Many pitchers start early to practice as much as they can. However, incorporating bad mechanics can overload your arm and damage your elbow. If you are a beginner, don’t worry! I will go over the needed materials and offer detailed explanations for each step of the correct pitching motion. In the end, I will also analyze the incorrect techniques that lead to arm injuries. Read on to become the best pitcher you can be!
- baseball glove
- baseball shoes
- pitching mound (OPTIONAL)
- an elevated surface used in competitive baseball, link to image: https://www.azmounds.com/product/az-8-portable-ga...
- pitching net (or pitch with actual catcher)
- link to image: https://www.amazon.com/GoSports-Baseball-Softball...
The pitching mound is optional if you are pitching for fun. Delivering the ball on a flat surface will be sufficient. If you are playing in a league, you can replicate game day conditions with a mound.
Step 1: Start Position
You can either stand in the direction of the catcher or face sideways. Hide the ball in your glove and keep both hands near your upper body.
Step 2: Windup
The wind-up generates momentum by bringing your glove-side knee up to waist level. WARNING: Don’t raise your knee too much because you might lose balance. Keep the ball in the glove throughout.
Step 3: Stride
Start moving your front leg down the slope of the mound while bending your back knee. Make sure that your stride is long and your upper body is upright as you dive. Move your pitching hand away from your waist at the same time. Keep your body facing sideways and your glove hand tucked into your chest during this phase.
Step 4: Early Cocking / Foot Plant
Rotate your pitching arm upwards. During this process, you will be completing the stride and planting your foot. Make sure your arm is cocked upright (forming an L shape), while your body still faces sideways.
Getting your arm up at foot plant is the most important aspect of correct mechanics. The earlier you bring it up, the less stress your arm will go through during the Arm Acceleration phase. I will talk about how timing issues lead to elbow damage in the end of this Instructable.
Step 5: Arm Acceleration / Late Cocking
NOTE: The image is blurry because it's a screen capture in a video. Keeping your arm cocked back for more than a few seconds is difficult, so this in-motion shot illustrates how fast this phase occurs.
Start rotating your body towards the direction of the catcher while bringing your pitching arm forward. Bring your elbow in front of your forearm and hand. The rest of the arm will lag behind and follow in suit, like a catapult motion. As a result, you are generating tons of momentum before you release the ball.
Step 6: Release
NOTE: The image is blurry because it's a screen capture in a video. This in-motion shot illustrates how fast the release phase occurs.
At this point, your body has finished rotating forward. Release the ball at a comfortable position (either overhand or sidearm) while keeping your glove hand tucked to maintain balance.
Overhand - releasing the ball at a 45-90 degree angle (link to image showing arm angle: https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/happy-birthday-...)
Sidearm - releasing the ball at a horizontal angle (link to image: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sidearm)
Step 7: Deceleration / Follow-Through
Bring your pitching arm down slowly so it doesn’t crash against your body. Lean your body in and kick your back leg upwards to complete the follow-through. This helps maintain balance so you don’t fall towards one direction.
Letting your arm fall naturally will reduce injury risk. A lot of major league pitchers force their arms down prematurely, placing stress on the ligaments.
Step 8: Putting It All Together
The video above demonstrates the complete process of pitching from starting position to follow-through. The individual steps above will help you get the details down, but the video combines these steps in one motion to give you the full picture.
Many baseball programs teach methods that can cause UCL (ulnar collateral ligament) tears. The UCL, located in your elbow, is the main stabilizer for the arm during the pitching process. Bad techniques usually involve timing issues, where the pitcher doesn't bring his arm up before foot plant.
In the Power T position, the pitcher's arm is flat at foot plant. This can lead to overworking your arm during the acceleration phase. (Link to Power T image: http://clients.chrisoleary.com/Pitching/The-Epidem...)
In the Inverted W position, the pitcher's arm is pointed downwards. This is dangerous because the pitcher will have to bring the arm all the way up and accelerate it in a short period of time. Many big-league players who practice Inverted W have teared their UCL at least once. (Link to Inverted W image: https://www.yougoprobaseball.com/2/inverted-w-scap...)
Practicing the above steps will help you improve your pitching skills, but make sure to rest your arm every 3-5 days to avoid strains and injuries. Young pitchers’ ligaments are not ready to withstand this load for long periods of time, so be cautious about pitching too often. In addition, avoid dangerous techniques such as the Power T or Inverted W to preserve your elbow. Go out there and have fun pitching!