Arm Action and Scap Loading

Here is a quote from a very knowledgeable poster on SETPRO:

[quote]A typical spin throw goes something like this:

  1. The elbows get up so that when the torso turns, the inertia of the arm pinches the scap.

It’s a “passive” loading of the scaps and not at all what elite throwers do. But if you are looking at film, you see the elbows go back and you think that the scaps are loaded. You may also get some passive arching of the spine as well.

  1. The scaps stay pinched as the torso continues to turn and the arm is dragged into release. As they get closer to release, they will yank the head to the side in a desperate attempt to crack the whip and release the ball. Paul explained to me how the yanking to the side is also creates a fish hook.

So after the ball is released the momentum of the arm/body will unload the scaps and the create the final bow. Everything that should happen, happens after it should. The ball is released and two frames after the arch turns into a bow.

So you see scap loading/unloading and the bow arch bow sequence and think everything is hunky dory.

But it isn’t.

An elite throw starts with the scaps being retracted and the back being arched in preparation for violent unloading into release. The unloading of the scaps (contraction of the chest) creates a fish hook.[/quote]

I think this is a very important piece of info to have when working on arm action, which is what i am going through. What i got from this post is that just pulling back the elbows is not truly loading the scapula. The thrower should pinch the scaps/shoulder blades together, which then pulls the elbows back.

Here are two clips i have been studying:

When i first began looking at clips of Nolan Ryan after being introduced to arm action at SETPRO i didn’t really see the scap loading happening. My understanding was that the elbows should be pulled back, and it appeared that his weren’t, compared to someone like Strasburg. But after reading the post at the top, i now can see how Ryan may have a more eficient arm action. He is using the chest and back to throw the ball where it looks like Strasburg is yanking them elbows back, but not really “controlling” his scaps. Am i completely off on this, or can some of you see it to?

These clips are difficult angles to judge scap loading… Would help if they were down to their boxers too :smiley:

I would focus on your own arm action, rather than looking at clips of MLB pitchers I would look at clips of myself.

In another thread Paul posted part of his ebook, download and watch it, here’s the link to the other thread ->

Good luck,


that looks like a post from gstock… I have seen and read that before.

I think you get the idea, that someone can use the inertia of the shoulders rotating to load their scaps in a passive fashion. Its more efficient if you do this actively and you’ll see a nice arch in the back too.

If you open and watch the ebook that I mentioned you’ll get more info on this.

Also in Setpro, it was mentioned that Billy Wagner passively loaded his scaps.



The quote above is definitely from Greg Stock. I read it on Setpro, and there’s enough info in that paragraph to occupy your mind for a while. The term “fishhook” always has kind of confused me. I’m not sure exactly what Paul and Greg mean by that. I do know that the idea of actively retracting the scaps into scap load also should include active protracting of them into ball release. I’ve heard it described on Setpro as the final bow, or making a bear hug type motion at release. I kind of have made sense of it by watching a slow-mo video of John Smoltz releasing the ball. I think he’s a really good example of a guy who transfers momentum through different parts of the kinetic chain, in that his lower body really firms up and stops moving while the torso rotates, then the torso firms up, and momentum is transferred into his arm. With spinning, I understand the movement as being similar to a centrifuge where the torso keeps spinning as the arm releases the ball, whereas proper unloading of the scaps involvs the torso stopping its rotational path as the arm and scapula unfurl into ball release like a whip. I think the pec is active in doing this, and is not just along for the ride. Greg Stock also talked about how doing this properly takes stress off the rotator cuff during the deceleration of the arm, and I think I know what he was referring to there, also. With a spinning motion, the torso is like a centrifuge, and the momentum of the arm is directed directly away from the center, as if someone was to stand alongside of you, and pull your arm away from your body. This would put a lot of stress on the rotator cuff. Unfurling the whip properly would place the pulling force more in front of you, which is more like doing a seated row exercise, and would put more of the decelerative stress on the larger muscles of the back. I hope I’m on the right track here, and it would be great for Paul to comment. Throwing is a lot more complex than most people think it is.

I too was puzzled by the fish hook… my son still has a way to go before I need to worry about it.

As I understand it, the fish hook is the path that the glove arm scapula takes.

You might be able to find arm action drill on Setpro, its one of several I used with my son. I think he passively loads his scaps and we’ll get to that but he has nice forearm layback and leads with his elbow. Focusing on his lower half at the moment will get back to upper half at some point.


Here’s a quick/short explanation regarding Nolan Ryan’s scapula loading.

Paul, thanks for them two videos (also watched the ssecond video you put on Jimsters question.) It really helps explain what is going on and what we should be looking for to create a high level throw. The info you have available is extremely advanced compared to the normal “instruction”.

I am still trying to sort through some of it and organize my thoughts, but here is what i got.

The initial movement is the gathering of the body, and is preparing for the throw. This is the first bow. The throw starts when the elbows break and begin going up. Then the body accelerates into footplant as the back arches/flexes and this is where the scap load happens. (max load is at “high cock”?) It isn’t because of the rotation, but instead an attempt to “load up” the scaps and prepare for the most important and violent part of the throw. The shoulders rotate, and the scaps unload to deliver the baseball while the thrower continues to rotate around the front hip to finish the throw.

The part i believe i have been missing is the arch. My attempts have been to pull the elbows back, but this happens too early. I am at max load in the inverted W, while it should be later, going into landing. Maybe experimenting with more of a gather, initial bow, and starting the throw later could be a fix. But now (I think) I have a better idea of what my body should be doing regarding the arm action. Will be exprimenting with this tonight…

Thank you Paul for the explanations. I hope that you will reconsider an make the Setpro ebooks available to those of us late to the party. Any way thank you for your work.
I will continue to try to figure out as much as I can from the Setpro website.



Viewed both clips from Paul (Setpro) and found them to be excellent explanations. Best I could hope to do is to share them and encourage you to begin to video yourself trying to do it. I recall on Setpro many times it being said that you want to video yourself after every attempt and review the video immediately and make refinements, try again recording with video and viewing it and continue this process of trials and video until you get it right.


These are a couple of the throws I took last night. I was focusing more on movement vs velocity. Reviewing these clips, it looks like i have too much of an initial bow in this drill, and it is limiting my flex and the most important part of the throw, the end. Do the arms/elbows get up too early? A couple other knowledgeable opinions would be appreciated here. There are three views…


These are a couple of the throws I took last night. I was focusing more on movement vs velocity. Reviewing these clips, it looks like i have too much of an initial bow in this drill, and it is limiting my flex and the most important part of the throw, the end. Do the arms/elbows get up too early? A couple other knowledgeable opinions would be appreciated here. There are three views…[/quote]

I don’t see the gloveside very active as the hands break. Nothing there to create momentum, works against the arm side. I think the glove side either works for against a pitcher, not much middle ground.

Lower body looks more like a push from the back than a rotation. To me it is hard to get true internal rotation from a starting point like you begin with. So much of rotation and movment patterns are predicated on what happened before you got to that spot. So, to create the momentum you push and spin with the hips.

Getting the throwing arm to work properly is more important IMO. While I agree the glove arm needs to work well for synchronized rotation, understanding the role of momentum in the pitching arm is key.

I agree but I believe there is a synergy between the two.

Without a doubt. But for most of my clients, the understanding of how the pitching arm is used is far more helpful. I used predominantly work with kids on the glove arm and lower half in the hopes that their pitching arm efficiency would change, but I had consistently poor results with that. When I switched to a more backchaining top-down approach, the results were superior in old and new athletes alike.


The throwing-specific work we do is heavily backchained because we think it’s far easier to teach solid rotational principles of the lower half through sport-agnostic training - examples being medicine ball side tosses, resistance band frontal plane work, plyometric lateral work, etc.

Thanks for the input. I can see that the glove arm needs to be more involved now that you pointed it out.

What are your thoughts (anyone) on using a video camera during training versus a radar gun? In my experience the camera has not been the most helpful tool. When I am trying to perform a certain movement, it seems to slow me down because i am thinking too much.

The reason for this rambling is that at Ron Wolforths camp i hit 79.4 on a walking torque, and 81 on a turn and burn. But now at home, with a Stalker gun, i can’t surpass 73 on either of these drills. I am thinking that maybe when i am throwing alone with a camera i start thinking to much versus trying to throw the ball through the wall as i was at Wolforths? Thoughts?

Looks to me like you are throwing way uphill.

Begin keeping a log if you haven’t already. I would track how and what I’ve eaten and time of day. Record sleep. Record workouts and how you felt and what you did. Try weighing yourself daily also. Patterns may emerge.

I have also experienced inconsistencies with radar readings. We recently added in 2 days of mound work since we’re getting closer to the start of tryouts. The extra throwing seems to be taking its toll.

When you were at Wolforth’s camp was the throwing indoors or out?


Are you recommending to push with the back leg and then rotate?

I can recall in past threads talk about using the back leg to aid in the hip rotation, many high level throwers seem to be getting up out of the chair and they use this movement to help rotate the hips.



The throwing they gunned at the camp was indoors.

I’m thinking it was a combination of adrenaline, and the intent to throw as hard as possible without worrying what i looked like. That is the kind of environment i want to try and create on my own. Which is why i will probably cut down a quite a bit on the video camera and began recording radar readings instead.

I have already started a log on this site, but don’t update it that often. I do keep track of workouts and throwing velocities in two notebooks everyday though.


    Yes and no. The push has to be more of an intent to get the back hip completely open. I see him pushing vertically and more less spinning his hips. What I have found is that the high elbows, right or wrong, are caused from pushing and/or opening too soon in the delivery.