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I/R in the Classroom

Jul 14, 2008
I've received so many PM's and Emails about I/R I've decided to speak more about training Internal Rotation, and the progression we use to build a foundation for the underhand throw.

First of all, we all know that grip, stance, posture, wind-up/load and leg drive all contribute to pitching a softball. IMO, none of these are on my list of "absolutes". They are "styles". That is, not every high level pitcher uses exactly the same style any of the above listed requisites of pitching.

The ONLY thing I view as an absolute in pitching is Internal Rotation. Which is why I focus on it so much. If I can teach a young lady/man to "throw" a softball correctly and efficiently, and literally "play catch throwing underhand" as naturally as they would overhand, my job becomes so much easier when it comes to adding "style".

With that in mind, lets talk about I/R as a training method to that end. Using drills that isolate the motions of I/R, and are progressive in nature to involve more and more of the sequence.

First of all, I/R is a "motor skill". Whether natural or learned, it is a skill that can either be taught or enhanced by focusing and training the bio-mechanics and physics that cause the motion to occur, in sequence.........

One of the first things that has to happen for a proper I/R delivery, is that the upper arm (bicep) must be trained that it is the stability point for Internal Rotation. It rotates AND stabilizes vertically. It must be properly positioned in close to the body and vertical in order for the forearm to internally rotate on the tightest radius possible. It ALSO must be trained to pass kinetic energy from the proximal to the distal parts of the sequence. IOW.........The energy must be passed from the arm circle, through the upper arm (proximal part), to the forearm (distal part) and down through the wrist into the fingers and ball.

In order for this transfer to occur, the upper arm must be caused to decelerate to almost a stop when it reaches the stable vertical position close to the side, and then continue forward as a follow through energy dissipation result........That cause begins with Internal Rotation of the forearm "taking the energy" from the arm circle, causing decel of the upper arm........

Take note of these pitchers stable vertical position of the turning upper arm.....And how the elbow stops advancing through the circle for a split second........

In order to train the upper arm to stabilize, and transfer energy, we need to limit it's ability to do anything but turn away then face forward by responding to the commands of the forearm as it REMAINS in the stable vertical position close to the body.

The quickest way I've found to accomplish this is by using what I call the "lock it in" drill. A drill that keeps the elbow at the side, thereby keeping the upper arm stabilized and vertical and transferring energy to the forearm........

The student must throw the ball using External Rotation then Internal Rotation/Pronation of the forearm WITHOUT moving the upper arm (elbow) back/away, OR forward past the body until release causes follow through.........It can turn back but it cannot MOVE back.........

More in the morning as we progress to "Unlock It"..........

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Jul 14, 2008
"Catch the Whip"

As I stated in a another thread, one of the biggest challenges we face when teaching I/R is the release phase. Because the upper arm/forearm/wrist are actually rotating from back to front during the release phase, vs. pushing straight through, there is a whipping action (sudden acceleration) that occurs as the arm circle(s) change from a wide to narrow axis of rotation through the release phase. IE if you push the ball with no internal rotation, the axis point of the circle remains at the shoulder joint (wide).

But if you internally rotate the upper arm/forearm/wrist during the release phase, you've narrowed the axis of rotation from the shoulder joint (wide) to the forearm/wrist (narrow). This change in the distance of the ball from the axis of rotation causes angular acceleration. IE the closer the mass is to the axis of rotation the faster it turns.

Consider an ice skaters scratch spin. As she draws her arms/leg inward, her rotational velocity increases. It's basically the same principle.

Training release for a pusher simply involves training when to release the ball for a proper high/low trajectory where angular momentum is constant. IE there is no sudden increase in velocity during this phase. Their misses are limited to high/low.

Training the release phase for an internal rotator is MUCH more complicated because of the nature of the "beast". He/She is not only dealing with High/Low, but because of the I/R in the forearm/wrist, and the acceleration that occurs because of it......We must deal with left right AND high low. It's SO MUCH EASIER to be a pitching coach who does NOT teach I/R believe me......And that's why there's SO MANY of those out there........

So how do we train an I/R release phase that both controls the high/low, AND the in/out as well. We must train them to release the ball "mid-snap" so to speak. In order to accomplish this, we must get them thinking about release BEFORE mid-snap. Because IF they release the ball AFTER mid-snap, (turn the ball over) they MISS the acceleration phase of I/R. The best way I've found to accomplish this is to "work into" the mid-point, vs. trying to work "back out of it". Working INTO mid-snap would have the ball releasing EARLIER then later.

IOW........I try to get my students to MISS RIGHT (RH'r) FIRST vs. holding on to the ball through mid-snap and turning it over left (RH'r) without "catching" the added velocity of angular acceleration. I accomplish this my making sure I have opposites. IE the forearm/wrist turning over toward the LH batter, and the ball spinning right toward the RH batter (RH'r). This tells me that the student is working INTO the snap during the learning process. And hasn't "missed the whip" so to speak. This is why I love to get calls from people asking me to take a look at a student who "constantly misses right" (RH'r). IE "My DD is constantly hitter batters"........What does that tell me IF everything else is basically correct?........I HAVE A POTENTIAL FLAME THROWER!

So, bottom line is WHEN TRAINING I/R........Get the ball turning toward the RH batter as the forearm/wrist are turning through toward the LH batter.........

It's hard to accomplish this from the "lock it in drill" but NOT impossible. My best advise is to find a concrete wall and have the student throw a ball underhand from close range until she can get the ball turning right and the forearm and wrist turning left (RH'r)......You can stand off to the side and retrieve early releases and return the ball to the student so that many training throws can be made in one session......

The goal is to accomplish this action and still throw the ball straight ahead, bouncing back to her, vs. loosing it to the right. Believe it or not, the body WILL ADAPT the sequence to spinning it right (RH'r) but THROWING IT STRAIGHT.

BULLET SPIN IS NOT THE GOAL.......INWARD/FORWARD SPIN is the goal........."Catching the Whip"........

This is a view of proper spin from a RH'd pitcher. IF we can catch this spin as the forearm/wrist turns through, we're in really good shape:

Next we can move on to "Unlocking It".......Or the 9:00 Drill as I call it.......Allowing the elbow to release from the side SLIGHTLY as we E/R the forearm and wrist to 9:00, then RETURN the upper arm to the stabilized position in the "lock it in" drill and throw the ball, allowing for natural follow through......It should look something like this:

Remember....When learning I/R.......MISSING TO THE RIGHT (RH'r) is a GOOD THING not a bad thing in the training stages of I/R. Because we are working INTO the whip vs. holding on THROUGH the whip..........

If you are still confused about the spin direction and importance, refer to this thread called "What Do I Mean".......

Later on "The Magician Drill"........Which helps a student gain a better understanding of I/R in general.......
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May 15, 2008
Eastern Long Island
I am curious to know what you think about allowing bulletspin vs topspin. Early on when I taught I looked for topspin, however topspin is also the natural result of the push down, wrist snap motion. Lately I have been allowing bulletspin and in many cases encouraging it by utilizing the football drill. In order to throw the football underhand with a spiral (bulletspin) the arm, elbow and shoulders must in the IR position on the downswing. One other thing puzzles me, I understand that bulletpsin is the result of incomplete 'internal rotation', this would mean that in theory a bulletspin fastball is not as fast as a topspin fastball yet it seems that a great many high level pitchers throw bulletspin (or a close variation of it) for their fastest pitches.
Jul 14, 2008
One thing we know about motor learning is that the more things we can incorporate into training that are directly related to the skill being learned, the easier it is to learn that skill. And isolation WITH progression leads to continued non-isolated motor learning of the parts previously isolated. Ya I know......."Who's on first?"............

Sensory training and the "Magician Drill"..........

When I'm training I/R, I use a specific drill that helps students gain deeper sensory understanding of the function of rotary motion that the upper arm, forearm and wrist are capable of. The reason I do this is three-fold. One is to give them the reverse feel of the same forward action. Another is to create a load with the feeling of an UNloading motion. And lastly it helps the shoulder complex relax open.

That's exactly what the "Magician" drill is designed to do........

When doing this drill there is a catcher directly behind the target line about 10 feet back. Students should be opening the upper arm/forearm/palm during swing from front to back, and putting over-spin on the ball directly toward the catcher. Under spin or side spin would indicate either no, or limited E/R was accomplished.

The funny thing is I used to call this the "Back-Flip" drill. But once at a clinic I was putting on, an 8yo apparently didn't see the ball go backwards into the catchers glove and asked her dad if I made the ball "disappear"......So I re-named the drill.........:D

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