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Drive Mechanics

javasource

6-4-3 = 2
May 6, 2013
1,342
48
Western NY
Then I noticed that her torso movements were just not nearly as strong looking as the other pitchers and I keyed on this hip move to see if maybe it was something to work on as a speed builder and thought I would throw it out to the group.
As noted with SS... ground force resistance is the next topic... I think.. just need to organize my thoughts. All-in-all, by creating better coordination and getting your DD used to The Power Line (OP)... using a high knee drive, dorsiflexion, and positive forward angle (momentum) is going to increase her ground force resistance. Once she does this - and learns to absorb it correctly - you'll see some of this violence appear in the hips. It starts just prior to contact - and as she channels that energy up the torso, you'll see it. In the meantime - I'd make sure she has a solid foundation of core strength... heck... that might be the next post... lol I don't know... there's so much info I want share... oy vey...
 

JJsqueeze

Dad, Husband....legend
Jul 5, 2013
5,435
0
safe in an undisclosed location
keep it coming JS...I for one am really eager to learn more about the rest of the motion aside from arm whip. DD is sick right now but will be starting some of the exercises you posted earlier as soon as she resumes her practices. The goal was breaking 50 by August tryouts but she is getting to 49 occasionally in walkthroughs now so we are revising up to 52-53 and we are counting on this thread providing enough information for us to squeeze that last few MPHs to get her there....no pressure though.
 
Oct 10, 2012
502
16
Oklahoma
This is SO right on time for my DD! Although she has been working on increasing core strength (and has), she doesnt know hiw to "use it" yet. Thanks Java, great stuff here!!
 

javasource

6-4-3 = 2
May 6, 2013
1,342
48
Western NY
JS, at what age could some of these exercises be started?
Great question, CLM265. All the exercises on this thread (at this point) could and should be started now... or at any age. There isn't a specific age... These are all routines that build neuromuscular control... or 'the inner core', as well as some of the larger stabilizers/muscles in the 'outer core', too. The routine that I referenced of Rick Pauly's is more of an advanced routine... and those should be performed only after building a 'core' foundation. There's actually a muscle firing pattern, or activation sequence, that should take place from the inside out. I'll expand on this in the immediate future.

One other important note... Yoga is really beneficial at all ages. The postural/stabilization focus with Yoga is very beneficial. If you've a willing instructor, he/she might even develop a specific routine for you and your DD.

Any plyometric routine will be great, too... as this style of fitness closely mimics the movements performed in softball.
 

javasource

6-4-3 = 2
May 6, 2013
1,342
48
Western NY
The Ground Force Reaction

Increasing the ground force reaction of the drive and stride legs will increase your pitching speed, when timed properly. This is not an opinion.

What does this mean? Does it mean that if you push as hard against the ground as you possibly can, and strike the ground with your stride foot as hard as you can, that you’ll pitch faster? It does not.

Going to break out some high school physics… as they apply to drive mechanics and ground force reactions…

Newton’s #2
F= ma
or Force equals Mass times Acceleration
(My immature side can’t help but smirk when I say, “Newton’s #2”…) ;)
Newton’s #3
When one body exerts force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction to the first.
Far too often, ground force reaction discussions (regarding pitching) only deal with the stride foot contacting the ground. It’s important to note, appreciate, utilize and GAIN from Newton’s 3rd law when pushing from the rubber, too. Here’s a simple illustration of this point…



I actually had to Photoshop the ‘stride’ foot so that it was dorsiflexed… ;) This illustration shows that as you push off – or into the ground, the ground pushes back. It also shows that it does it at the exact OPPOSITE or opposing direction. The force illustrated is one of three forces called the ‘Vertical’ force.

The three forces worth talking about are: Vertical, Lateral, and Gravitational. Take a look at the illustration below…



The numbers represent the forces:

1) Vertical – Angled force on vertical plane
2) Lateral – Horizontal force on horizontal plane
3) Gravitational – Directionally constant, downward

For the sake of simplicity, the Vertical force is the upward lift and downward fall most people associate the stride with. The Gravitational force is mostly self-descriptive… but you should know that we oppose this force when driving… and the Lateral force is the forward momentum a stride constitutes (towards the target). More on these in a bit…

To take advantage of these forces, we push off with our drive leg and brake with our stride leg, with the goal of creating a catapulting system. Most interestingly, if this sequence – or kinetic chain of events – is not timed properly, we will not be able to apply these forces as an increase in ball speed. When this chain is broken, the result can be a large source of injury – as the shoulder will try and compensate for this broken link – or loss in kinetic energy – by trying to generate the forces the legs could not.

How important is this timing? It’s almost a doubling effect… A 20% decrease in kinetic energy received from the hips and trunk will require a 34-35% increase in the rotational velocity of the shoulder.

If you consider this previous statement – you may only see the positive contribution timing offers… but it is just as important to understand the negative effect of poor drive mechanics… as they WILL require the shoulder to work more than necessary… and they often will put the scapula in a dangerous, destabilized position – which can lead to a condition known as impingement syndrome.

So, although we must work hard on drive mechanics, the emphasis should not be a “spot on the ground” – but instead should be a timed sequence of events with an emphasis on putting the lower extremities in the right positions - to efficiently transfer this energy to the ball.

So, don’t teach or allow your DD to over-push. In addition to injury, the muscle firing sequence will become disrupted – at times causing the antagonist and protagonist muscles to fire at the same time. Doing so, gets the muscles working against each other and limits the pitchers range of motion. It’s a gradual process, and small, properly timed increases in motion/energy should be the goal. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Build a foundation of coordinated and controlled body movements, and then – and only then – build on them.
 
Jul 17, 2012
1,071
0
The Ground Force Reaction

So, although we must work hard on drive mechanics, the emphasis should not be a “spot on the ground” – but instead should be a timed sequence of events with an emphasis on putting the lower extremities in the right positions - to efficiently transfer this energy to the ball.

So, don’t teach or allow your DD to over-push. In addition to injury, the muscle firing sequence will become disrupted – at times causing the antagonist and protagonist muscles to fire at the same time. Doing so, gets the muscles working against each other and limits the pitchers range of motion. It’s a gradual process, and small, properly timed increases in motion/energy should be the goal. “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Build a foundation of coordinated and controlled body movements, and then – and only then – build on them.
Java....when you reference a "Spot on the ground", are you talking about a target landing distance for the stride foot plant? I think I read it right and assume that's what you mean. If so, I couldn't agree more. I've seen my fair sharre of kids that out leap their physical capability and it shows. They never get the open and close rotation of the torso, as there seems to be a lack of strength to open the torso when there is too much forward energy created with that goal of jumping "Farther". In these instances, what I see is a pitcher that ends up pitching around their hips as they are unable to create that optimal throwing lane.
 
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javasource

6-4-3 = 2
May 6, 2013
1,342
48
Western NY
Stride Leg Articulations

Ok, time to talk about a few articulations – as they relate to the ground force reaction, specifically Newton’s 3rd law. There are many other motions… but I’d like to keep this post singular in scope - and address the jointed movements of the leg, so that we can get the most out of the ground force reaction. These will be stride leg specific… more on the drive leg later.

Oh yeah, I think many call it: Ground Reaction Force... but oh well... I'm happy with ground force reaction.

As noted in the ground force reaction post, we want to set the body in a series of properly timed motions with the goal of transferring energy through the kinetic chain… and eventually into the ball, safely.

Stride Knee & Dorsiflexed Ankle

We’ve already covered this, but it’s important to stress it again. In my experience, many pitchers utilize a weak sweeping step forward. Their knee barely elevates and flexes above their normal walking mechanics. We want the stride knee to aggressively drive forward, elevating it so that it’s nearly perpendicular to the torso. Use the Wall Sprints listed on page 1 to ingrain these movements. I find this as one of the best places to start when working on drive mechanics. Remember to incorporate a lean – and then an aggressive drive outwards with the stride knee. Get it up! Be sure to also incorporate the dorsiflexed (toes up) foot position, too. Like these:



Extension of the Stride Leg Knee

IMHO, this is one of the most important stride mechanics as well as one of the largest timing puzzle pieces... more on that later, probably much later...

As you drive the stride knee out, you are activating/firing the gluteal muscles – which is VERY IMPORTANT. The natural design of the hips and bone structure would have the leg turning inwards and abducting. The knee-out and dorsiflexed ankle positions engage (or, activate) the larger muscles in the lower extremities; as they work to overcome the natural tendencies of the leg and prepare for impact. The knee goes straight out, followed by the lower leg extending to the target – and the leg has NOT rotated inward.

Once the lower leg/upper leg angle is beyond 150-degrees of extension, the pitcher will be close to ‘full extension’ of the leg… and the gravitational forces will prevail; sending the leg downward. ‘Full extension’ does not mean literal extension (180-degrees, or a straight locked leg) it means the maximum stride length (the distance between the rear drive foot and the stride foot). You’ll notice that the drive foot is still in contact with the plate.

When timed properly, the still shot of the optimal motion will look like the following:

  • Knee at most elevated/extended position (perpendicular to torso).
  • Shoulders are mostly closed – thigh/foot has NOT internally rotated.
  • Upper and lower leg angle (formed at knee) is greater than 150-degrees.


For those of you struggling with the 150-degree leg/knee angle, here is a transparent picture you can put over your still shots to use as a comparison.



Here is a bunch of different pitchers reaching this ‘full extension’:



On a side note, notice how each of these pitchers is approaching 3 o'clock and their shoulders are pretty much closed - even though their, leg extension had started opening their hips..

As you can see in the different pictures, the leg should be at least this straight, or straighter. If you use the angled line, place the angle on the knee, and align the upper line with the femur in the upper leg . Each person is different, but your pitcher should strive for reaching this level of extension. Why?

If the leg/knee angle is in a flexed position less than 150-degrees (read: more of a bend than the picture) – the knee will try and absorb too much of the ground force reaction energy. How much energy is this?

The vertical ground reaction force was always theorized as similar to that which a baseball pitcher experiences, until Werner (2005) and Oliver (2010) concluded that they were significantly greater. A softball pitcher with good drive mechanics will experience a vertical ground reaction force more than 230% of their body weight. So… if your 140-pound DD is utilizing aggressive drive mechanics, she could be posting over 320 pounds of force on her stride leg. Remember, she is balancing/stabilizing 320 pounds on a single leg.

Getting back to the question of why too much bend in the knee is a bad thing… is 320-pounds of force on a knee a good thing? The answer is obvious… and having too much bend in the knee prevents a lot of the energy from dissipating and/or chaining past the knee cap… or joint.

Conversely, you don’t want to land on your stride foot with a hyper-extended knee (straight, locked leg), either… as that significant force will travel straight to your hips and into the spine. If you land straight legged, you defeat much of what the hip flexors/stabilizers are working to maintain… which is elevation of the pelvis on the drive leg side. Instead, the knee will hyper-extend, the pelvis will tilt anteriorly, and posterior spinal problems arise. This is quite common in younger pitchers... as they associate an aggressive stride with length. They try to hit a spot on the ground by over-extending the leg, and hyper-extending the knee. The result is a traumatic force to pelvic region/ stabilizers, causing the abdomen to flare out, and limiting scapular stabilization. This would be my response to a recent post... with a very talented younger pitcher, btw. Here's what it looks like 'under the skin'...



This quote sums up the importance of proper posting on the stride leg:
It is imperative that the stride foot maintains a line toward the target and lands within a 30-degree range of internal rotation and the knee remains flexed so it can absorb shock. As the stride leg plants, eccentric contraction of the quadriceps muscle of that leg further minimizes shock.” - Faith M. Doyle, DC
More coming soon... ~JS
 
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javasource

6-4-3 = 2
May 6, 2013
1,342
48
Western NY
Java....when you reference a "Spot on the ground", are you talking about a target landing distance for the stride foot plant?
Yes.

They never get the open and close rotation of the torso, as there seems to be a lack of strength to open the torso when there is too much forward energy created with that goal of jumping "Farther". In these instances, what I see is a pitcher that ends up pitching around their hips as they are unable to create that optimal throwing lane.
Cool observations, you make some good points.

Conversely (to staying too closed), many young pitchers reach with their legs and open too much, too early. The result of this is even more painful to watch....

1) Their drive foot turns out towards 2nd base, on their heel...
2) Their stride foot plants at a negative angle beyond the 'powerline'
3) Their legs are so far apart, that the legs cannot close at all (read: split)
4) The ball gets lost behind their back, they pitch across their body... and then their parent wonder why their shoulder is sore... and typically are still wondering how the thousands of dollars they spent on "open-style" pitching mechanics have landed them on IR... and I don't mean internal rotation, either... ;)

Not condemning getting open... that's important, to a literal 'degree'... but I will not ever support staying open...

Marion Alexander, PhD says:

The stride onto the front foot should not be too long; as if the stride is too long the pitcher will be unable to fully rotate the hips and trunk to the position facing the batter at release.
Just some added thoughts to your great comment, Rope. Thanks!
 
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