The following article was forwarded to me from local physical therapist, Ian Manning of Orthocore Physcial Therapy. Ian was kind enough to write to me about balance, posture, and strength as it pertains to pitching. Any questions about this article, the exercises, the definitions, etc can be directed to Ian Manning via his website – www.orthocorept.com.
Balance and posture were the first two mechanical flaws I was taught to look for when becoming certified through the National Pitching Association (NPA). The NPA is a group that was founded by Tom House, who is the throwing coach for the “G.O.A.T.” (Tom Brady for those who live outside of New England), Drew Brees, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and so many other top athletes. The mission of the NPA is to focus on strength and conditioning techniques that enhance a player’s skills and reduce their risk of injuries. In short, they look at the body first and performance second. It doesn’t matter if you are the best pitcher on your team, if you can’t stay on the mound and/or stay healthy, you are not helping your team. The NPA teaches balance and posture before going onto any other flaw. Per the practices of the NPA, until that aspect is fixed nothing else matters. In most cases, when you fix a player’s balance and posture, the other mechanical flaws will disappear like magic.
When we talk about “balance,” we aren’t talking about a pitcher’s ability to stand on their drive leg for a long period of time like a flamingo. Quite honestly, that doesn’t even matter that much. A pitcher’s initial move towards home plate to lead foot strike should take less than a second. If a player is spending that short of an amount of time on their trail leg, why do pitching coaches teach long static balance positions?
What we’re looking for is the pitcher’s ability to keep their shoulders level, through their stride, and delivery of the baseball to home plate. Any deviation from this level position will lead to a compensation which can lead to potential arm injury and break down over time.
Good Posture Example:
Here are a couple of examples of good posture through delivery.
Bad Posture Example:
Here are some examples of bad posture through delivery.
A player’s inability to maintain their balance and posture through the delivery can be caused by a multitude of reasons. I always recommend that a player get screened by a qualified movement specialist to be sure you are attacking the correct strength and flexibility deficits that are causing the problem. Literally any restriction in anything from the ankle up to the trunk can cause a loss of posture in the player’s delivery. Here are some of the more common causes of loss of posture that I see with my pitchers.
If a player’s hips and trunk are tight it will limit their ability to rotate which can lead to a loss of posture while throwing. Here are two simple stretches that you can do to help improve your hip and trunk mobility. If you try to do these exercises, and it’s really easy, then flexibility probably isn’t the reason behind why you are losing posture. It’s still a good idea to perform them regularly to maintain the flexibility that you have.
Hip IR/ER with Twist:
Sit on the ground with a bat. Rotate one leg in and the other leg out keeping a 90 degree bend in the knees. Once your legs are touching the ground rotate your arms towards the leg that is rotating in. Try doing 15 repetitions holding each repetition for about 3 seconds.
Lie on your side with both legs bent up to 90 degree. Rotate your arms open like a book. Try doing 15 repetitions holding each repetition for about 3 seconds.
Your core muscles help to transfer the energy from your legs up to your arm and keep your trunk upright while you are twisting as you throw. That means that by doing these exercise not only will you be able to better maintain your posture, you will also be able to throw harder (and who doesn’t like that).
Plank with Reach:
Get into a tall plank position focusing on squeezing your glutes and keeping your core tight. Stay stiff and alternate reaching with your hands out in front of you. Don’t let your hips twist as you reach. Imagine you have a glass of water on your back and you don’t want to let it spill. Perform 15 repetitions on each side and hold this reach/kick position for 3 seconds.
Plank with Kick:
Get into the same tall plank position. Alternate kicking a leg up in the air. Make sure that your hips don’t twist. Also make sure that your back doesn’t arch as you kick up. Perform 15 repetitions on each side and hold this reach/kick position for 3 seconds.
Well it’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time. Didn’t you think I was going to give you an exercise to work on? Balance is important in your trail leg but also your landing leg so be sure to work on this on both legs. You may notice a difference between your legs which is completely normal. The more you work on it, the more your legs will equal out. Try to do 15-20 repetitions on each leg.
Single Leg Dead Lift:
Stand on one leg. Keeping your back straight, balance on one leg and kick the other leg back. The goal is to get your body parallel to the ground without rounding you back. This is a really challenging exercise so don’t get frustrated if you have trouble with it. Just keep practicing and eventually you will master it. Try doing 15 repetitions holding each repetition for about 3 seconds.
I hope this helps you improve your strength and flexibility to limit any loss of balance and posture that you might have in your delivery. If you have any questions or problems please don’t hesitate to contact me on our website, www.orthocorept.com , or via email, IanM@orthocorept.com.