In previous pitching articles on this website and in our book How To Build And Develop The Natural Explosive Pitcher I have shown why pitching drills are a poor form of learning once a pitcher has developed a delivery… even if it's rudimentary.
Here’s why pitching drills are ruining most pitchers.
A fluent two-phase motor skill such as pitching has no natural breaks. Why would a pitcher practice breaking the movement flow as in the towel drill?
That pitching drill involves acceleration and deceleration movements, characteristics that do not occur in a complete pitch. It does not involve a ball. While the drill is supposedly for proprioception, the proprioception caused by a towel is very different to that experienced with a ball.
The towel drill constitutes another example of practicing errors or a competing movement patterns that will detract from rather than enhance pitching.
The question must be asked: Does this pitching drill really emulate anything that a pitcher does while throwing a baseball in a game?
The answer should be obvious; it does not.
Therefore, it will not transfer anything positive to a pitching delivery. It may seem similar; however, the body will understand this action as a completely different movement skill and will attempt to discriminate it from a pitching delivery when throwing a baseball.
The problem with this pitching drill is that developing/maturing pitchers are likely to misinterpret how their body is supposed to work once they try this when throwing a real baseball. Their interpretation probably would be that they should be reaching out in order to gain more extension.
Too many things about this pitching drill are poor… even though just about all coaches recommend its use.
Many developing pitchers do not get themselves into a good position at landing where their head and body are upright with good straight spine alignment.
This is because they do not understand how to shift their weight properly.
So, when their focus is on adding extension to the delivery and trying to “reach out”, trunk rotation suffers. Because the pitcher is focused on arm extension (the idea of “reaching out”), his body exaggerates that action and forgets that upon landing the trunk must begin rotation followed by flexion in order to maximize all transferred energy so the arm gains maximum velocity.
This pitching drill, in my experience, causes a major timing problem because the altered movement required to gain extension starts to flex the trunk forward too early before trunk rotation is completed and therefore, sacrifices power in order to gain the arm extension.
Most pitching drills are counterproductive for pitching improvement. They interfere with the feeling of correctly executed segments, performed in a fluent total movement.
I have firsthand knowledge of a college pitcher whose fastball declined from 89-91 mph to 83-84 mph just by spending time doing this “towel” drill.
Because his emphasis was on adding arm extension, he forgot that upon landing the trunk must begin rotation before it starts to flex forward.
This timing error put the power on the arm much too soon, and consequently reduced release velocity.
Another very popular pitching drill that is practiced at all levels is the “kneeling drill”. This pitching drill can be performed by kneeling on the front leg knee and pointing the pitcher’s front shoulder at the target or by kneeling on both knees while the trunk is facing the target.
The idea of both pitching drills is to work on improving upper body mechanics. This pitching drill’s fault is that the lower body movement provides the energy that will be transferred to the upper body in the sequence leading to arm acceleration.
When the lower body is taken out of the pitching movement, the initial driving force that provides the important timing element is removed, as is the momentum which provides the energy to drive the upper body and arm. Although the intention of this drill has merit, the drill is unsuccessful in fulfilling the intention.
The balance drill also has no benefit but in my opinion is one of the reasons why so many pitchers have slow deliveries with hesitation. Slowness and hesitations reduce pitching velocity.
Inaccurate descriptions of the benefits of drills are rampant in pitching instruction. Pitching drills, which are most often done on flat ground, at far less than game intensity, and sometimes with objects other than a baseball, have no valid basis for teaching a game intensity throw from a mound.
The idea that they are good because they “teach neuromuscular awareness” or “muscle memory” is nonsense.
If you want a pitcher to improve stay away from pitching drills. Learn pitching mechanics and use video analysis instead as it provides far better feedback for both the student and the instructor.
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