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Drill to Help Fastpitch Pitchers Feel the Elbow Lead

I know my last two posts have been incredibly long so going to try to keep this one short and sweet today.

One of the biggest challenges pitchers who are early in their journey, or pitchers who were taught to turn the ball toward second at the top of the circle, have is learning to get and maintain a bend in the arm coming down the back side of the circle. Getting that bent elbow is essential for enabling the body, and especially the arm, to decelerate a piece at a time instead of all at once to generate maximum arm whip (and thus maximum speed).

Usually what happens is the pitcher is very hand/ball-centric through the circle. That makes sense on the surface because what are they going to do? They’re going to throw the ball with their hand.

Yet taking that approach means that when the pitcher comes over the top of her head the momentum she has generated on the front side will naturally carry the hand backward. When that happens not only does the arm straighten out but the ball is actually moving in the opposite direction of the body.

In other words, as the body is driving forward, hopefully at great velocity, all the energy in the lower arm and hand is being directed backward, as if the pitcher is trying to throw to second base. As a result, a lot of the energy that was generated early will be lost, and more of it will be wasted trying to get the ball to start coming forward again. Not exactly the recipe for maximizing speed.

To avoid this issue the arm must start bending before it goes over the top, enabling the elbow to lead through 12:00 and then down the back side of the circle. This can be easier said than done, however, because it’s often difficult for pitchers to feel exactly what IS happening with their arms at that point.

So to address that issue I developed this little drill.

Have the pitcher stand at 45 degrees to the wall behind her, with her back heel touching or nearly touching. She then raises her arm and brings her hand overhead in the circle to touch the wall behind her.

The advantage of this drill is that it is very targeted and tactile. I always say “if you can feel it, you can fix it.”

By having her try to touch the wall with her elbow instead of her hand, the elbow naturally has to bend. She will know instantly if she got arm/elbow bend at this critical moment because the point of her elbow will contact the wall. It the back of her hand touches the wall, the arm is too straight.

If, on the other hand, the ball touches the wall, the arm is too straight AND she turned the ball backward as she came over the top.

I recommend doing this drill 50-100 times a day every day until the arm starts getting into this position naturally. The nice thing is you don’t need a facility or a warm, sunny day to do it. Any convenient vertical surface and an arm’s length of space will suffice.

If you have a pitcher who is struggling to get arm bend/lag in order to whip, give this drill a try. And be sure to let me know how it works for you.

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