March 20, 2018
Erick Mojica – B.S Kinesiology
I was first introduced to the concept of Triple Extension my sophomore year in college by our Strength and Conditioning coach at Avila University. Coach C preached the importance of Olympic Lifting and how the practice of these Power movements translate to practically all sports.
Triple Extension means reaching full extension of the ankle, knee, and hip when creating a force off the ground. In pitching terms, it means that as we push off the rubber and begin to rotate the lower half in a linear motion towards the plate. Besides getting this Triple Extension, there are other variables that come into play in regards to timing. To maximize the potential of our delivery, we must master the sequence of these movements by having a proper set of separation between the lower and upper half.
The reason why these Olympic Lifting movements translate so well is because every Power aspect is driven through the hips. Take a baseball pitcher, elite sprinter, or a basketball player and this movement pattern applies.
Back to pitching, increasing our velocity begins with the lower half. While weight training, throwing programs, and weighted balls have their value, it can all be meaningless if you cannot apply these key movements in your delivery from start to finish.
When I was playing in college I did a lot of weight training and arm care. I definitely got stronger over the years but I didn’t really see any improvements in my velocity. This pushed me to work harder lifting more frequently and much heavier as the years went by. Unfortunately I worked harder and not smarter.
The reason was that although I did Olympic lifts with our strength program, I wasn’t very good at it. Power Cleans were a nightmare and by the time I started performing these movements more efficiently I was at my senior season and got injured.
Nevertheless Triple Extension is in my opinion the best way to get a pitcher to increase his velocity. But before we can increase our Power, we have to develop our Motor Control and Strength.
Motor Control is the manner in which a skilled movement is performed using sensory information
Strength is the ability to produce a force over an external load.
Power is the ability to apply Strength and move an external load in under a period of time.
If we understand how to develop these two applications properly the human body will adapt to perform skilled movements (such as pitching downhill off a mound). But before we can get to training for speed, we have to be able to control our body. Motor control is practically the ability to have your brain, nervous system, and muscles to work efficiently to perform a series a movements.
When we talk about working on mechanics, my philosophy is based off of training the 3 in order.
So before we talk about making the radar gun go off, we have to establish these fundamental principles. Biomechanical analysis are great but they are only as useful as it can be applied.
Here’s a video breakdown of Drew Dowd, pitcher at Avila University in Kansas City, MO.
Now Drew is a senior pitcher with many years of lifting experience. He can squat 500 lbs. and rep out Power Cleans well above his body weight. Through the years of his training, his body has been trained to apply these forces through his lower half on a constant basis.
Where he has struggled over the years was applying this Triple Extension on the mound. A big part of what has helped him get there at this point of his career is that he underwent an extensive mobility and flexibility routine in his previous off season.
He had the ability to Triple Extend in the weight room but not so much on the mound. Once his mobility allowed him to move better, he was able to start training his nervous system to fire his muscles properly, eventually establishing better pitching mechanics. This is where from a programming perspective specificity is very important. Drew can tell you that it took a lot of hours and a lot of frustration to get to this point, but his body has finally adapted to perform this movement much more efficiently.
While his velocity has increased a couple ticks, his delivery has gotten smoother and has enabled himself to keep his arm healthy and repeat is mechanics more consistently.
Any pitching coach can instruct a pitcher to move a certain way, but it isn’t as simple as “Here, try this!”
To improve pitching performance we have to start with the basics.
Develop better motor control so that the athlete learns how to both perform and understand their movement patterns. Pitching is a series of short-burst and fast movements. If the person cannot control their body, it will be extremely difficult to establish consistent mechanics.
To throw hard you have to be able to apply strong forces. Strength training is very important but it has to be specific and carefully planned. If all you do is bench press and bicep curls, your athleticism will likely not develop for the field.
Once you have developed a solid form of Strength, you have to be able to apply it with Power to see results on the mound. Remember that Power training is an application of Strength and they are not the same thing. Olympic lifts are huge but there are other forms of training such as plyometrics, med ball throws, and more.
So what should a young baseball player do? We have to start by assessing the individual’s age and physical maturity.
I would say that most kids 13 under need to focus primarily on Motor Control. Balance and coordination is probably the biggest limiting factor at this age so adding resistance training would be a secondary concern.
High school aged players should be ready enough to implement weight training but it should be fully dependent on how well they can move. They should be properly monitored and strategically trained to ensure both strength progression as well as safety.
As we reach adulthood (at or near college age) these athletes should go through extensive training on all 3 aspects. At this rate these athletes should be ready to go through an specific training program to maximize their athletic performance. Although all programming has to be properly structured, this is where an athlete’s development is a make-or-break scenario where they must continuously get stronger and faster.
In regards to pitching mechanics, they can always be worked on but they have to be applied properly to their training progressions. High school ages and up have to be much more specific when trying to improve biomechanics. Although Triple Extension is applied through the majority of the 3 main training components, this is where it has to be worked on in bullpens and throwing sessions.
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