Thoracic Mobility In Pitchers & 5 Ways to Improve it

baseballthinktank is a breath of fresh air on these forums. Thought provoking stuff. I would especially agree with the point that how you control the center of mass has a huge impact on how the arm action works and how connected you can be. When I kept my center of mass back too long at one point this fall, my arm action lagged and I was entirely disconnected. When I got it moving forward and improved my posture as well, it was much easier to repeat my delivery and stay connected, and my arm action was more in sync with the rest of my body.

I also agree with the notion that there is no one best “arm action.” Sure, there are general principles that the hard throwers have in common (scap loading, tons of external rotation, etc.) but the biggest thing is connection. I’ve noticed this in my own throwing as well…my best velocity comes when the upper and lower half are flowing together. The arm can’t deliver the ball too soon or you won’t get enough separation or torque, and it can’t wait too long or you bleed energy from the lower half. This is why guys can throw 95 mph with a ton of different arm action styles. What they all have in common is connection between their upper and lower halves.

[quote=“LankyLefty”]
my best velocity comes when the upper and lower half are flowing together. The arm can’t deliver the ball too soon or you won’t get enough separation or torque, and it can’t wait too long or you bleed energy from the lower half. This is why guys can throw 95 mph with a ton of different arm action styles. What they all have in common is connection between their upper and lower halves.[/quote]

No doubt, Lanky!

It’s all about timing. So, here’s my definition of timing. Timing is the idea that each movement reaches its destination in time or space and enables and promotes the next movement.

The key is linking up what you do, now what others think you should do.

Well, I gotta go, have a plane to catch. Hopefully, this answers the reason on why I don’t agree with Wolforth, still have a few other reasons and I will share those later.

P.S: Ron has some good ideas, but his marketing ideas are the best! (Thanks Dan Kennedy)

Hard to believe the original topic was thoracic mobility!

I agree with you about the arm action, and I have been hesitant to use certain drills that isolate certain patterns. Whenever I do the drills, I just focus on what you would call timing and I don’t worry about any arbitrary signs of ideal arm action.

I was wondering what everyone’s views on correcting arm action if it is perceived to heighten the risk of injury. Following Wolforth, our program tries to get all of its pitchers to follow through with their arm staying within their left and right shoulders (ie center of your body). This comes from a belief that if your arm path continues to the far side of your left shoulder (right shoulder for a LHP), you are placing more stress on your labrum. Therefore, to rectify the arm path for a pitcher who has a lower arm slot than over the top, our program teaches all of its pitchers to rotate their torsos to the right (left for a LHP) after release so your arm can continue in a natural path after release but still stay within your right and left shoulders.

Ben,

IMO classic sign of over-coaching!

Great thread! sorry I missed this one and apologize for jumping in late.

First, I’d agree with ThinkTank regarding the emphasis on arm path in follow-through being an over-teach… not even sure I understand the movement you’re describing. So a righty pitcher, who naturally would be rotating from right to left is then being forced to rotate back to the right? maybe I’m misunderstanding, seeing a video might help.

Also, ThinkTank, would like to go back to that video you posted of your pitcher who had the high elbows issue. This is something I see all the time so definitely interested in hearing your approach with a guy like this.

I totally agree, that while the tendency is to want to attack/change the arm action, issues like this can fix themselves after finding and addressing problems with what you refer to as “arm influencers” (love that). As a side, something I heard a presenter make at the recent Cressey Seminar fits in here: “find the primary dysfunction.” he was talking about physical therapy and movement patterns, but it relates to pitching mechanics too. Find the main culprit (arm influencer) and the other things will fall into place.

So back to that video. To me it looks like in the 2nd video of your pitcher he’s moving down the mound faster, getting to front foot plant more aggressively. From what I’ve seen, guys with slower strides and less back leg drive sometimes get upper-half dominant and try to reach back for more or get separation by pulling the elbows up and back. Other times I see it occur when guys start raising their arms too early out of their leg lift.

Anyway, would be interested in your take - do you agree with what I’m seeing, or am I missing it? Would love to hear what you worked on with this pitcher and how you directed his training. Hope that’s not asking too much. Good stuff, and keep it coming!

I think they are saying Drew Storen wouldn’t make it in their program.

Edit: I was linking a youtube vid of Storen from pitcherspowerdrive, but I haven’t a clue why it isn’t linking.

Phil,

I would be glad to share a few things we did. However, we are about to release a new product and I can’t show everything. Before, I begin to discuss, I would really like to hear from Kyle. I know that he is speaking down in TX and I wanted his opinion on the high elbows.

I didn’t know much about Ron Wolforth’s program and I think what I’m hearing has to be over-exaggerated.

If anyone could help me, I would really appreciate it. Here are the notes I have received after Kyle’s initial question about what I don’t agree with.

  1. The idea that everyone finish the same (excessive flexion of the trunk) and on top of that, keep their arm inside both shoulders so they share the same path for deceleration. That’s for every pitcher, regardless of the plane, angle or slot?

  2. That everyone should work to stay connected with the balls out of the glove to emulate better arm action? I think he calls them connection balls? What are you connecting them to? Upper body, shoulder, hips???

  3. That pronation of the arm will reduce arm injuries and that everyone should pronate the same way regardless of mobility deficits, faulty movement patterns of the hips? Does he test mobility and function of the hips? Or does everyone just start with the pronation drills and that’s just what everyone does?

  4. The lower body, does he teach the path it’s supposed to take or does he allow it to match up with the arm?

  5. High elbows is purely an arm action issue and that the balls will prevent high elbows? I can prove that to be wrong. I do think that some are because of faulty arm action, but 90% of what I see is not the case.

I would love to hear others that are familiar with his program. If it’s true, I could easily say I don’t agree with 90% of what he’s teaching.

To me, pitching mechanics are as unique as fingerprints. They look the same from a distance until you put them under a microscope.

It’s called “timing”. The lower half establishes the overall timing for the delivery by how fast it gets the center of mass moving. This, in turn, dictates the timing available to each part of the delivery.

I’ve seen this myself. In fact, knowing that this happens, there have been a few situations where I was having trouble getting a read on a pitcher so I simply had him get his butt moving faster.

It’s called “timing”. The lower half establishes the overall timing for the entire delivery by how fast it gets the center of mass moving. This, in turn, dictates the timing available to each part of the delivery.

I’ve seen this myself. In fact, knowing that this happens, there have been a few occasions where I was having trouble getting a read on a pitcher so I simply had him get his butt moving faster.

I believe that when coaches attempt to alter parts of a delivery, they change the timing of those parts and the new timing likely doesn’t fit into the delivery without corresponding changes to other parts. This is why is it so difficult to change a person’s arm action.

So true! In fact, if you take the approach of influencing arm action, you let the arm figure out how to change. And it has a much better chance of doing so in a way that is most natural.

[quote=“Phil R.”]So back to that video. To me it looks like in the 2nd video of your pitcher he’s moving down the mound faster, getting to front foot plant more aggressively. From what I’ve seen, guys with slower strides and less back leg drive sometimes get upper-half dominant and try to reach back for more or get separation by pulling the elbows up and back. Other times I see it occur when guys start raising their arms too early out of their leg lift.

Anyway, would be interested in your take - do you agree with what I’m seeing, or am I missing it? Would love to hear what you worked on with this pitcher and how you directed his training. Hope that’s not asking too much. Good stuff, and keep it coming![/quote]
I’ll toss in my 2 cents…

Exagerated movements (e.g. high elbows) means the involved body parts are moving further distances and that takes more time. By getting the pitcher to move faster down the hill, the overall timing of the delivery shortens as does the timing available for each part of the delivery. The result? Body movements start to become more abbreviated - the elbows don’t go as high.

I think this thread has come a long way since I chimed in, but I am also not someone who owns Wolforth’s program (Combat Pitcher or Athletic Pitcher), so I can’t speak to the specifics of it either.

However, this is definitely wrong:

Wolforth is a major proponent of the A/B/C posture types. A being Roger Clemens / Nolan Ryan and C being Tim Lincecum / Trevor Bauer (with B coming halfway between).

The pronation drills that are “false” movement patterns are integrated back into the delivery via backchaining/blending, which is not a Wolforth tenet but rather a Nyman tenet (which is actually a Soviet Sports Science theory).

Not really sure what he uses the connection balls for. I use them for guys with Niemann-like arm actions that require better intent out of the glove, and it works well enough. I don’t use them with the intent of depressing the level of the upper arm to fix “high elbow” issues.

Pronation of the forearm is relevant; there is no debate about that. Better still is training the ability to reduce high rates of dynamic external rotation around the shoulder joint, though I don’t know if Ron thinks the same way I do on this (unlikely).

Ron’s weakest areas are in the fields of physical training and fitness; this isn’t a surprise. He is behind on the times when it comes to strength training and I am pretty sure he knows that, which is a major reason he wants to hear my presentation.

Storen’s use of the midsection is damn near perfect. It is the disconnection between the torso and the legs that cause the problems otherwise, as well as the initial linear direction of the torso that cause the problems with his arm action.

It’s also important to realize that guys respond very differently when it comes to different training methodologies. I have two pitchers who sit at 86-88 MPH until they use 6-7 oz baseballs, after which they throw 91-92 MPH. This should never happen; research shows that the arm doesn’t get any more efficient in any pitcher DeRenne or Blitzblau had in their studies.

However, these pitchers have previous injuries to their elbows before they met me, and they are generally apprehensive about throwing at maximum intensity. They consciously believe they are giving me 100%, but they aren’t. It’s a subconscious feeling due to picking up an implement that hurt them in the past that disallows them from giving their all. They need to be “de-programmed” by using weighted implements (and in their case, wrist weights) to provide “arm/brain therapy” (what I tend to call it) to restore a more efficient arm action.

These guys need specific arm action work, because no amount of telling them how to use the center of mass will help. It is a deeply rooted physio-psychological problem that I have come to appreciate after working with 20+ previously injured pitchers. Physically, they are all able to produce their pre-injury velocities - and mentally, they believe they are capable of it.

But they aren’t. And that’s where unorthodox training methods like weighted baseballs and wrist weights really improve motor unit recruitment, to say nothing of the physical and mechanical adaptations they take on.

I will have some really interesting data in early 2013 to share with everyone as well as my long-awaited MaxVelo program (combining my Fastball Training program with a comprehensive throwing program). I even have a control group and an intermediate training group (4-6 oz. baseballs, wrist weights) to go along with my MaxVelo group (3-64 oz baseballs, wrist weights, “arm/brain therapy” movement training, etc).

ThinkTank: thanks, I can definitely appreciate not wanting to divulge your secrets if you’ve got something in the works. I look fwd to checking it out when it’s ready to go!

Roger: thanks for your input. I think that makes a lot of sense, and that’s been my general experience as well.

Kyle: very good point about different guys responding differently to different training methods. And especially like your comments on guys coming off injuries needing to get over that psychological hurdle.

Reminds me of when I was in college and a story I heard about JJ Putz (we were in the same draft class, he’s only had a slightly more successful pitching career :lol: ). We were in the same conference and some of my roommates had played with Michigan guys in the Cape, so we got to know each other a little.

Anyway, as they told it, Putz had been coming back from an elbow injury, had been cleared to pitch, was totally healthy, but his velocity hadn’t come back. That winter he’d been stuck in the mid 80’s after being a mid 90’s guy pre-injury. So one day during a simulated game, after several 85 MPH fastballs, his coach shouted at him in frustration: “Throw the damn ball!!!” And I guess it was enough to piss him off and break through the mental barrier, because all of his sudden his next pitches were 91,92… and he was back on track.

KyleB,

Thanks for your response. I totally agree 100% with athletes responding to different methodologies, great point! That’s the basis of everything of we believe as well.

Our training methods are a bit different than most. We promote Kinesthetic awareness and feel. It’s my belief that coaches and players rely too heavily on sight, (perception of others) and spend most of their time trying to “please” by looking and moving in a fashion that others (coaches) view as appropriate.

Once coaches begin to make changes it effects the internal timing. Again, my definition of timing is “Timing is the idea that each movement reaches its destination in time or space and enables and promotes the next movement”

Ron’s angle, in my opinion, is that he has found a way to lower the risk for injury by others following HIS model, not theirs. When this happens, it’s no different than what he views wrong with the instruction in pro baseball.

To me it’s no different than what Ron preaches about pitching instructors in pro baseball, he just takes a different angle.

I understand the importance of backward chaining when a change is needed. However, to suggest that everyone should be doing the same thing is misleading and probably not the best avenue. When a change is made, it affects everything else and often interrupts fluidity and timing.

It’s just my belief that a player should embrace being different. Based on reading your response about pronation of the shoulder, you seem to believe as well as I do, it’s not the answer for all arm problems. With pitching, everything effects everything.

When the foot strikes during the throwing motion, there is pronation (internal rotation) occurring at both the hip and shoulder.
If the hip cannot decelerate the pronation (internal rotation) that occurs at foot strike when throwing, the posterior shoulder will have to work that much harder to decelerate.

This leaves the athlete more vulnerable to syndromes such as a tight (or fibrotic) posterior capsule, anterior translation of the humeral head, impingement syndromes, and early onset degenerative changes. This call be better avoided by a glute (hip) that functions well in all three planes of motion and is strong.

So, I think it’s misleading to players to suggest that the #1 focus should be a “forced” pronation of the throwing arm. I just feel there are way too many variables in that equation to spend that much time trying to train and revamp movement patterns. Once, a player reaches a certain age, the movements can be influenced but not entirely changed.

So, why not focus on building the delivery and timing around the engrained movement patterns of the arm (arm action).

It’s also my belief that a player will move accordingly to the end goal. If you are constantly preaching that pronation is responsible for slowing the arm down, the body will “slow the arm down” by moving slower.

That’s also my problem with the connection balls. I see players so hell bent on trying to move and look a certain way that it takes away from speeding up out of the glove.

Thanks again! Good stuff and great discussion!

Fantastic discussion

At the gym again and will respond when I can, but I wanted to post this article I wrote about the pronator-flexor mass and how it can reduce elbow injuries:

Man, I wrote a ton about it and labeled it a post about Zumaya. I totally forgot I wrote all this stuff!