Are Your Arms and Legs AWAKE?

Do you struggle with any of the following pitching symptoms: lack of speed, difficulty with the drive through, difficulty with balance/posture, difficulty “getting” forearm fire, or flat or wild movement pitches? Do you want to know what all of these very different issues could have in common? My most recent discovery may help you out.

This is going to be a bit of a long explanation, so to make it easier to digest I’m going to break it into 2 posts. Today we’ll discuss what the problem is, and next week we’ll discuss what causes it and how to fix it.

Difficulty driving through, and difficulty getting a proper feeling for forearm fire—especially relaxing enough—are two of the most common problems I’ve seen in my pitching students over the years. Excess tension and overuse of the shoulders and hips are a big contributor to these problems.

The other day I was working with one of my regular students who was having trouble relaxing her arms in her pre-motion. As we’ve discussed before, pre-motion habits are more mental than physical—while they are still controlled by muscle memory, you can change them immediately with concentration. So I gave her some verbal cues and there was immediate improvement. The thing that stood out to me, however, was the REASON she wasn’t able to relax her arms in her pre-motion before.

Hips & Shoulders VS. Arms & Legs

The problem was she was trying to move her arms WITH her shoulders. If you think of a simple movement such as raising your arm, you can try to accomplish this one of two ways: you could raise your arm normally, or you could attempt—unsuccessfully—to raise it using only your shoulder. See the animations below:

arm shoulder

Sorry that’s a little weird, but it was the best way I could think of to illustrate what I mean. In the first animation, I’m raising my arm normally, using the muscles in all parts of my arm. In the second, I’m holding my arm still and trying to raise it using only my shoulder. Notice the difference in range of motion; I’m able to do a lot more in the first animation.

My student was trying to do an arm rocking pre-motion—keeping the ball hidden in her glove—moving her arms similarly to how I am in the second animation. Basically, her arms were doing almost nothing, and her shoulders were trying (unsuccessfully) to drag her dead-weight arms around. Because she was starting out this way, she remained this way throughout her arm circle.

Think of the implications of this. If only your shoulder is moving and your arm isn’t really moving much at all, what does that mean for your pitch?

  • Your arm circle is slower and involves more shoulder tension
  • You can’t whip your arm, because that requires moving all parts of your arm, especially the lower half
  • If you can’t move your lower arm independently, you won’t be able to throw movement pitches at all

When I thought about it even FURTHER, I realized that the very common problem of trying to drive through with your hip instead of your leg is essentially the SAME PROBLEM translated to the lower body. I’ve discussed this issue in depth before here.

This is definitely a physical problem, although it is not necessarily a strength problem. It’s more a problem with what I’ll call waking up your muscles. Check back next week to learn more about whether YOUR limbs are awake, and how you can wake them up if they’re not.


About the author


Carly is a windmill pitching specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. She has coached teams at every level from 10U to NCAA. She also designed and built fastpitchpower.com. Please feel free to leave questions and site feedback in the comments or via our contact page!

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