Developing an Efficient Thrower from the Ground Up
Developing an Efficient Thrower from the Ground Up
Every company, coach, and social media guru has all of the answers for more velocity, command, and healthy arms… just ask them! This is not to prove or disprove certain companies. This is simply to share information that we use at PRP through video, Core Velocity Belt, Driveline equipment and drills, medicine balls, and the weight room. We will be discussing:
The importance of the lower half
How to assess it
How to train it
How to develop it.
There is a time and place for discussing and breaking down the arm action, glove-side disconnection, extension, and finishing position. But what if that was all (almost) a bi-product on how you stabilize and move through your lower half?
Build your foundation, make the ground your friend, and learn to rotate from the middle with a solid base. The ability to coil will have a large effect on your ability to uncoil!
The feet are often the most overlooked piece of the throw. The foundation, or base, begins with the arm-side foot. Most lose the battle before it begins. Better connection to the ground and longer we can hold that connection while internally rotating the rear hip, the better!
The 3 points of contact are shown here (image). The ability to ride the back hip while maintaining these points of contact help create more built up energy going into pelvic rotation.
What does “riding the back hip” or as we call it “riding the slope” mean? Take your arm-side hip away from your arm-side knee. Elite throwers are able to “sit” or “hinge” the arm-side hip away from arm-side knee with 3 points of contact in the arm-side foot!
Most pitchers have their weight in point #3 (shown image). This leads to being a quad-dominant rotator. They struggle to hinge, separate, and sequence their rotation from pelvis to trunk.
If you see this, have them remove the shoe and ask them to feel where weight is. We use the term “weight more” to feel more weight into the ground at all 3-points of contact.
What about after the load and hinge?
The foot should start to disengage from the ground once the rear hip begins internal rotation. The heel will follow the hip. As hip internally rotates, the heel will begin to come up. You’ll quickly learn most end up bailing off the heel and rotating into “point 3” much earlier than desired.
Into foot plant, the lead foot should land flat and firm into the ground. When lead hip finishes pelvic rotation, the lead foot should stay solid, firm in the ground. Once the pelvis is done rotating the feet have completed their service to transferring energy up the kinetic chain.
Ground connection leads you down two paths, connection or disconnection. The cause and effect from the feet into hips into trunk begins with how you grab the ground and resist rotation.
Drills to Feel Ground Connection:
Dry work with no shoes on (dry throws, lift & sit, lift & stride)
Wall Drill (shown right)
Hinging with no shoes on, add pelvic rotation
Uphill Mound Drills (throwing, med balls, dry work)
Low intent plyocare with no shoes on
Core Velocity Belt drills - Shoes on or off
Lift & sit (feel heel corkscrew)
Step Back to Lifts (dry/plyo/med ball)
Overhead Squats w/ PVC pipe, shoes off
Heard this quote at Pitch-A-Palooza and it stuck. We must rotate with efficiency and intent. But we must control our direction and be stable through rotation. Simple, yet complex.
Clean rotation begins with a good setup and pelvic stability.
Pelvis needs to rotate independently from the trunk.
The pelvis should fire before the trunk going into foot strike.
The pelvis should finish rotation before peak arm speed.
As we rotate the hips, the trunk should “whip” into rotation, bringing the arm along the ride.
This is a key reason why the ground connection and pelvic rotation are so vital efficient throwing. Without it, the trunk and arm are at the mercy fo the lower half.
Basic Drills with Core Velocity Belt - Hinge Separations, Standing separations, Stride and fire, and more. See free drills with CVB at -- https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL4zy_hzyhFTEiAJJaaNc332avdua1Ax8K (full list below)
Creating the Efficiency
Rotation and stability all begins with the hips and feet. Clean rotation comes from a stable environment to rotate in. These are areas to train daily and year-round. Athletes can feel and learn their lower half without the throw.
Coaches and athletes can build better movements to impact throwing mechanics during low or non-throwing periods.
How to Train the Lower Half?
This is a loaded answer, but will attempt to keep it directly to the point. Learn to hinge, get strong, and use the Core Velocity Belt and medicine balls. Strength and movement patterning will always have a key role in developing better, more efficient athletes. The belt and medicine balls is often where we put the feel work to action.
Best piece of advice — Pay more attention to catch play with your athletes or yourself! Most instill bad habits with ground force and pelvic rotation during catch play. One example, watch step behinds when long tossing. Most complete the “shuffle” while on toes and end up throwing at a higher intensity with worse mechanics. You can adjust drills to make sure they have a chance to develop clean movements ro just continue too remind them the value of every throw.
It is all about feel. Every “drill” or “constraint” is built around getting the athlete to feel the lower half working in the right patterns. We utilize the CVB (Core Velocity Belt) to challenge athletes to feel the pelvis and connection to the ground to control stable, repeatable movements.
We have optimized a list of drills and movements to put each athlete into different positions either pulling or resisting the CVB in their throwing movement. There is no magical drill that will fix each athlete. After assessing the breakdowns in efficiency, we prescribe drills and movements to challenge athlete to move more efficiently at specific stages of the throw.
Each day ends with putting it all back together. Athletes must feel the movements in the actual throw after drill work to reassess and we coach that feel back to the athlete.
Core Velocity Belt Usage
Each athlete begins with activations of the hinge and pelvic control through movement. After our hinge separations and standing separations, we progress to drill work with different anchors and levels of resistance to put athlete in better positions.
Athletes progress from activations to dry work to medicine balls to plyocare to mound/swing work. We must first feel the pelvic rotation and stability in activations. Each day starts with activating regardless of level. Some days will include more dry work or medicine balls. For example, on a lighter throwing workload day we will implement more med ball and Plyocare drills with belt on to replicate the delivery and challenges areas of concern.
Below is a breakdown of what drills and workouts we have athletes in PRP execute on a weekly basis. Every athlete will vary from these drills as needed and coached from our staff.
We implement medicine ball drills with all of our athletes for several reasons. Building rotational power, learning to rotate more efficiently, and intent to name a few. Athletes get several more repetitions each day of training without throwing a baseball yet still building proper movement patterns through medicine balls.
PRP prescribes different medicine ball drills based on the athlete’s needs to challenge movement efficiency through the medicine ball drills. If we can get 20-40 more throws a session through medicine ball work then we are getting more movement work without taxing the arm and building up a better mover to the throwing aspect of the session.
*E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a free list of medicine ball exercises and breakdowns
*Learn more about our medicine ball results/blog here - https://www.prpbaseball.com/blog/2018/6/27/thecorrelation-between-med-ball-and-positional-velocity
Same as medicine balls, we utilize Plyocare drills and throws to create better movers. These are often done pre-throwing or as drill work in throwing for warm-ups, arm patterning, and feel of the delivery prior to their catch play. PRP has shared our different plyocare drills as a staple of our training. You can see more about our drills and why in our Blog (The What and Why of Plyocare).
We implement different drills and constraints through plyocare with the CVB on as well. Each athlete will have different drills prescribed using the belt and plyocare based on their needs.
Even without using the belt, cueing athletes to “feel” loading, hinging, and rotation during their rock backs, walking wind-ups, roll-ins, step backs and more will bring awareness to their throwing “mechanics”.
At the end of each day with using the belt in different ways, blend back to normal mound or positional throws without the belt.
*E-mail email@example.com for a free list of plyocare drills and breakdowns.
Adjusting Use of the CVB
There is a big difference for the different clips on the core velocity belt. Moving the band connection between lead hip, rear hip, or top anchors provides different feel and constrains for each athlete.
We often notice that the bottom anchors make athletes maintain connection to foot and ground better. The top anchors provide a better feel for trunk control and rotation. When an athlete needs to feel the “hinge” and “riding the slope” more in their movement, we often challenge with the bottom anchors more (hip). If an athlete struggles with core control, trunk rotation, or getting out of the rear hip, we attach more to the top clips.
Angles of the band/tension is also important to feel the movement and added resistance or pull. Personally, I will challenge the rear hip behind the body connected downhill to a connection in front of the athlete (shown right). This is to emphasize rear hip riding the slope and maintaining a vertical shin into hip rotation. Most athletes struggle here. We will work on “hip drive” and backside stability by connecting to rear him from second base as well.
Also, if an athlete struggles with rotation, pelvic sequencing to trunk, or has poor rotational power, we will attach to the lead hip and try to “speed them up”. For a RHP, this would mean me holding the band on his 1B side and pulling him into over rotation and challenging him to rotate quicker but with stability.
Most will struggle understanding how much tension is needed or wanted. As Lantz (@lantzwheeler) says best, “Less can be more”. Controlling the resistance and stabilizing movements is more important than trying to build up a large amount of tension in the movements.
As mentioned before, there is no right way to use the CVB other than to assess and diagnose deficiencies and attack them through different angles and tensions. The more comfortable an athlete can get with added tension/pull from different angles, the more feel they will gain with their movements.
The most under appreciated aspect of developing better throwing athletes. We limit the time to throw, give little guidance on how to progress in catch play, and yell when it looks sloppy. Now, there are a million ways to instill a proper catch progression. We prefer a few staples in our catch play to focus on upper trunk rotation, arm action, and adding specific lower half movements as we move back into a long toss.
Catch Play Drills:
Opposite Knee Throws (for youth throwers mainly) - 10-25ft
Pivot Picks - 10-45ft
Roll-Ins - 45-60ft
Rock Backs - 45-75ft
Step Backs - 60-90ft
Walking Wind-Ups - 60-90ft
1-Hops - 90-120ft
Step Behinds (or in fronts) - 90-300ft - EXTENSION phase (high arc)
Step Behinds - 210-120ft - Pulldown Phase
*Be very careful on the step behinds. Most throwers work predominantly off the toes when doing step behinds. We coach several into “step in fronts” to ensure 3-points of connection. When done correctly, step behinds are great.
Coach the important aspects of catch play on a daily basis, especially early in the year/off-season. Preach building proper levels of intent (depending on the day), controlling release points, usage of the lower half and repeated arm action.
Personally, I am a big fan of getting youth athletes in athletic positions during catch play into nets or to a partner. Make them throw on the run, moving backwards, slow rollers, etc. The more they learn to be athletic and loose, the better. There is a right time and place for these added to your daily drill work!
The purpose of catch play is skill-development. One way or another, you’re developing a skill/habit on every throw. Make sure it’s done the right way!
This part of the blog is not meant to take a deep dive into strength training. We train athletes of all levels in the weight room and will adjust to each as needed, but to cover a few main points on what some “absolutes” are in the weight room:
Build strength in hips, trunk, glutes
Challenge scapular mobility and strength with overhead movements
Get in the split stance, often.
The most overlooked component of training a throwing athlete is being in the frontal plane way too often. This means simply pressing, squatting, power clean, etc. We rotate for sport. We need to lunge, single arm press, single arm row, isolate shoulder/scap extension more.
By challenging single leg strength, anti-rotation, and learning to hinge… we can create a much more efficient mover with strength training.
Few recommended exercises:
Palloff Press (several variations)
Single Leg RDL
Cable or Dumbbell Rows
Alternating DB Press
1/2 Kneeling KB Windmills
Landmine Row to Press
TRX Overhead Raise to Reverse Fly (several variations)
Prone Cuban Press
By no means should you just remove bench press, squat, or power clean from your weight training. Strength and power matters. Most young (14-18y/o) athletes spend too much time in these movements and not enough in positions that translate. As an industry, we need to do a better job of providing proper foundations of strength, mobility, and stability training so that when they enter higher-level training and programs they have a strong base to build off of.
I strongly recommend that parents of young (11-14) year old athletes get their kids into quality strength training programs that focus on hinging, core stability, athletic movements, and make fun competitions during the training. Those that get a strong base and enjoy the weight room have bright futures in sport-specific skill development.
When discussing training for a high-level throwing athlete (say 85+ mph), we need to focus on challenging mobility, the decelerators, and explosive movements. Few key points on this:
Full range of motion in all exercises, controlled.
Challenge movements with different levels of constraints (single leg vs 2 leg, DB vs Cable, eccentric vs explosive, multi-plane movements)
Constant progress in resistance levels (weight/load)
Build up posterior chain, pulling exercises, grip, core (decelerators)
VBT - Moving weight for speed - Focusing on explosive movements from a lighter load
Lastly, PRP has done a few generalized case studies on trap bar deadlift to throwing velocity and broad jump to throwing velocity. While neither are a direct correlation by any means, there were several similarities between those that were on the top of the scale for deadlift, broad jump, and medicine ball velocity and throwing velocity. This is a big reason we constantly train and assess our athletes in these movements. Building a stronger, more explosive athlete can lead to more efficient throwing.
Developing throwing athletes requires several components to their development. First, get athletes to understand the importance of the lower half and it’s role in throwing. How you decide to develop those skill sets can be outlined above then choosing which areas of training impact each athlete individually.
The lower half shapes the upper half. The load shapes the finish. The release point is under the mercy of everything that happens leading to the release point. Build the first steps of the throw then fine tune the rest.
For more information on training the lower half, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.