I was recently on Eric Cressey’s blog and while reading a post of his entitled “11 Random Thoughts on Baseball Strength and Conditioning,” I really liked one of his “thoughts” and wanted to elaborate on it and adopt it as one of my blog posts. Eric discusses the concept of “accepting force” in the effort to increase pitching/throwing velocity. What does this mean? Eric is talking about the ability to harness the applied force that your body is already capable of producing and thereby channeling it through the ball. For example, many pitchers are weak functionally, such as through the core, hips, and lower half (such as in the glutes).
Due to this weakness, the pitcher loses the energy/force that he has created during his delivery and is thereby losing velocity. The most common example that I have seen (and Eric discusses as well) is the pitcher that collapses on his landing leg because he lacks the strength to stay firm on it. This collapsing, often called leaking, is seen when the pitcher’s knee continues to move forward (toward the plate) while the pitcher is delivering the ball. This is not, of course, done intentionally, but instead occurs because the pitcher lacks the glute, quad, and/or hamstring strength to support the weight and momentum of the body and therefore has to give as opposed to remain firm. This doesn’t provide for a firm anchor in order to rotate the body over and therefore energy is being lost through the lower half that could have traveled up the body and through the arm to the ball.
Here are two slow motion videos of hard throwers Justin Verlander and Felix Hernandez. Verlander’s landing leg actually goes from slightly bent to straight, the opposite of leaking (which increases the force he is able to produce coming over it from his upper body), while Hernandez’s leg remains firm.
Eric makes a great point about “accepting force” in that a pitcher who has “leakage” issues already has more velocity inside his body that he is not realizing. Despite not utilizing all the force the pitcher is already capable of creating, coaches and players alike are all too often worried about creating more force by means of weighted balls, long toss, and the like. Of course, generating more force is always desirable, but it can be in vein if a player works so hard to create more force only for it to leak out through a collapsing landing leg. I think the point Eric is trying to make is that what such a player needs to do is focus not solely on creating new/more force, but also in harnessing the force that is already within him more effectively.
Coach Ron Wolforth at the Texas Baseball Ranch often talks about the concept of “massive, simultaneous action.” Not too long ago I read a newsletter by Jill Wolforth discussing this concept and how they embrace it at the Texas Baseball Ranch. This philosophy can be summarized succinctly:
The power to rapid growth is in (1) doing a massive number of things and (2) doing them simultaneously.
The point of this approach is to get away from doing things in a sequential, step by step process – which is how we are generally taught to do things from a very early age. Applying this concept to this blog topic, an athlete should not JUST try to increase the force he is able to generate during his motion, nor should an athlete JUST try to harness the force already within him by improving the strength and stability of his lower half/glutes/core. Instead, the most effective way to increase velocity in the quickest amount of time is to target BOTH. Improve your functional weaknesses in order to better harness or accept the force your body is already capable of generating, while at the same time work on increasing your ability to generate more force. The combination of the two will lead to exponential gains and improvement.
This approach is how a player can make large gains in a short amount of time. Wondering how you can improve the strength of you lower half? Check out this previous blog. Want to know some ways to increase your arm speed/generate more force? Check out this previous blog.
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