"Cocking the arm" or Scapular Load

Coach Oleary, You talk about while pitching, entering the High Cocked Position but every GOOD major league pitcher we will see, passes through the upside down w, or the scapular load, many never raising their hand above their head before they start to whip the arm around. I mean their are examples of the scapular load on your own site under the Pitchers who have avoided injury, bext example being Nolan Ryan, Tom Glavine and Roger Clemens.

I’m confused onto why you preach the high cocked position when there are examples of pitchers doing the exact opposite, I would appreciate any feedback.

First, let me say that I’m not a big fan of the idea that people should pass through the traditional High Cocked position. I just know that a lot of people are coached that they should pass through it. For the record, I would prefer that the elbow be extended more like 135 degrees (ball roughly at ear level) rather than the traditional 90 degrees.

Second, I think in general focusing on Scapular Loading is probably wasted effort, at least at first. Given the relative size of the muscles involved, I think a pitcher’s time is much better spent focusing on getting the rotation of the hips leading the rotation of the shoulders by the largest amount possible (anywhere between 45 and 90 degrees).

If a pitcher does have very good hip action, then they might indeed be able to pick up a few more MPH by scapular loading. However, I view this as a risky proposition for a couple of reasons. First, by trying to do something with the scapula, you could interfere with its normal functioning and increase the risk of injury. Second, it seems to me that, if scapular loading is indeed something that pitchers do (as opposed to something that just happens naturally) there seems to be a right way and a wrong way to do it.

I would describe the right way to do it as more of a right-side-up W; with the elbows at or below the level of the shoulders. I would describe the wrong way to do it as an upside-down W with the elbows above the level of the shoulders. I believe having the elbows above the shoulders increases the risk of rotator cuff problems.

My bottom line?

Spend your time focusing on the rotation of of the hips, torso, and shoulders, with the rotation of the hips leading the rotation of the shoulders. If scapular loading happens, just make sure it happens the right way (with the elbows below the shoulders).

I agree with Chris on the above points. We worked with Scap loading about 7-8 months ago. We worked on more of a traditional break like Jason Schmidt. I can honestly say the velocity increased. It will not happen overnight and if you work on the motion it will definitely help you out. You also need to work on many JOBE exercises. IT happens naturally but if you really emphasize the action you will see a difference. Now just like Chris stated you can run into problems with it.

REDSOX I also wanted you to know that at first it will feel a bit awkward but just like everything else with hard work and practice it will feel like second nature. I’d also recommend doing many exercises with 2lb weights to strengthen the the rear back muscles and scaps. Also tubing can strengthen them.

Good luck !

[quote=“Redsox04”]…every GOOD major league pitcher we will see, passes through the upside down w, or the scapular load, …[/quote]They don’t ALL do this. My observation, and it’s only my unscientific observations, is that most MLB pitchers don’t. It isn’t that ubiquitous and therefore the “upside down w” isn’t necessarily when maximum scap loading occurs. That would be the case with those who do continue this configuration to where the elbows are above the shoulders with the forearms pointing downward. Not all pitchers do this. Smoltz and Prior do it, Wagner to some extent but not as severe as Prior. Guys like Clemens, Ryan, Kevin Brown, Josh Becket, etc. don’t. They and a large number of others go through a HORIZONTAL w just prior to the front foot turning over to land. As it does and the hips rotate into landing, the forearm continues up through it’s highest position then LOOPS down, around and up through release. The elbows never really get above the shoulders with the forearms pointing downward in these pitchers. In this method, maximum scap loading happens with the elbows at or near shoulder height.

[quote=“Redsox04”]I’m confused onto why you preach the high cocked position when there are examples of pitchers doing the exact opposite, I would appreciate any feedback.
THANKS[/quote]If you look at video of these pitchers, you’ll notice that nearly all of them go through what’s loosely termed “high cocked” when the front foot lands. Elbow shoulder high (more or less), hand at it’s highest point (more or less), upper arm to forearm angle of 90 deg. (more or less). I believe that what Chris O’Leary is saying about high cocked is that the 90 deg. angle may not be the best for the tissues in the shoulder socket. Do I have you right with that Chris? Some are more than 90 and some are less, in my observations but they almost all go through something that looks like high cocked. If they don’t, how do they ever get from forearms pointing downward all the way to release? What would be the orientation of the forearm at front foot landing?

I completely agree. When you are talking about the “upside down w”, very few pitchers pass through it and in my experience (from doing my analyses) those tend to be pitchers with injury problems (including damaged shoulders). Guys like Don Drysdale, Paul Byrd, and Mark Prior (to name a few).

I think coaching pitchers that they should pass through the “upside down w” is INCREDIBLY bad advice.

Completely agree.

It’s more accurate to describe what they do as a horizontal or even “right side up w”.

Mostly agree. I would say “elbows at or below shoulder height.”

Yes. My concern is that having the forearm at 90 degrees as you pass through the High Cocked position (“pass through” is a key phrase) may do two things.

  1. Increase the force with which the forearm bounces as the shoulder starts to turn.

  2. Increase the amount at which the forearm will fly out as the shoulders start to decelerate after first rapidly accelerating.

This bounce-flyout cycle will certainly at least decrease the range of motion of the elbow (as the attachment of the Brachialis to the Ulna increases in size to fight the flyout) and, if the pitcher does not pronate early while the elbow is extending as the forearm flies out, may rupture the UCL and cause bones chips to form in the elbow.

Completely agree.

If scap loading was so important to throwing, then wouldn’t professional football players do it? I have looked at lots of pro quarterbacks and have yet to see it…

Instead, the key seems to be that they point their shoulders at the target so they can then powerfully rotate their shoulders (using the muscles of their torso).

Ok are you seriously trying to compare the act of throwing a football with pitching? There are so many different factors and reasons why QB’s throw different that pitchers, eg- ball size, QB’s have to have throw on a whim, pitchers take their time and are not rushed to throw,ball shape…


Of course, there are differences. However, I think that there is a lot that carries over from one type of throwing to the other.

That is why I also study baseball position players, cricket bowlers, javelin throwers, handball players, water polo players, tennis players (serving), volleyball players (spiking).

While there are differences, there are also absolutes that carry over from one sport to the other.

I agree whole-heartedly that hip/shoulder separation, shoulder rotation, etc. are the big ticket items with respect to velocity. You asked before why do it. It’s all about using ALL of the tools in the toolbox. Maximizing of your throwing abilities. Don’t leave tools in the toolbox. No, scap loading isn’t the panacaea but it is ONE element. Also, I’ll go out on a limb here to say that ALL hard throwing MLB pitchers do it. Maybe not always intentionally but they all do it.

Just one more tool, that’s all. Add it to all of the others. Also, I believe that humeral alignment can be maintained during external and internal rotation whether the scaps are pinched together or not since this complex is what the arm is attached to the body by. Move the scapular complex back, down or up and the arm can go with it.

I’d mostly agree with you. The pictures don’t lie.

My only question is whether it should be the first thing to focus on or the _th, and it bothers me when people say that it should absolutely, positively be at the top of the list.


My incredibly unscientific opinion is that it’s really a “component” of overall arm action issues that must be “learned”. I agree with Paul Nyman that one should use a reverse progression approach to learning such a complex motor skill and arm action would be #1 in that approach. Once proficiency is reached with arm action, one can then step backward and add some more to the learning equation. Scap loading in this scenario is not #1, or #2, or any number.

It’s just part of the arm action portion of the overall equation but, no, it’s not the only answer to the woes of the pitching wannabee world.


Jeremy Bonderman

John Smoltz

Billy Wagner

Roger Clemens

Pedro Martinez

Nice… Exactly what I am talking about. Also I posted some pictures on the How Roger Clemens actually Throws the Ball thread that are similar, but it shows more pitchers Scap Loading.

Question though, how did you get the pictures on your post?[/b]

I have those clips of Clemens and Smoltz. The Clemens one is very good when speaking of arm action and “reverse forearm bounce”, or lack thereof.

I also want to know how you got the videos there. I know they’re both “gif” files but how would I go about posting more?

The problem is that most of the guys above have serious shoulders problems, and I believe it’s due to how they scap load.

In the pictures of Bonderman, Smoltz, and Wagner (at least) notice that they all have their elbows above their shoulders as they start to turn their pitching forearms over. I believe that, due to something called impingement syndrome, this causes serious rotator cuff problems.

I believe a better person to look at in terms of the right way to scap load would be Curt Schilling. He keeps his elbows down (as did Nolan Ryan).

I don’t see how you can say that the Clemens clip doesn’t show any Reverse Pitching Forearm Bounce.

As soon as his shoulders start turning (which is just a few frames into the clip) his pitching forearm starts bouncing back toward 1B and then flies out toward 3B.

Sorry Chris but I completely disagree with using the term “bounce” here. It’s a smooth loop. Bounce, at least in my mind, implies a sudden stop and start back in the other direction. That’s not happening in Clemens or just about every other MLB pitcher I’ve studied.

It’s only a smooth loop if you look at it in slow motion.

If you look at it in full speed, you will see that the upper arm reaches the point of maximum external rotation and then comes to a sudden stop. This at least puts significant strain on the front of the rotator cuff.

If the forearm bounces back too severely and comes to a stop too quickly (due to the pitcher starting to turn their shoulders before their forearm is vertical) then you can twist the Humerus in the Glenoid Fossa and injure the Glenoid Labrum.