I want to talk about where the true velocity of a pitcher comes from. I am going to back up my theories with information from Dr. Jobe. Dr. Jobe performed what I consider to be the best case study of pitching velocity called An Analysis Of The Pitching Shoulder. Velocity in pitching comes from the big muscles in the body. Velocity is not generated by the arm. The study Dr. Jobe conducted proves that while the arm is moving forward, the accelerator muscles do not fire. What this means is that the muscles in the arm and shoulder actually do not activate to create velocity.
To summarize the study, Dr. Jobe tested pitchers at four parts of their deliveries. He used electromyography and a high speed camera to capture the movements. The initial stretch position (part 1) had no muscular activation that was consistent. Part 2 is what Dr. Jobe called the "collect" or "Knee raise" of the pitcher. In part 2, the deltoids began sequentially firing followed by the scapula firing. Part 3 was by far the most interesting. Part 3 (acceleration) begins when the pitchers stride foot is hits the ground. Dr. Jobe found that even though the arm was accelerating forward towards home plate, there was little to no muscle activity. Part 4 is after the pitcher releases the ball. During part 4, Dr. Jobe discovered that this is the point of the delivery where the muscles fire most violently. He found out that the main reason for the muscles firing after the ball is released is actually to decelerate the arm. The conclusion Dr. Jobe came away with is that the muscles were only firing during the delivery to decelerate the arm.
Since the accelerator muscles in the arm and shoulder do not fire when the arm is going forward, elastic energy creates the velocity of the pitch. Lets talk about what elastic energy is.
Elastic energy is exactly like a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band, elastic energy is created. Muscles are very similar to rubber bands. When we stretch our muscles like a rubber band, elastic energy is built. Elastic energy has been proven to create more velocity than simply contracting the muscles in the arm to generate velocity. The main thing to remeber about elastic energy is SSC (strength shortening cycle). To properly utilize the SSC, we must focus on stretching our accelerator muscles to start the contraction, rather than just contracting the muscles. By stretching our accelerator muscles to generate the contraction, we will throw a lot harder. The SSC happens right after foot strike. At CoreSavvy I call this postion "hip to shoulder separation". The chest and upper body begin to fire towards homeplate while the backfoot and throwing shoulder stay back. This is what creates the elastic energy in the rubber band that is the pitching delivery.
The two things that affect how much elastic energy you have are how far you stretch and how fast you do it. Slow, methodical movements do not equate to elastic energy. Speeding up our delivery while staying under control is the best way to build elastic energy. Core strength is vital for pitchers because it is what determines how fast you accelerate your arm. The more core strength, the lighter your arm can stay throughout the delivery, generating elastic energy.
So what else's stops elastic energy? A part of your body called the Golgi tendon. The Golgi tendon is responsible for limiting the amount of force generated our muscles. When the Golgi tendon is stimulated, it stops the accelerator muscles. The goal of Core Savvy is to teach our students to desensitize the Golgi tendon through explosive throwing and footwork drills. I have personally seen students who push themselves to the limit in training actually desensitize the Golgi tendon, allowing them to generate much more violent elastic energy. This elastic energy translates directly to velocity.
If you want to desensitize your Golgi tendon, the worst thing you can do as an athlete is participating in the footwork and throwing drills without a weight training program. Weights are essential to build up our deceleration muscles. Deceleration muscles are essentially the brakes of the pitching delivery. We need to keep our brakes in good shape if we want to prevent an injury and mechanical break down.