Hit the Brakes to Throw Hard!!!

The ability to decelerate is vital to the success of any throw when the goal is to maximize velocity.  We always like to focus on how our muscles can produce force with concentric movements while little attention is paid to the eccentric portion of the movements we use when throwing.

Here are two easy drills that you can implement on field or in the weight room to improve your ability to decelerate with your lower body.  These moves emphasis the eccentric portion of the sport specific motions that both legs individually perform when throwing a baseball off the mound or otherwise.

Front Leg Brakes:

plyo - single leg brake (2)

  • Jog forward then leap into the air off your back leg (right leg for right handed thrower).  When you land on your lead leg try to stick and absorb the landing trying to stop on a dime.
  • The pitcher in the video is a lefty and is sticking his landing on his right leg.
  • As you progress add more speed in your approach jog and/or height off your back leg when you leap into the air.
  • Hold the decelerated position for a second before pushing yourself back forcefully the repeat the next rep.
  • Promote the athlete to with a more vertical torso – the video above the athlete is displaying too much forward lean.  Don’t let your head get over your knee of the landing leg.

Back Leg Brakes:

Lateral Overload Eccentric Jump

  • Here we are trying to overload the eccentric loading of the back leg.
  • Jog slowly then leap off your lead leg (left leg for right handed throwers) into the air.
  • We want more vertical loading so the vertical jump portion is more important than your approach speed.  This is opposite of what we want with the previous drill that focused on overloading the lead leg.
  • While in mid-air rotate 90 degrees so that you land on your right leg with your foot sideways like it is on the rubber.
  • Stick the landing while allowing your knee to bend anywhere between 15 and 45 degrees of knee flexion.  This amount will be determined by how much knee bend you employ when you throw which is different between pitchers.
  • The two images in the middle represent a rough guide of how much knee bend we want.  The one of the far left would be zero degrees while the one of the far right is about 155 degrees.

knee bend

  • Stick the landing here by decelerating into a stop as fast as your can then jump out of the drill with a horizontal jump.
  • Promote the landing with the cue of sitting back into their hips.  Look for a more vertical shin.

Additional Notes:

  • Both of these drills can be turned into a plyometric drill by not stopping and immediately jumping back in the opposite direction.  This should only be done when the athlete has proven that they can control themselves by coming to a complete stop QUICKLY at the given speed and jump height that they are using.
  • Because the eccentric portion of any movements is going to be primarily responsible for any soreness that you experience don’t do a lot of these the day or two before a big game.  Once you have introduced your body to these movements you can then start to use them more regularity and closer to competition.
  • The focus is quality over quantity.  I know we hear this all the time but I really mean it here.  These movements don’t seem like much but they are stressful on your muscles so keep the volume low.
  • Try 3 sets of 5 each.  Rest 2-3 minutes between sets – this is a perfect time to do some stuff like arm care, mobility or core drills.
  • Perform both drills with each leg.  This allows for more rest in between and it is important to provide some symmetry.

Graeme Lehman, MSc, CSCS

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2 comments

  1. Chris McKenzie

    Great post, Graeme. So much emphasis is on concentric and eccentric gets neglected…big time. In my opinion, lack of eccentric strength is one of the biggest issues that cause injury and poor force production/transference up the chain.

    • Graeme Lehman

      Thanks Chris.
      I’ve been reading some of Cal Dietz’s Tri Phasic book and he stresses this a lot. This coupled with that Front Leg research from Ohio St. and some other track and field training that I am reading is leading me down this eccentric or yielding strength road.

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