Are Leg Strength and Power Important to Baseball Pitching?
It is amazing that the perception is out there that you need a stronger arm to throw the ball harder. It couldn’t be more false unfortunately. The research states quite the opposite actually. Please don’t misunderstand, there needs to be focal training programs for the shoulder and scapular muscles that will not only aid in velocity, but more importantly decrease the risk of injury.
The theory of proximal to distal kinematic sequencing is important to understanding the power behind the throw. The throw is actually initiated by the lower body and progresses through the core before accelerating the arm and finally the hand. When the sequence is out of order, it is thought that energy is lost, performance decreases, and other body segments step up to compensate, which in turn leads to injury. For example, if the stride leg cannot absorb the stress during landing a ripple of force can move up to the trunk creating “whip-like” action forcing the shoulder to catch up thus loading the structures of the shoulder and elbow. Over time this will lead to some form of injury.
What Can We Conclude?
It is a small body of research that explores this area, however, the findings are very conclusive.
1. Proximal to distal kinematic sequencing occurs during the throwing mechanic.
2. Leg drive is important for throwing velocity and improving strength, power, and endurance should transfer to more efficient throwing.
3. While all leg muscles are involved on the pitching motion (Campbell 2010) focus on the gluteal muscles during training will be of great benefit due to the relation of the gluten and pelvic rotation (Oliver 2010).
4. The adductors (groin) is thought to be more involved (Yamanouchi 1998) then previously suggested and not activated during most standard exercises. More specific exercises need to be devoted in order to strengthen and condition this group.
The theory of kinetic chain sequencing is important but most likely one of many factors associated with injury and power loss. A combination of training sequencing and leg strength will reduce the risk of injury and increase power undoubtedly which is why proper coaching and strength programs are important. Make sure if you choose to participate in a strength and conditioning program, the coach has an understanding of the concept and research out there and that you are just doing a “work out” that may ultimately harm you.