Hip Turn Reduces Arm & Shoulder Stress for Overhand Throwing & Hitting
A few years ago, Nick Cheronis (long time coach at Florida) started using our hip trainers and resistance bands with The University of Florida Women’s Volleyball Team. Later he told me that the first season they used our training system with the hitters, they hit the ball harder and had fewer shoulder complaints. The next season they stopped using it and then they team had more shoulder issues; so once again he used them with his hitters and shoulder pain and injuries disappeared, again.
In our Arm Care, Core Strength & Arm Velocity Program last night, four high school baseball pitchers shoulder pain level was improved from just four days earlier. Interesting, since we were engaged in some high speed hip turning drills that included throwing a baseball at a relatively high intensity & speed.
(Shown below is the chart from the first official session of the program. A “10” is the best rating the athlete can score indicating no shoulder pain or issues).
Last week we tested various parameters to establish baseline measures.
Most of these pitchers had all just finished 4-5 months of summer travel ball, showcases and fall ball and their shoulders were still feeling the effects of many months of pitching. Therefore, they rated their arm health less than the perfect “10”.
From the review of the test results, one of the first parameters we wanted to work on was the turn of the pelvis (often referred to as hip turn) to get the hips to turn faster when they throw.
When a pitcher strides, ideally the pelvis will move forwards first (towards home plate) and then when the stride foot contacts the ground the pelvis (hips) will turn. The turn of the pelvis initiates a sequence of the “ideal” body movements to create good pitching mechanics:
- The turn of the pelvis, turns the rib cage, spine and shoulders.
- The turn of the rib cage, spine & shoulders whips the throwing arm through.
Fast Hips = Fast Arm
The faster the hips (pelvis) turns, the faster the throwing arm gets whipped through, so the faster the arm speed and resulting arm speed is.
Why Did Their Arm Feel Better After Turning Hips?
Spreading the Forces Out
When the hips turn first and this hip turn creates this body movement sequence listed above, many muscles (and other tissues) in the body help create a whip. This whip moves the throwing arm (and ball) through faster with less focused stress on the throwing shoulder and arm in the process. So the pitcher can generate a lot of arm & ball speed (using the entire body) and their shoulder and arm will better tolerate the throwing forces.
How We Train Hip Turn Speed
Here’s what we did last night in reference to hip turn:
- General Dynamic warm-up for group (everyone does same thing)
- Specific Warm-up (each athlete has specific activities they do based on their training plan)
- Hip Turn Patterning (each athlete performs slow movement drills focused on make their legs and pelvis move correctly to improve how fast the pelvis can turn while performing throwing/pitching movements).
- Hip Turn Activation (drills to engage the muscles responsible for turning the pelvis faster)
- Hip Turn Speed (drills to increase the speed of the muscles responsible for turning the pelvis faster, while the athlete is actually throwing).
- Cool Down (foam roll arm, shoulders, chest, back, hips or anything that feels tight or fatigued).
Hip Turn Patterning
In this drill, the athlete is focused on teaching the legs and hips how to work correctly. You can really call this in simple terms “muscle memory” development.
Hip Turn Activation
In this drill, the athlete strides and works against the resistance of a band attached to the hip harness so he activates or engages the specific muscles responsible for the correct & fast movement of the legs and pelvis while pitching/throwing.
Hip Turn Speed
In this final drill, the athlete’s hips will be firing/moving through really fast after removing the resistance bands. The athlete is instructed to focus on performing the pitching movement while moving the hips (pelvis) as fast as they can. (The athlete wears a movement and speed sensor on the pelvis, so we get a measure of how fast the pelvis is truly moving and if the drills are actually working. This is critical feedback so the athlete learns the feel for how to move the pelvis faster while actually throwing).
Shown below are examples of the data we get from the sensors (on the left is data from last week’s baseline testing and on the right is data from last night’s training). This athlete increased hip turn speed from 364 to 513 degrees/second, a 41% improvement in two sessions:
Reduced Shoulder Pain
While the athletes were foam rolling last night I asked them to rate their shoulder (arm) health. they were all at a 10. We discussed how better using their hips allowed them to actually throw at a high intensity/speed without their shoulders/arms hurting.