Glove Side Mechanics and Hip/Shoulder Separation in Throwing

Posted: May 28, 2013 in Baseball, Velocity Development

One of the 13-year-olds I train came in early to throw with his dad before training last week, and I came over to watch a few throws. Whenever I watch one of my students hit or throw I always try to come up with one thing they’re doing well, and one thing they’re doing poorly that they need to work on. In this case, the thing I noticed about Tommy’s throwing motion was a lack of hip/shoulder separation. I’ve talked about the importance of hip/shoulder separation and the stretch shortening cycle before in this article on my site, and this article on Stack.com. If you haven’t read those articles, give them a look to understand why hip/shoulder separation is so imperative to pitching velocity. Basically, we want the shoulders to stay closed while the hips open up, which pre-stretches the muscles across the front of the body, causing a more powerful contraction in those muscles, which makes you throw harder.

That said, one of the most common problems I see in young throwers is that their glove side will open too early (known as “flying out” or “flying open”), which eliminates any chance for hip/shoulder separation.

Teaching young throwers to keep their front sides closed longer will yield improvements in velocity and command, and make them less susceptible to injury. The reason for this is that when throwers learn to use their glove side properly, they are able to better recruit their hips and legs in the throwing motion, which will add power while decreasing stress on the throwing arm. When the front side flies open, the throwing arm has a tendency to drag, which puts more stress on the anterior shoulder. 

I took a video of Tommy throwing to show him what he was doing wrong, and had him take a video of me so he had something to compare it to.

Here’s Tommy:

Here’s Me:

Tommy’s got some other issues, but it’s not productive to work on more than one thing at a time when tinkering with mechanics, so the main thing I wanted him to focus on going forward was his glove side, which controls upper body rotation. Like I said before, if the upper body rotates too soon, we lose energy in the throwing motion, which saps velocity and puts excess strain on the throwing arm. Let’s compare my and Tommy’s glove side elbow position at the point where our stride legs come into contact with the ground.

Here’s Tommy:glove side fly out

Notice how you can see the entire front of his shirt. This means that his chest has already begun to rotate forward when his foot hits the ground. You can also see how low his glove is at this point, which also is sapping energy from his throwing motion. When micro-movements happen out of sequence like this, the overall macro-movement will not be as efficient or powerful.

Here’s me:

hip shoulder separation
As you can see, my chest stays oriented toward 3rd base, while my glove begins to tuck into my body and I drive my glove side elbow down and back. This is a position that you can build a powerful throwing motion from. I put almost no effort into this throw with my arm, but I was still able to put a good amount of force behind it just because of my hip and leg involvement.

To combat this problem, my favorite drill is a modified version of the old school “goalpost drill”, where the athlete will stride, break his hands, and bring his arms into the correct position, then return to the start without actually throwing the ball. This will help reinforce proper glove side arm action, and prevent the athlete from letting his glove side fly open too early.

Once the athlete feels comfortable doing the modified goalpost drill, we’ll add a short pause and then throw the ball. The pause helps the athlete get the feeling of keeping the front side closed a little longer, rather than rushing through the motion and trying to do everything all at once.

If you’re a baseball player or coach, learn to look for faulty glove side mechanics and correct them. Like I said, improved glove side mechanics lead to increased velocity, better control, and healthier arms. 

 

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