Thursday, February 23, 2006

Pitching Stage III

Stage Three:
Leg Bend

After the pelvic loading stage has been completed, the pitcher should maintain flexion in their rear leg.  Flexion in the rear leg is vital for two reasons.  First, the flexion of the rear leg allows pitchers to activate their quadricep, glutes, and the hamstring of the pitching leg.  This flexion allows pitchers to apply directional force toward the plate.  Just as a swimmer pushes off the wall to start their competition, rear leg drive allows pitchers the same opportunity to start their delivery toward the plate.  Secondly, rear leg bend helps pitchers create front side leverage.  Pitchers achieve a leverage position by tilting their shoulders.  The next pitching phase deals strictly with front-side shoulder tilt.  

Rear leg bend is a topic of much discussion.  Some coaches have disputed the fact that to achieve maximum straight-line momentum, pitchers do not push off the pitching rubber.  Rather they pull their front hip toward the catcher.  Examining the pictures above, it seems relatively clear that the pitcher’s rear leg indicates, due to flexion, that force will be applied toward second base trying to accelerate the body forward.  If a pitcher moves toward the plate with an extended rear leg, it would seem they are not using all their available muscles to create force toward the plate.  

Analyzing pictures are not the only evidence that indicates pitchers use rear leg bend to push toward home.  In 1998, Bruce MacWillams conducted a study that examined ground reaction forces during the pitching motion.  The study’s results indicated that leg drive is a significant factor in pitcher’s throwing velocity.  With the study’s data and evidence with pictures, substantial facts back up the claim that leg bend is needed for a effective delivery.  

MacWilliams, B, Choi, T., Perezous, M, Chao, E, McFarland, E. Characteristic Ground Reaction Forces in Baseball Pitching. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 26(1): 66-71, 1998.  

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