A traditional thought process in baseball that has been taught for years is the necessity to be able to balance on the push leg during the leg kick. A drill has been utilized where the pitcher is instructed to go through his motion until his leg lift and pause with the knee in the air, like the position in the picture below.

Dan Haren (pictured above) is the one pitcher that comes to mind when you think about a pause at the top of his leg kick. I do not know for certain why he does that, but I’m sure he has a good reason.
I won’t beat around the bush, I am not a fan of the drill and actually believe it to be counterproductive. Here is the logical and biomechanical argument against the balance drill.
Let’s start with the fact that this is very similar to the field sobriety test used for a DUI, so unless you’ve been drinking, it should not be challenging.
For me, the dislike for the drill comes from the thought process behind it which seems to be “I’m going to use this with the kids I coach because this is what I did when I was growing up.” This is a huge problem in the coaching and strength and conditioning field. We should know the reason behind everything we implement instead of just doing it because that’s the way it has previously been done.
I also do not see how it transfers over to the actual pitching motion. When you study the pitching motion, you will see that very few pitchers that ever come to that position. Most pitchers have their hips moving down the slope when their leg kick reaches the peak. If you look at this slow motion video of Trevor Bauer, you will see as his lead leg lifts, his body slowly begins to generate motion down the slope. If you were to draw a vertical line from his push foot, it would not go through the back hip (1:18-1:21 of the video).
The argument against creating momentum in this manner is the pitcher’s body would get ahead of his arm, resulting in poor accuracy (usually missing high and arm side) and increasing the chance of injury. I would politely disagree with this argument. If you were to take a large sample size of professional pitchers, you would see a majority of them do not line up in the vertical position the balance drill teaches. Rather, they tend to be more similar to Bauer.
aroldis_chapman_windup
It is easy to see in this picture of Arnoldis Chapman. He is at the peak of his leg kick, and his body has already started to work its way down the slope. And Chapman throws really hard.
An easy way to check to see if the body is getting too far ahead of the arm is to check the position the pitcher is in when his front foot makes contact with the ground. The wrist and ball should be above the throwing shoulder, while the elbow is slightly below. If the ball is below the shoulder at this point in the deliver, then the arm will be late. This could also be a result of breaking the hands late so make sure you are looking at the entire picture.
Notice the elbow and wrist position as his lead foot makes contact

Notice the elbow and wrist position as his lead foot makes contact

Instead of focusing on balancing on the push leg, concentrate on what the foot does during the leg kick. A common problem is for the foot to supinate (rotate towards the rubber) which results in an energy leak. For the glute to be properly loaded, the pitcher must push off of the ball of his foot. This allows energy to be efficiently transferred from the ground up the kinetic chain, through the hip and thoracic spine, into the shoulder and throwing arm. If the foot supinates, the glute does not properly load and there will be more stress placed on another part of the kinetic chain, most likely the arm, to make up for the lost energy.
Foot is flat, but pressure is on the ball of the foot

Correct: Foot is flat, pushing through the ball of the foot

Foot supinated, weight on outside of the foot, glute not loaded

Incorrect: Foot supinated, weight on outside of the foot, glute not loaded

The balance drill is usually used with younger pitchers up to the high school level. This is the time in development where there should be an emphasis on using the lower body since kids of this age usually struggle with full body movements. If you are able to improve athleticism at this time, the pitching mechanics will smooth out on their own and the athlete will become much more efficient in all of his movements, not just pitching. From my experience with working with high schoolers, very few of them use their lower body and hips as much as they should. Some kind of lateral plyometric would be much more beneficial.
A movement such as the Lateral Lunge Shuffle teaches lateral explosion by pushing off the inside of the foot. By adding a weight and a reach, you also work on deceleration through the posterior x factor (opposite hip connected to opposite shoulder) into the landing leg with internal rotation of the hip. This is the same movement used to decelerate the body after a pitch.
The point of this was not to bash a single drill or the people that use the drill, but to show the merit of examining each drill or exercise we use. As demonstrated here, a simple modification to a traditional drill can be very beneficial.
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