Balance and posture were the first two mechanical flaws I was taught to look for when I became certified through the National Pitching Association (NPA). The NPA is a group that was founded by Tom House who is the throwing coach for the G.O.A.T. (Tom Brady for those who live outside of New England), Drew Brees, Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan, and so many other top athletes that this blog post would be 18 pages in just names alone. Their mission is to focus on strength and conditioning techniques that enhance a players skills and reduce their risk of injuries. In short, they look at the body first and performance second. You can’t be a division 1 pitcher if you can’t stay on the mound. Balance and posture is so important to this group that they don’t even look at anything else until this mechanic is fixed.
When we talk about balance we aren’t talking about a pitchers ability to stand on their drive leg for a long period of time. Quite honestly that doesn’t even matter that much. What we’re looking for is the pitchers ability to keep their shoulders level, through their stride, and delivery of the baseball to home plate. Any deviation from this level position will lead to a compensation which can lead to arm injury and break down over time.
Here are a couple of examples of good posture through delivery.
Here are some examples of bad posture through delivery. They most common coaching mistake we see is telling a player to “get on top” of the ball.
Now some of you reading at this point might be thinking, “Hey Matt Harvey was a dominant pitcher and Okajima was an World Series winning All Star.” That is all true but how long were they dominant and, at what cost.
A players inability to maintain their balance and posture through the delivery can be caused by a multitude of reasons. Literally any restriction in anything from the ankle up to the trunk can cause a loss of posture in the players delivery. I always recommend that a player get screened by a qualified movement specialist to be sure you are attacking the correct strength and flexibility deficits that are causing the problem. That being said here are some of the most common causes of loss of posture that I see with my pitchers.
If a players hips and trunk are tight it will limit their ability to rotate which can lead to a loss of posture while throwing. Here are two simple stretches that you can do to help improve your hip and trunk mobility. If you try to do these exercises, and its really easy, then flexibility probably isn’t the reason behind why you are losing posture. It’s still a good idea to perform them regularly to maintain the flexibility that you have. Try doing 15 repetitions holding each repetition for about 3 seconds
Hip IR/ER with Twist:
Sit on the ground with a bat. Rotate one leg in and the other leg out keeping a 90deg bend in the knees. Once your legs are touching the ground rotate your arms towards the leg that is rotating in.
Lie on your side with both legs bent up to 90deg. Rotate your arms open like a book.
Your core muscles are what keep your trunk upright while you are twisting as you throw. They also help to transfer the energy from your legs up to your arm. That means that by doing this exercise not only will you be able to better maintain your posture, you will also be able to throw harder (and who doesn’t like that). Perform 15 repetitions on each side and hold this reach/kick position for 3 seconds.
Plank with Reach:
Get into a tall plank position focusing on squeezing your glutes and keeping your core tight. Stay stiff and alternate reaching with your hands out in front of you. It’s important to prevent your hips from twisting while you reach.
Plank with Kick:
Get into the same tall plank position. Alternate kicking a leg up in the air. Make sure that your hips don’t twist. Also make sure that your back doesn’t arch as you kick up.
Well it’s what we’ve been talking about the whole time. Didn’t you think I was going to give you an exercise to work on? Balance is important in your trail leg but also your landing leg so be sure to work on this on both legs. You may notice a difference between your legs which is completely normal. The more you work on it, the more your legs will equal out. Try to do 15-20 repetitions on each leg.
Single Leg RDL:
Stand on one leg. Keeping your back straight, balance on one leg and kick the other leg back. The goal is to get your body parallel to the ground without rounding you back. This is a really challenging exercise so don’t get frustrated if you have trouble with it. Just keep practicing and eventually you will master it.