What are the Five Pitching Phases?
The overhand motion of throwing a baseball can seem pretty self-explanatory, but what you might not know is there is a series of five phases that goes into every single pitch. Every part of a pitcher’s throw is broken down piece by piece to ensure proper form to avoid injury. Even if they have one minor slip up during these five phases, it is possible they could end up with a tear in their musculature. The main muscles used during these five phases are; deltoids, rotator cuff, paraspinal, abdominals, glutes, supraspinatus, infraspinatus, tres minor, pectoralis major, triceps, biceps, as well as many other muscles in these areas. https://www.lakesidechiro.com.au/blog/muscles-involved-during-the-five-phases-of-pitching-during-baseball
For simpler terms, most of the muscles used are throughout your arms, shoulders, and chest areas. Having an injury bad enough in any areas stated above can quickly end a pitcher’s career. It is also common to find new pitchers who do not know exactly step by step what they are supposed to do with their body and need a little guidance; if these steps are not adequately taught early on then, they can find themselves ending a career that they have barely had time to start.
It can be hard to decipher these five phases because the pitches can happen very quickly if you watch them in real-time, each pitch only lasting around 1-2 seconds. Below, I will break down the five phases of pitching; wind-up, cocking, acceleration, deceleration, and follow-through.
This phase is when a pitcher starts to build up the force needed to achieve peak velocity. This phase has no muscles in the pitcher’s shoulders and arms because it mainly focuses on the pitcher performing correct posture and center of gravity. It begins with the pitcher lifting their lead leg to its highest point, and the throwing hand begins to separate from the glove. The center of gravity is kept over the pitcher’s back leg to assist with momentum once they move forward. This may seem simple so far, but if a pitcher and their momentum start to fall prematurely, then they will need to use a greater shoulder force to throw the ball at peak velocity. Using a higher shoulder force due to premature momentum can throw off the whole pitch, and if this happens too often, it can put too much strain on the pitcher’s shoulder and eventually cause an injury.
Cocking can be broken into two parts, early cocking and late cocking, but all happen very quickly together, so it can be summed up into just one phase. This phase prepares the arm to throw the ball. Early cocking begins during the wind-up phase when the lead leg is lifted to its highest point, and the ball is removed from the glove. This part of the phase then ends when the lead foot is lowered back down and connects with the pitcher’s mound. During this early part of the phase, there is an extreme activity in the posterior shoulder muscle since the shoulder has full external rotation by the end of the phase. When the shoulder is in this position, it enables the front upper quadrant muscle to stretch and prepare for it forcefully contract when the arm moves forward during the next phase. Late cocking happens between the lead foot connecting with the pitcher’s mound and when a pitcher reaches full external rotation of their throwing shoulder. During this phase, the pitcher’s entire body starts to move towards the batter, or target and their throwing arm continue to move into extreme external rotation into the next stage.
This phase happens between the full external rotation of the shoulder and the release of the ball. The ball is moving towards the target now but has not been released from the pitcher’s hand quite yet. During this movement, the shoulder starts to move from extreme external rotation to internal rotation. Their body mechanics help them place their shoulder in the correct position during acceleration, so they can gain velocity and create accuracy without causing any injury to their shoulder.
Deceleration is when the ball is released, and there is maximum internal rotation of the humerus bone and elbow rotation; for the arm to do this, the back quadrant of their shoulder muscle contracts and quickly slows down so the pitcher can have more control of their throw. This phase is prevalent with injuries in pitchers because if control didn’t happen, the arm would continue to rotate internally, and there would be too much force on the back musculature, causing damage.
During the final phase, the pitcher’s body continues to move forward with their arm until the motion has come to a complete stop. Everything starts to slow down during this phase, and the body eventually stops moving towards the target. Their body will come to complete rest, and if the pitcher keeps their body in control, they will end up in a wholly balanced position.
When these five phases are broken up, it can seem intimidating, especially with how many muscles are involved throughout the whole process. Even though there’s a large number of muscles going into making every pitch possible, the entire process through all of these phases only takes place for about two seconds, with the wind-up phase taking up about 1.5 of those seconds. A pitcher must pay attention to every second of their pitch to achieve maximum velocity and accuracy. They must pay attention to every small detail because they will likely end up with an injury and even permanent damage to their shoulder if they do not.
Ryan Weiss’ pitching programs are a helpful guide to break down the safest way for pitchers to improve their throwing game. He designs each guide specifically for his customers to get the most out of his programs. If you are consistent and follow the programs he provides you with, you should find yourself pitching safely and efficiently at a higher velocity.