How to improve External Rotation
What purpose does it have?
Many times I have heard that the arm acts like a 'whip'. This 'whipping' action is caused when the arm stops moving backwards behind the pitcher. The movement forward is a critical part the arm action and is where all the potential energy from the legs and torso is transferred into kinetic energy and released through the ball.
What is External rotation and how does it relate to pitching mechanics?
External Rotation is an integral and not well discussed talked about part of pitching mechanics.
It is not something that can be directly improved, but indirectly improved through drills that improve the overall arm action.
How to determine if you have enough external rotation
One important check point of pitching mechanics is the amount of external rotation you achieve. This is something you cannot see very well or consistently with the naked eye, making it nearly impossible to work on without video.
I highly recommend using a videos camera to work on improving mechanics, whether it's external rotation or any part of your mechanics. Especially when you're by yourself working.
When looking on video, your arm should be parallel to your torso(your back) or pretty close to it.
The picture to right(of the title of this section) shows an example of a pitcher achieving great external rotation. Every pitcher will not look exactly like that, but every pitcher should reach a very similar. Look up any pro pitcher and will notice that 99.9% of them reach a similar point of external rotation.
If you lack in external rotation, there are things you can do to improve it. Which in turn will improve velocity.
Articles discussing External Rotation
These are some articles discussing the benefits of external rotation as it relates to pitching velocity.
Quotes from the articles
"Over the course of a season, pitchers acquire slightly more external rotation at the shoulder (roughly five degrees, for most). Since external rotation is correlated with pitching velocity, gaining this range of motion is helpful for adding a few ticks on the radar gun as compared to early in the season."-Eric Cressey
"Over the course of a season, pitchers acquire slightly more external rotation at the shoulder (roughly five degrees, for most)".-Eric Cressey
"The hard throwing group was able to get their arms back into 179 degrees of rotation whereas the slow group could only get 166.3 degrees.
Greater amounts of external rotation allows you to throw harder because you generate more of a stretch reflex in your internal rotators which act like springs allowing your arm to rotate forward at an incredibly fast rate. Another reason why more external rotation allows you to throw harder is that you are creating a bigger range of motion which means that you have more time to add force. Your muscles take time to build up force so by creating a bigger range of motion you give yourself a little bit of extra time to add an MPH or two."-Lehman's Baseball
A drill you can try to work on increasing external rotation
- Overall Goal: Maximize External rotation to point where it is parallel to the back.
- More Specific Goals
- Improve Arm action
- Improve Leg action
- Improve Torso Action
- Increase Separation-Hip/Shoulder Separation
Improving Arm Action
Your arm action is a very important part of a pitching delivery and is an integral part to the amount of external rotation you achieve.
While I believe there is no one correct arm action, I believe there are characteristics that everyone's arm action should exhibit in order to achieve maximum external rotation.
- Fluidity-Your arm action should be as fluid and continuous as possible. No one's arm action is completely fluid and continuous, but people who lack in external rotation also tend to lack in this area.
Improving Torso Action
The action of the torso allows the arm to whip powerfully forward and allows the arm to go through a full and fluid action before whipping forward.
Keys to good torso action
- Stays closed until the front foot hits
- Turns aggressively and powerful
- Bends forward as the arm follow through, begins to decelerate, and is pulled down by the action of the arm, not the forced down.
Improving Leg action
your leg action is another important part of mechanics. And they play a role to having better arm action and external rotation.
Here are what I see as the keys to good leg action:
- Powerful leg drive
- Stays closed until 'forced' open
- smooth, continuous, natural
When, where, how and equipment
The first thing you want to establish is a time period for you to dedicate to mechanical work. The off-season being the ideal choice, since you can base all your workouts around mechanic work without having to worry about games. You always want to work on mechanics whether you are in-season or in the off-season, but the severity of the changes you want to make will determine when you want to work on them. I consider changing your arm action a huge change in mechanics and something that is best worked on in the off-season. But exactly when is something that you as an individual will have to determine.
This all depends on what you have available. For the drills I'm going to suggest, all you need are the materials and a wall or net to throw against. You don't need that much space, but I would recommend an area where you can fit a camera and have easy access to it when you video tape.
Drills, drills, and then transition into 'full-go' mechanics. Every change I have made in my mechanics
I will go over the equipment you may need to do some of the drills I suggest. Nothing will break the bank and I will show you cheapest place to get the materials. If you already have the equipment, the you won't need anything extra.
Drills for torso action and arm action
After warming up, you can perform the follow drills to focus on arm action and torso action. There are many more than these, so don't limit yourself from the ones I suggest. I'm only going to put ones that I have used and have helped me.
These drills won't be in any particular order, so use logic when doing them.
- Slow motion arm action-Go slow through your arm action and have 'perfect' arm action. Can be done with a baseball or as a 'dry' drill(no baseball). Wouldn't recommend using a med. ball for this one. The set up of the drill is as follows: Stand sideways(like in the stretch) with the glove shoulder facing the target. Feet should be in a simulated stride. Not fully extended, but extended somewhat. You can add a weight shift to this drill as well, but the focus is on the arm and torso doing exactly what you want it do. Max external rotation is not a focus of this drill. Just arm/torso action in general.
- Arm action throw-Same set up as the drill above, but this one, you are throwing at a normal speed. Perfect drill for experimenting with your arm action. You can do this with a baseball, or a medicine ball. Using a medicine(from my experience) helps force your arm to go through a more efficient arm action. I would wouldn't throw too many with the medicine ball though. I never do more than 5 or 6 now and never have done more than 10 in one session. Use a video camera when experimenting to see if you are achieving a fluid arm action. Max external rotation is possible and should be sought after in this drill
Med. Ball Specific Drills
- Drill 1- Start in a semi-stride(same position as for the drills above). But with your torso facing your target. Start with the medicine ball in your hand and you arm up in the 'L-position' next to your head. The drill is the simply, lean back and 'lay' your arm back, once you feel your arm lay back completely, whip your torso and arm up and throw. Max effort. For beginners, I would recommend using a video camera and seeing the level of external rotation you can achieve while doing this drill, which should be the 'max.'
- 90 degree-start backwards from the the first couple drills. Turn, while your feet stay stationary(just twisting in spot). Go through your arm action and throw full go at the target. Do 5-10 reps
- 135 degree-Same as the 90 degree except that your you will be angled, so it will be more difficult to twist and throw at your target. 5-10 reps
- Arm action drill-Same as the arm action one you do with a baseball. It's described above, if you need a description. 5-10 reps.
- Reverse drill 1-same arm position as drill one, but you stand with your back facing your target. Internally rotate your arm forward slowly(move forward) and then externally rotate it back and throw. Can be done with both arms. I always do. 10-20 reps.
- Reverse throw-Start with your legs spread out in a stride and with the ball in around where you would release the ball. Chest leaned forward. To complete this drill, lean back and release the ball backwards. 5-10 reps
- Catches-Start the same way as you are in 'reverse drill 1' Instead of throwing the ball backwards, throw it straight up as far as you can and catch it as you internally rotate your arm. You should be able to move pretty quickly through this drill once you get a good rhythm going. 10-20 reps
There are many more drills than these, but these are the ones that I do a lot and have had the most benefit for me. Use a camera to make sure you are doing everything mechanically correctly, but once you get it down, don't worry about using one all the time. Just every once and while when checking out different things.