Eva Voortman - Insideout softball science, April 2020
Throwing, smijten or pitching? Pitching from top till toe to the top - The anatomy of a pitcher
What do you need to throw hard? Well actually, everything. From the big toe of the push-off foot, to the hand in your glove, and from the toe of your landing foot to the fingertips of your pitching hand. To accelerate the ball in an optimal way, you need the fingers of your pitching hand to go as fast as they can, and this acceleration literally comes from your big toe. The reasoning behind this, and how you can accelerate your body from that toe to your fingers is what I will explain the coming weeks along findings from scientific articles combined with my experience as a pitcher(trainer). This week: The Anatomy Of A Pitcher.
We start at the fundamentals: The body is made up of bones, muscles and all different kinds of tissue. In order to move, these structures all need to work together in a certain way. The static (hard) bones cannot move by themselves, the dynamic (soft, flexible) muscles can in fact move by themselves by contracting and extending. But with a muscle contracting and extending we haven’t quite found the answer to how our body moves yet. Every muscle, or muscle group, has its own function and direction in which the muscle fibers can contract.
In order to use both static attributes of the bones and the dynamic attributes of the muscles, the bones and muscles form joints. Because of the shape of the bones and the attributes of the muscles around them, your body can make certain movements, but is also limited in certain movements. Imagine having two bones, and two muscles: these muscles need to be connected to both the first and the second bone in order to move one of them whenever the muscles contracts (and shortens). Because we have multiple bones and muscles which are intertwined in different ways, we can make a wide variety of movements. However, when we use bones and muscles in ways in which they are not designed to, they can also be damaged. For example, a shoulder can rotate almost completely, but if the same movement is done in the hip this will not result in a positive outcome.
Bones, muscles, joints, moving, and then throwing. The last step is obviously interesting for softball. How do we get those bones, muscles and joints working together in a way, so that we can accelerate the ball as well as possible? The Introduction already showed that we should be working from toe to finger, from bottom to top. The pitching motion (and all other moitions we make) is a chain consisting of sequential movements, also known as the kinetic chain. The chain runs optimally through the muscles and joints if you move them correctly in sequence, in the direction for which they are made to do so. This is not a very conscious process, but sometimes you feel whether something is going smoothly or not (or whenever you get injured, then you are sure that you did not move properly according to the chain).
The kinetic chain is literally a chain of movement. The mechanisms which support the acceleration of the body, through the kinetic chain, are rotational velocities of different segments which are sequential to each other. This might read and sound slightly complicated, so I will explain this a little further.
From pushing off the rubber until releasing the ball, you are accelerating parts of your body in a certain sequence. This sequence is quite logical, you might go from your hip to your torso and not from your elbow to your ankle. The sequence is roughly said from big to small, where you use the power and mass of the big parts of your body to accelerate the smallest parts (the ball and the hand) resulting in high velocities. Kind of like a whiplash effect. This also gives clarity about the fact that a combination of (stiff) force and (smooth) relaxation will lead to the most ideal outcome and result.
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Until the next one!