Techniques and Drills to Teach the Cocking, Rotational, and Release Phases of the Pitching Motion
I have always believed that if you could get a pitcher into a good arm cocking position, the following sequences and techniques would naturally fall into place. I’ve learned that this is too often not the case.
The arm cocking action takes place as the stride foot is firmly planted on the ground creating a stable base allowing the body and arm to generate very high rotational and linear forces into the pitch. A coach and player can equate the cocked position for a pitcher with the launch position of a hitter.
The purpose of this 10 step drill sequence is to isolate the various movements in a step by step sequence so the pitcher can understand, practice, and feel the segments throughout the critical phase of the pitching motion.
We want the pitcher to understand:
1. What constitutes the cocking phase and a good cocked position
2. How to get into the cocking position
3. How to create maximum force out of the cocked position:
A. Rotational force
B. External to internal rotation of the shoulder
C. Forward trunk flexion during release phase
D. And a long arc of throwing arm deceleration
Drill #1 - The Cocked Position
Procedure: place the pitcher in a good stationary cocked position. With the ball in hand, feet spread to medium stride position. Explain the various techniques and positions. Below is a list of check points.
A. Lower body at foot plant
1. Stride - aligned straight to the plate, within 1-2 inches closed across midline
2. Foot position - flat footed, stable, toes pointed slightly inward
3. Stride leg - knee flexed at approx.. 45 degree angle
4. Pivot foot - begins to roll over as it leaves the rubber
5. Front hip will be open slightly upon foot plant.
B. Upper body at stride foot plant.
1. Head in the top center of triangle between feet
2. Lead elbow, both shoulders, and throwing elbow relatively level
3. Lead elbow, front shoulder, back shoulder, and pitching hand aligned directly to plate
4. Chest thrust out, shoulder blades pulled back
5. Lead arm - lead with the front elbow, or glove directly toward home plate shoulder height.
C. Throwing Arm and Hand at Stride Foot plant
1. Hand high in the cocked position, hand higher than the head.
2. Palm of hand faces SS, fingers on top of ball, wrist extended back
3. Elbow near shoulder height
4. Throwing hand should be closer to 3rd base than the elbow.
5. Forearm at 90 degree angle or beyond from forearm
6. Firm grip, but loose wrist and forearm
After the pitcher learns and feels the proper position, have him lower the arms and relax for a few seconds. On command, bring the arms and hands back up to a cocked position. Re-check major points. A pitcher can get instant feedback by performing this in front of a mirror. 4-5 reps.
Drill #2 - Pivot Foot Roll-Over; Violent Lead Arm Pull
Pitcher starts in the cocked position, ball in hand. On command, have the pitcher roll the pivot foot over which releases the hips and at the same time, pull the lead elbow and glove violently back outside the lead hip. Do not throw the ball. Stop at a shoulder squared position.
This dual action squares the trunk and shoulders to the plate. You should also see the pitcher’s chest thrust out, his spine arched, and the throwing elbow aligned at shoulder height.
These movements generate angular velocity before the trunk starts flexing forward. A good mirror drill, 8-10 reps.
Drill #3 - Slow Motion Throwing Sequence
Start the pitcher in a good cocked position, ball in hand. In slow motion the pitcher performs; 1) the pivot foot roll over and lead arm action squaring the trunk to the plate, 2) externally rotates the throwing arm and shoulder during the squaring sequence, 3) during the internal rotation and release phase, flexes forward at the waist, 4) finishes with a long arc of deceleration down and outside the stride leg.
Only roll the pivot foot over, do not bring it into a follow through position so the pitcher can isolate an focus on the upper body movements.
Mirror drill: 8-10 reps
Drill #4 - Throw From Cocked Position
Start the pitcher in the cocked position ball in hand. On the command of “ready, throw”, the pitcher rotates the trunk and shoulders concentrating on the pivot foot roll-over and lead arm pull techniques and throws. During the release phase, the pitcher flexes forward at the waist and follows through in a downward plane outside the stride leg. For this drill, the pivot foot should only be rolled over, and not release forward.
8-10 reps at half speed
Drill #5 - Hand break, down, back, and up; hesitate, throw
Start the pitcher with his feet and legs in a proper cocked position, but he places his hands together in a set position under the chin. On command “ready down, back and up” the pitcher breaks the hands apart and, 1) brings the throwing hand up to the cocked position, 2) brings the lead arm into a good cocked position with the shoulders aligned directly to the plate
The pitcher should hesitate for 2-3 seconds, do a quick mental check list of his position, then throw, flex forward and follow through. Only roll the pivot foot over, do not bring it forward.
8-10 reps at half speed
Drill #6 Hands Break, Down, Back and Up, Throw
Pitcher starts in the same position as Drill #5. Use the proper arm action but do not hesitate in the cocked position. Use a smooth continuous throwing motion.
Add the release of the pivot foot and leg. Bring the back knee forward and inward during the release phase for hip and lower body power. The stride leg should brace allowing the hips to come up over a firm stride leg. The pitcher should be able to hold his balance on the braced stride leg.
Drill #7 - Hip Rotation Drill
Pitcher plays catch with his throwing partner at 45-50 feet apart and half speed. The pitcher throws naturally but focuses on pulling the back knee forward and inward and balancing on a braced stride leg. Do not put the pivot foot on the ground. Remain in a good balanced position for 2-3 seconds. This drill teaches the pitcher 3 different techniques: 1) backside drive, 2) hip release and rotation 3) stride leg bracing
Drill #8 - Backside Drive Drill
Use a rubber resistance band approx.. 8 feet in length with a loop at one end so the pitcher can place the loop slightly above the pivot leg knee.
Place the pitcher in a proper cocked position, ball in hand. The pitcher should throw, focusing on violently driving the back knee forward and inward. The stride leg will brace and the hips will come up over the stride leg.
This drill teaches the pitcher how to get his backside into a pitcher which creates more angular velocity and pitch velocity.
Drill #9 - Stride Leg Bracing Drill
Put the pitcher in a kneeling position with the stride leg placed forward at slightly less than a 90 degree angle with the back knee on the ground. The hands are together in front of the chest and the shoulders and hips squared to the throwing partner.
The pitcher breaks the hands down, back and up and throws using his natural pitching action. As he gets to the acceleration and release phases, he braces the stride leg and brings his hips up onto the braced stride leg and continues into a good follow through and arm deceleration position.
Drill #10 - Slow Motion Resistance and Technique Drill
Start the pitcher in the proper cocked position with the weight in the throwing hand. Moving very slowly, the pitcher moves through the entire pitching motion, but keeps his pivot foot and leg in the rolled over position, finishing in a good long arc of deceleration. Then, slowly reverse the entire motion right back into a good cocked position.
This action is a very good strengthening and resistance drill for the entire throwing mechanism, plus it engrains the feel and understanding of the various sequences of the motion.
2 sets of 10 reps
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What do you think?
Now it's time to hear from you:
What's your favorite arm action drill? Are there any additional arm action drills that I missed?
Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this article even better.
Either way, leave a comment and let me know.