If you are like most pitchers, you are really trying to max out your speed. You have been taking lessons and you have been practicing, but you still can’t seem to throw as hard as some of the other girls your age. So you go to a few camps and clinics, and the feedback you keep getting is that you need “more leg drive.”
This is a pet peeve of mine.
I know it might seem like it is a silly thing to get aggravated about, but everyone will tell you that you need to work on leg drive (even if you don’t). To make matters worse, even if that person is right, do they tell you which part of your leg drive specifically needs the work?
Here is the problem: pushing harder in the wrong direction doesn’t produce good results. If you are focusing on the push off, for example, but what you really need is a better lift, your efforts will be totally wasted. If you are pushing harder, but you are not driving at the catcher, that effort is also wasted. If you stride longer but your back leg and your front leg have a huge gap, you might actually lose speed.
But this sort of thing happens all of the time. Then when girls come to see me, I end up sorting out several little details that they should have already been working on for months (or sometimes years).
So let’s break down the different areas of leg drive so that you know exactly how you can maximize it, then we will talk about some things that are NOT related to leg drive that might be affecting your speed dramatically.
The components of leg drive:
1. The weight transfer: This is an area of pitching that tends to be highly overlooked. The weight transfer is how you set up your pitch, begin to generate some momentum, and set yourself up to get into an explosive position. Let’s say that you do your weight transfer incorrectly, have no weight transfer, or your timing is incorrect in your weight transfer. Guess what? Now the leg drive for the rest of the pitch is going to fall short of your potential. There are several different ways to do a good weight transfer, but it needs to be consistent, and it needs to set you up to explode. If you aren’t sure what a weight transfer is (or you aren’t sure if yours is good), contact me for a video consultation. You would be amazed at how one little adjustment can affect your whole pitch.
2. The first push: There are actually TWO pushes in the leg work in each pitch. The first is at the very beginning, and we use the weight transfer to build into it. You should feel pressure in your quadriceps here, but you should also have the chest leaning forward as if you were going to sprint. So many pitchers neglect this important movement. If you bend your knees, but your chest is back, you are not placing enough pressure on the leg muscles to get them to explode.
2. Lift and slide: After a good weight transfer, it is imperative that you simultaneously lift the left knee (if you are a righty) high (with your chest relatively square to the target), and slide your right leg forward. Without this movement, we lack the height and distance that we need for explosiveness as we begin the pitch. If your stride is long, but low to the ground, you will find that your legs will gap and that it will take a lot of effort to lengthen your stride. Much of the length should really come from this movement. Your right foot (or your drag foot) should come forward without leaving the ground. The drag foot should travel between 8 and 18 inches as the other leg lifts.
3. Kick and drive: This is usually where I tell my athletes to think about kicking their catchers. Hard. Picture this more like a martial arts kick then a pitching movement. Yes, it is that violent. As this is happening, the drag leg should be sliding forward even further.
4. Plant and push: Once the left leg (if you are a righty) hits the ground, it is so important that it stays there. Pitching is different than other sports in the sense that we are not looking to land on the ball of the foot. Why? At the end of the pitch, you need to ensure that your land leg is stable, so that you can maximize your push against it. You also need to ensure that you stop violently so that the throwing side can achieve maximum acceleration (this is simple physics: think about what happens when your car stops violently). Focus on slamming down the whole foot at 45 degrees and then using that as a point to push against. There should already be tons of drive coming off of the leg on your throwing hand side. Use this to get behind the ball and accelerate it.
So, that should help you to break down the leg drive a little better, but know that very often “leg drive” is simply used as a convenient correction by many coaches when a pitcher’s speed is not up to par. Coaches are not often willing to look for the deeper adjustments that would really change a child’s life. Believe me, I have been doing this for over 20 years, and so many kids are duped into believing their leg drive is the problem when they really have other major issues. So here is a sampling of some other things that might really be slowing you down:
-Your circle isn’t straight, or your hand positioning in your circle is incorrect.
-You aren’t leading with your elbow (meaning that you are accidentally setting your pitch up like a change up)
-You don’t have good mobility in your wrist and fingers (limited range of motion can reduce both speed and spin on the ball)
-Your core is unstable as you release the ball. Think of it this way, for a ceiling fan to move quickly, it has to move around a fixed point in the middle. Your body works the same way. If you are not moving around a fixed point (meaning, there is leaning, hyper-extension, hip thrusting, or any similar movements), you HAVE to slow down. You could be doing absolutely everything else right, but that fixed middle point is essential.
I hope that this was helpful for you. Most importantly, don’t struggle with any of these issues alone. Contact me for help if you would like a video evaluation or some lessons. I don’t want you guessing as to where you might be losing speed, I want you to know with certainty, so that you can start seeing progress.
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