Separation: The X-Factor for Throwing
by Cary Mendes, DPT, OCS
It can’t be overstated that throwing is a full kinetic chain motion. In order to create velocity, we’ve talked about the importance of hip rotation mobility here. But another key contributor in proper mechanics is hip and shoulder separation. When the stride leg hits the ground, the pelvis begins to rotate towards the target. However, when this happens the trunk can’t rotate with it. If the trunk rotates with it, the thrower has to generate all of their power further down the chain at the shoulder or elbow, for example, causing undue stress. The pitchers with the best velocity will actually continue their trunk counter-rotation as their pelvis continues to rotate towards the plate. In golf, we call this phenomenon the X-Factor because the hip plane and the shoulder plane create an X from overhead.
The trunk counter-rotation allows the arm to continue to rotate back and reach maximal external rotation to build tension along the chain. This extra external rotation is “free." This allows for a greater release of elastic rotation as the trunk finally rotates through. Because of this, the pitcher will not have to generate as much force, leading to less stress placed on the shoulder and elbow.
Now it’s time to assess your ability to create this separation.
Start with your feet hip-width apart, a slight bend in your hips and knees and your arms crossed over your chest. Rotate your trunk without moving your hips and assess for overall excursion and symmetry. Next, perform the same movement with your hips without moving your shoulders.
Hip Drop (2 sets x 10 reps each side)
For corrective exercises, we will introduce the hip drop. Start on your back with hips and knees bent to 90 degrees and feet in the air. Drop your knees toward the right side to the floor so your pelvis rotates, but keep your shoulder blades touching the ground. Come back to the center and repeat to the left side.
Stork Pivots (3 sets x 10 reps each side)
To perform, stand on your right leg with the left foot hooked behind your right knee and your arms crossed over your chest. Cross your left leg in front of your right as far as you can and then out as far as you can without moving your upper body. Repeat on the other leg.
If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out!