Pushing off the rubber

Here is my point of confusion, and if anyone can clarify this issue to my satisfacation I would appreciate it. It has been said by some “pitching
authorities” that velocity is achieved by exploding from the mound and
rapidly shifting your weight from the back leg to the front leg. Yet they stress not pushing off, but falling off the mound instead. Now, how does one explode from the rubber without pushing hard against the rubber. Falling of the mound as part of the delivery seems contradictory.

Oh boy… Not another “push off” thread…

You can search for these threads… They are only a week or two old, and they contain alot of helpful information with a bunch of specifics…



Your sense of confusion is completely understandable because there really is a lot of confusion about this subject. Hammer is right, this topic has been posted on extensively over the past couple of weeks.

Jim Dixon, Tom House, and some others, suggest that what pitchers really do is weight-shift forward with the hips during leg lift.

Think of it this way: If you start from a balanced position over both feet, then thrust your hip slightly forward while lifting your stride leg, your weight shifts from a balanced equilibrium point to an unstable point where the force of gravity on your body’s mass is going to make you go forward no matter what. Since the gravitational force will try to accelerate your body in a state of free-fall at a rate of 32 feet per second squared, it also provides sufficient ‘push’ to get you going explosively even if you are not strictly in free-fall but are pivoting on one leg with your center of gravity shifted away from the equilibrium balance point.

Here’s another way to think of the beginning of your delivery: Imagine your two feet and your pelvis make an isoceles triangle with its base (your feet) resting on the ground and the rest of your body weight resting directly on top of the pelvis. Your body weight is equally distributed over the two legs of your triangle, so you don’t fall down…for now. Now, remove one leg of the triangle (…by lifting your leg, right?). What happens? You fall toward the direction of the ‘legless’ side until you get that leg back down to stop yourself from falling. ‘Tall and Fall’ is not all that bad of a description, in some ways. Limited, perhaps, but not bad. (It’s limited because most of the actual velocity of your pitch comes from separation of your hips and shoulders and the rotational force (torque) that you apply when your shoulders open towards home plate. Only about 20% of velocity comes from the stride.)

The confusion about ‘push’ is that when we push with a leg or an arm, and our body moves because of the pushing action–the limb that did the pushing must straighten (Think: ‘push-up’–you push, your body moves up, and your arms straighten). But, a pitcher’s post leg does not straighten at the knee from beginning of a pitching motion through to foot-strike. Video shows that a pitcher’s post leg stays bent at the knee throughout the delivery, so there is no sign of a ‘push’.

What is most probable from all of this is, pitchers and their coaches typically use the word ‘push’ as a generic term for generating early momentum toward home plate.

If a coach uses poor or incomplete descriptive words, but still manages to teach you how to do something properly there is little or no harm done.

On the other hand, if a novice pitcher is trying to ‘push off’ the rubber within the normally accepted meaning of these words–he is probably going to straighten his post leg and hop up into the air. [Not recommended].

Sometimes it’s best to not over-think things. I’m definitely guilty of that. What if you just think of moving your front hip and side away from the rubber with increasing speed toward landing?

Try just thinking of that for a bit. Keep it that simple. Just a trial. See what happens. Sometimes the body just knows how to get something done without a lot of complicating details bouncing around in the brain. I’m with laflippin. The term “push” has all sorts of problems when trying to do it.

And I’m with you, DM–just because I overthink stuff all the time, it sure doesn’t mean that active pitchers should necessarily analyze themselves too deeply.

Heck, if I could pitch, I’d be pitching instead of analyzing pitching…LOL!

do a search for laflippin, hammer, and dustydelso on this site. it was debated extensively last week but i’m not sure which thread. think it was under the mechanics and general pitching sections. no need to repost stuff. there are clearly 2 schools of though on the subject. one new thought does come to mind from la’s last post. can you extend your post leg into the hip, keep the hips and shoulders closed to the plate, and the angle of the shoulders hips and thigh in the > position going horizontally down the hill? this would shed some light on the subject in my mind. i think you can.

in the words of jack nicholson playing the joker in batman: "gentlemen, lets broaden our minds, —lawrence!

“…can you extend your post leg into the hip, …”

–Not sure exactly what you are describing here, Dusty. To me, “extending the post leg” would require the same consequence as “extending your arm” or extending any other jointed set of levers…if you start with some angle at the joint and then extend the system (to make it push on something) then the angle at the joint must change as the pushing is accomplished.

I’m starting to think that some of the confusion about this is related to the isometric tension that we all must maintain in our legs to counteract gravity–that is, so we can maintain a stable equilibrium position. An extra “push” with the legs, to overcome gravity, might be the most obvious way to think of for getting out of mere equilibrium, that is, moving forward. That definitely works for jumpers and sprinters coming off the blocks but video analysis just doesn’t support that explanation for pitchers.

To weight shift forward without a “push” from the legs, there does have to be some rotational change where the pelvis connects to the femurs, as DM alluded, but I think this analogy works pretty well:

Your two feet are the base of an isoceles triangle with your pelvis and trunk, etc, resting on the top vertex. With sufficient tension (an isometric push against gravity) you can maintain this equilibrium situation. You can change the distribution of weight slightly over the base of the triangle without making it fall, but if you lift up one of the legs of this triangle, you are no longer in a stable, equilibrium state. You’ve removed crucial support for the weight of most of your body, so gravity will act on that weight to try and bring it straight down to the ground. But, your ‘post leg’, the remaining leg of the triangle, still prevents your weight from falling straight down. Instead, your body is levered forward and downward, until you catch yourself with the stride leg (and make a new triangle).

This analogy is too simple, because the post leg is slightly bent, and its femur-to-pelvis connection is a ball-and-socket rotational joint that allows all that stuff on the top to rotate open as the post leg pivots, but, heck, DM’s right–these are probably not the best things for pitchers to be worrying about…

i agree, thinking about throwing strikes is much more important.

when you talk about the triangle, there is no triangle until the front foot hits the ground. until then you are either balancing or creating momentum to the plate from the post leg. if your hips get out in front as far as you can control them, and the upper body stays behind them (moving the head of the femur to a new angle) creating muscular tension and delaying the forward momentum by rebalancing the weight of the upper body to allow for a greater force in the kinetic chain (preparing the body to whip in a helical plane which varies from arm slot to arm slot).

that’s what looks like and feels like happens to me. if a kid gets this by telling them to push - good. if they get it by telling them to get the foot down and rotate - good. the critical thing is getting a good, safe delivery. i don’t tell all the guys i work with the same thing. that’s why it is critical to have someone who can recognize a safe and efficient delivery present when young guys practice.

one of the reasons mazzone watches every pitch his pitchers throw in the bullpen and on the mound (unless they are a reliever and he’s rockin in the dugout). he checks them before and after games and off days.

"when you talk about the triangle, there is no triangle until the front foot hits the ground. "

------well…no, at the risk of prolonging this discussion, I meant that in the set position your two feet and pelvis make a kind of triangle. Then when you lift one leg of that triangle (the stride leg) with your weight shifted slightly forward of the post leg, away you go. You can’t stop from falling forward until you bring the stride foot down to hit the ground. That does make a new quasi-stable triangle form out of your feet and pelvis–for a brief moment, until the trailing post leg pops into the air. But, then it comes down again to make a new stable triangle so the pitcher can stand his ground and field the ball, or whatever.

Hmmm…fun with triangles… you could just about simulate the legs and hips motion with a drafting compass, if a drafting compass only had jointed hips and jointed legs.