth athletes should utilize these methods before attempting, or regimenting more advanced routines.
Here are some great routines to help activate the glutes and build hip stability.
Single Leg Bridge w/tennis ball:
On floor, position tennis ball between your right thigh and stomach, focusing on holding it in place.
Left foot should not be flat on ground... keep toes off floor, weight on heel only.
Raise butt off of floor, inhaling and holding for 5 secs.
Lower to ground on exhale. Repeat other side (8-10 reps)
Internal/External Rotations of Hip
Using Minibands just below the knee and above the calf rotate legs inward, then outward.
Reps: 10 together, or 10 each leg
Ankle Band Steps
Wrap Minibands around ankles.
Take small steps to the side, maintaining form.
Reps: 3x5 steps/ each side
Ankle Band Steps Variation
Same as above, but wrap bands around balls of feet.
Reps: 3x5 steps/ each side
End Part 1
Last edited by javasource; 01-19-2017 at 09:08 PM.
'Behind' the Scenes
Part 2 of 2
There are lots of core exercises out there, but I've found that this one is for everyone and works every core muscle... in one routine, kinda cool...
These have received mixed reviews by some... but only because people do them wrong. I debated posting the gif over a video... but it's good enough. These work every core muscle... here are the keys to doing them correctly:
- Don't use a kettlebell until you have the strength and proper coordination this routine requires. Do it without, body weight is fine.
- Make sure you start with your shoulder 'packed' or pushed in to the ground. Don't 'reach' with the shoulder.
- Keep rear knee in-line with your supporting hand
- When going back down... once your supporting hand gets placed on the ground, stick your butt out as shown in the video clip.
- If using a kettlebell, dismount it by rolling onto your side - when laying on your back.
For advanced athletes, the basic band routines aren’t going to cut it by themselves. You’re focus should be on, for lack of a better phrase, power training – mixed with speed. Training fast-twitch muscle fibers will become a must… and is the reason many athletes plateau early in speed development, in both drive and pitch mechanics. So… low speed, high-resistance is not what you’re after. High speed, high resistance is the secret. Again… view Rick Pauly’s post above to see a great example.
These routines you may implement aren’t just for drive mechanics either…
Little more about the Gluteal (butt) muscles, and the other main stabilizers located in the hip and pelvic regions. Activating these muscles regularly in conditioning routines should be a major focus, as noted. During the pitching process, the gluteal muscles are the most active muscles – throughout every phase of the pitch. Here’s a graphic of some of the key players in the pelvic region:“…the large muscles of the hips and trunk help position the thoracic spine to accommodate for effective movement of the scapula, which allows for functional shoulder motion - GRETCHEN D. OLIVER, HILLARY A. PLUMMER, AND DAVID W. KEELEY
The gluteal muscles (maximus, medius, and minimus) stabilize the hip by counteracting gravity’s hip adduction torque and maintain proper leg alignment by eccentrically controlling adduction and internal rotation of the thigh. None of that make sense? Here’s a little primer of key terms often used on this site… this is long overdue…
More soon... ~JS