Thoracic Mobility In Pitchers & 5 Ways to Improve it

Hey fellas,

The strength guys just finished a few more videos on thoracic mobility and some simple exercises to help you increase it. Of course, I had to throw in my .02 observation and what I see with pitchers that have higher arm slots.

There’s quite a few more on our YouTube Channel and the recent article on thoracic mobility can be found here.

Awesome stuff thinktank!

I really enjoy the things you bring to LTP and your site as well.

Wales, thanks man.

I can tell you Wolforth has his pitchers also use the same foam roller exercise for thoracic spine mobility. And Wolforth isn’t a bad instructor to be in agreement with! :wink:

Another exercise he uses with the foam roller is sit on a bench and crunch the roller between your legs. Being sitting up straight and put your hands on or near your ears with elbows out. Twist your body so your right hand is over your right knee and bring your hand to your knee slowly and then up. Then twist so your right hand is over the roller and bring your hand to the knee and up. Then your right hand to your left knee, down and up. The switch sides. This also works great after doing the foam roller on the ground and really helps you “loosen up”.

I lovvvve foam roller exercises. The foam roller has become my best friend after workouts.

BenFa,

Thanks. I appreciate you mentioning Wolforth, I think he has some good ideas but personally, I am not a follower.

That’s surprising. Not to derail the conversation too much (I did like your post/video), but Wolforth takes a lot of his info from Paul, who you cite as a professional inspiration. What about Ron do you disagree with?

I don’t want to discredit Ron, because I think he has some good ideas and I’m not on the board to trash another man’s views.

I hesitate to make a sweeping generalization about Wolforth’s program because I don’t know enough about it. However, what I do know, I don’t totally agree. The points I disagree with are:

  1. Simply by focusing on pronation will help prevent arm injuries is false. Way too many variables in that equation. I do think it’s important but too say that’s #1 isn’t what I believe. Players that have lack of mobility or restrictions in movement patterns in the hips will never properly decelerate regardless of the degree of pronation.

  2. I tend to see a lot of “false” or “forced” movement patterns, primarily in the follow through with the excessive forward flexion. To me, these guys look the same as what I see with players that use the towel drill. I see the head bobbing excessivley and it doesn’t necessarily match the natural path of the arm. Those movements looked forced.

  3. Most “high elbows” are not an arm action issue, and regardless of the balls used underneath the arms to stay “connected” will not solve the problem. I believe this is an “energy transfer” issue that starts in the lower body. I think the ball underneath the arm encourages the player to focus more on keeping the ball underneath the arm versus something much more important, speeding up out of the glove.

He’s done some great things and has encouraged coaches and pitchers to open their mind to new ideas. However, like all of us, we all have our own opinions and belief systems.

I totally understand that you aren’t interested in trashing someone’s program! I think we are capable of having an intelligent discussion :slight_smile:

  1. I agree with this. Wolforth doesn’t necessarily believe this either. However, I do agree with you about movement patterns and specific mobility issues that isn’t adequately controlled for in most training programs. (Somewhat of the point of this post!)

  2. I also find fault with non-specific movements from time to time. Our wrist weight and weighted ball program requires max effort when it comes to ballistic training, which I think is a far better stimulus when it comes to movement pattern re-training. Like Mark Rippetoe (Starting Strength) is fond of saying, you can power clean with perfect form with a broomstick or an empty bar. That doesn’t mean you can do it when it gets heavy!

  3. I disagree with you that “high elbows” is not an arm action issue; I think it is primarily an arm action problem that requires ballistic retraining (though the use of the lower body is definitely relevant). I haven’t yet formed an opinion on the connection ball, but I think I can see a decent use for it.

Good discussion!

[quote] I disagree with you that “high elbows” is not an arm action issue; I think it is primarily an arm action problem that requires ballistic retraining (though the use of the lower body is definitely relevant). I haven’t yet formed an opinion on the connection ball, but I think I can see a decent use for it.

Good discussion![/quote]

I would have to disagree with you on this one because of my experience last winter with a pitcher named Nick Tropeano. I would have been in agreement with you this time last year.

Here’s a video of Nick, tell me what you see and what you would advise to a pitcher with similar issues.

Note: Throughout the Winter, we never one time even mentioned arm action when dealing with this particular issue.

As you see with his arm action, the connection ball would never work.

I see poor use of the glove shoulder causing the timing issues, but I would call that an arm action change.

My school follows Wolforth’s stuff and we have begun to use the “connect balls” this year. We use them for three drills.

One is where you put the ball under your throwing armpit to simulate an arm action where you raise your arm up by leading with the elbows and keeping your throwing arm close to perpendicular to your torso instead of an arm action where you raise your arm leading with your hand and keep it parallel to your torso. If the ball falls before your shoulders start to rotate then your arm is getting parallel to your torso instead of perpendicular.

Arm action they are trying to get

Arm action they are trying to get rid of

Two is where you put the ball between your throwing arm forearm and bicep to simulate the same arm action as in drill one. If the ball falls before your shoulders start to rotate to throw then your arm is getting parallel to your torso instead of perpendicular.

Three is where you put the ball under your GS armpit to promote your GS to tuck into your body instead of flying open with your GS and pulling your GS arm away from your body. If the ball falls before your throw, then you’re pulling off.

Personally, I have seen pitchers’ arm action change drastically in just one off-season. These drills just reinforce what he already teaches through other drills. Whether every pitcher should try to be forced into one type of throwing mechanics is debatable, even if those mechanics are the most efficient, which is also debatable.

Could you elaborate more? I would like to hear your opinion on the glove side. I personally don’t see much of a difference but I could see how the glove side began to work more efficiently once the arm did.

We worked on speeding up and projecting the center mass. That’s it, we did this a couple of ways. He also spent a great deal of time re-enforcing movement patterns in the hips (center mass) and plenty of focus on becoming more mobile in that area.

Again, we never even discussed the upper body.

Thanks for the info.

If you feel like they work for you, they’re good drills.

I don’t see this with Bauer.

From what I’ve seen with the balls is pitchers focusing more on what it’s supposed to look like versus just getting it going out of the glove.

We focus on arm action daily but not with the hopes of making a total transformation.

One area that influences arm action more than any other is the ability to speed up the center mass.

I would never spend time trying to completely change a players arm action entirely, ( I would recruit it) I just haven’t seen enough players that can actually make drastic changes. Plus, I wouldn’t want to spend most of his time trying to make his weakness, his strength.

Once players learn to control and manipulate the center mass with increased tempo, you would be surprised how the arm begins to make changes.

The same can be said by forcing the arm to throw heavier baseballs. I think Kyle would agree with the heavier baseballs (6 oz.)

Great discussion. About to get some sleep and have a 14 hour day tomorrow training pitchers, so I’ll try to weigh in on Monday!

I’m mostly going on what works for me and I agree that a better lower body can definitely help the upper body. Improving my lower body allows my upper body to work in a more efficient way and has allowed me to throw harder with more command.

When I’ve seen teammates use the ball, they don’t seem overly mechanical or robotic. But instead of trying to not let the ball drop as their goal of the drill, they just throw normally. Even if the ball drops too soon, they are still trying to at least improve their mechanical efficiency. This is how I perform the drill just trying to throw and achieving a proper scap load and follow through. If you use the drill for its true purpose (efficient arm action that takes advantage of separation and follow through that doesn’t pose a significant injury threat) then you can ignore the perceived purpose (not let the ball drop until a certain moment in your delivery). I tried to explain what I meant as well as I could but I’m still not sure this makes sense…

I think you should focus on lower body mechanics first to see if your upper body mechanics can be ironed out through there, but I also think isolating upper body mechanical can helpful after your lower body mechanics are solid. You may not be able to change some aspects of the mechanics, maybe not able to correct how you raise your arm, but I think general things such as scap load and follow through can be isolated and improved. This is what I’ve seen from my teammates. I don’t have access to video to see if there are any large arm action changes nor do I know how hard other teammates work with certain drills to try to improve.

Ben,

I was referring to the path Bauer takes out of the glove. There’s no way the ball stays underneath his arm.

Personally, I’m not sold on Bauer, I think his strength is the ability to mask pitches, (ala Perry Husband) not actual stuff.

His arm action is average at best.

“(efficient arm action that takes advantage of separation” Not sure what you are referring to here.

I’m not really referring to the lower body, I’m referring to the center mass, the belly button to the top of the thigh.

I have found that the arm/legs want to work together (symmetry of sorts) but become disconnected once coaches begin to alter or bring their pre-concieved notion of what a pitcher should look like.

I agree with a lot of what you’re saying and we isolate movement patterns that suggest the same as you’re referring to.

Again, if you find it useful it’s a good drill. I just think it’s creative marketing and a lot of hype, hat’s off to Ron.

Added Note: A primary influencer of arm action is the ability to manipulate and control the center mass. That will take you much further than a connection ball. If you can’t do that, the ball doesn’t matter anyway.

Connection is the ability to connect the hips at their highest rotational speeds to the torso/shoulders/arm action in my opinion.

Players that have poor mobility or restricted movements will never connect anything.

I see a lot of cookie cutting deliveries and exagerrated finishes (head bobbing, exaggerated flexion).

Final thought: You will never connect or properly decelerate ANYTHING until you learn to manipulate the center mass (whether it be increased mobility or more efficient movement patterns). That’s the separator for most players.

Influencing arm action is much easier than changing arm action.

I know that defining ‘ideal’ mechanics is a no-no, BUT - Who has an ‘efficient’ arm action?

Or maybe just what does it look like (before I ruin your awesome thread)?

[quote=“kylejamers”]I know that defining ‘ideal’ mechanics is a no-no, BUT - Who has an ‘efficient’ arm action?

Or maybe just what does it look like (before I ruin your awesome thread)?[/quote]

Great Question!!

My opinion would be those that can successfully connect the arm to the hips. So many different ways to get there. Another aspect, is the redirection of the forearm, I think that’s where Bauer suffers

I personally believe you are your arm action, so to speak. It’s your signature, your identity. It can be changed or altered but it takes a lot of work and determination and more times than not, it will never entirely change past a certain age. But like us, like our identity and signature, it can be influenced much easier.

:wink: