Proper Pitcher’s Hip Rotation and How to Get It
August 10, 2015 11:37 pm / Category: Baseball
Remember that game Twister? Every time that spinner landed on a new color, you were forced to reach your hand behind your back, underneath a leg, and across the board, all while trying not to fall. While incredibly entertaining, this silly game can also be a valuable lesson about positional torques, balance, rotation and flexibility—especially when it comes to baseball.
Looking at the specific qualities to win this game can be related to the critical components of the throwing motion in baseball. Often times when assessing a pitcher’s mechanics, there’s a miss in relating the lower half to the upper half of the body. It is crucial for a pitcher—no matter the age—to begin to learn the importance of max hip rotation in order to achieve full torque of the trunk and obtain maximal velocity through the pitch.
The Sling Shot Effect
The rubber band of a sling shot is wound up with so much tension so that when it’s released, a massive amount of kinetic energy hurls the rock (or projectile of your choice) forward. The pitching motion in baseball is similar in that the lower half of the body, starting with proper foot placement and maximal hip rotation, will create a buildup of kinetic energy through the trunk, shoulder blades, shoulder and finally release through the fingers.
Proper Hip Rotation and How to Get It
Without proper hip rotation, a pitcher’s hips will fly open, which creates torque at the elbow. To avoid this, we want proper hip rotation, which occurs when:
- The hips are fully rotated just before the lead foot strikes the ground
- The shoulders are closed with arm extended out into the cocked phase of throwing.
Proper rotation allows for maximal hip-to-shoulder separation, which in turns creates the most amount of torque and velocity possible. There are two specific keys to obtaining this position and preventing further stress on the arm, the lead leg and posture.
The lead leg
The lead leg must be relaxed from the knee down and have proper landing position. Proper landing position includes:
- Toes pointing slightly towards the right-handers box (if a right-handed pitcher.)
- The hips will remain closed until just before lead foot strikes the ground.
- At this time they will lead their front hip towards the plate and really turn open the front hip at the latest possible time.
- If done properly, the pitcher shoulder feel tightness along their oblique muscles, NOT their back.
When a pitcher transitions from early-stance phase to the cocked position, their posture can completely affect their ability to rotate through their hips and finish off a throw. For example, if a pitcher is bent too far forward when their foot lands, they will not have the ability to achieve full pelvic rotation, thus not allowing this maximal hip/shoulder separation.
The key for good throwing posture is to focus on balancing and creating extension or back-bending through the middle part of the athlete’s back. It has been statistically proven and correlated that the optimal position of posture is the thoracic spine slightly extended, slight lean towards the back leg, and non-throwing hip flexed up. Therefore, it is important to not allow early rotation of the trunk or shift the center of gravity towards the throwing arm, as both will cause the trunk and shoulders to “open early.” before the hips, and create abnormal stresses on the shoulder and arm.
Maintaining proper foot landing position and rotation of the hips will create the maximal amount of separation leading to good pitching mechanics and increased velocity. Posture is also considerably important and must be taken into account when looking at the ability to create this hip to shoulder separation.
Suggested Training and Exercises
- Baseball Rebellion has a good Drill for Hip Rotation video to practice this max hip rotation with proper foot positioning.
- For a more in-depth analysis of your form, come see me for a Throw Right session at the Performance Lab.
- Somax Performance Institute‘s hip strength exercise video can also help improve speed.
Jonathan Meltzer graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor of arts in biology and a minor in physical education. Following graduation, Jonathan discovered his passion for physical therapy while working as a Physical Therapy Aide. After graduating top of his class from Loma Linda University in 2012 with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, Jonathan began his career at Rausch Physical Therapy and Sports Performance. Jonathan’s goals are to identify limitations and treat his patients with the most recent and innovative techniques in order to maximize functional independence and obtain his patients’ individual goals.