Golf Legend Ben Hogan’s Lesson For Pitchers: Proper Sequence of Rotation

Written by on November 20, 2013 in Pitching Theory - 1 Comment
Ferris Wheel And Merry Go Round

Two Levels of Rotation

This article aims to demonstrate correct sequencing of lower body rotation (Merry Go Round) and upper body rotation (Ferris Wheel) into the  release of the baseball.

When I was drafted, I signed an equipment contract with Mizuno and as part of the initial contract, I was given a set of golf clubs.  I had never really played golf before, but with a fresh set of clubs, I figured I might as well explore the game of golf.  After all, I was a pitcher with plenty of free time on my hands, right?  In an effort to educate myself on how to swing a golf club, I went to Barnes and Noble and purchased two books:  Golf Magazine’s Private Lessons and Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons.  Both books proved very useful, but the way Ben Hogan talked about using his hips to create power as his body rotated seemed to resonate to my novice golf ears.

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Hogan’s words on rotation…

In the chain action of the downswing, the hips are the pivotal element.  The turning of the hips to the left releases the body, legs, and arms in a cohesive movement to the left.  As it enters the swing, each component adds its contribution to the ever-increasing speed and power of the swing.  In this chain action, the shoulders and the upper part of the body conduct the multiplying power into the arms.  The arms multiply it again and pass it on to the hands.  The hands multiply it in turn.  As a result the club head is simply tearing through the air at an incredible speed as the golfer hits through the ball.

The exact same sequencing of events occur in the overhead throw if executed properly.  

I never thought Hogan’s book would one day help me write an article, but Hogan’s instruction of the golf swing clearly demonstrates the correct sequencing of the body into rotation.  Yes, he’s talking about the golf swing but the sequencing of the body into the overhead throw is exactly the same.  Ben Hogan’s analysis of the downswing sheds light on how vital  proper lower body mechanics is  to generate the maximum amount of rotational speed in our upper body.  Far too often, pitchers at all levels translate power and speed through single handily activating the arm to generate velocity.  Early activation of the upper body (shoulders and arms) impedes lower body rotation.  The pelvis must efficiently open horizontally (merry go round) around the spine to allow the shoulders and arms to build energy directionally (ferris wheel) towards the target.  Watch the video below as I explain how the body rotates in order.

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The center of the body needs to be activated prior to throwing a baseball.  The mind needs to be cognizant of the pelvis and shoulders moving in sequence prior to recruiting the body at a higher threshold.  Establishing consistency in your sequence directly leads to increased gains in the functionality of your entire mechanical pattern.  How many times have you seen a pitcher prior to a bullpen, throwing session, or game incorporate a training regimen that focuses on dialing up the mechanical synchronization of the body in order?  The answer is not often, and maybe never.

In golf, a golfer always goes through a pre-shot routine that may involve visualization, insight from a caddy, and repeating the swing that is about to commence.  I mentioned in the video Tiger Wood’s practice swings as he is about to hit his next shot.  He practices his sequence and incorporates the feel into his next shot.  Golfers also have the luxury of incorporating a “waggle” into their pre-shot routine.  A waggle, in Hogan’s words, is “the bridge between the address and the actual part of the backswing”, a sort of miniature practice swing, an abbreviated “dry run”  for the coming up.”  Overall the waggle allows the golfer to rehearse the next intended shot.

What if you saw a pitcher catch the ball from the catcher, rehearse his throw, and then step to the mound?  Crazy or smart???

Obviously this would make the game already slower than it is now, but imagine the competitive advantage.  No worries, we can establish a similar effect in our training and apply the principles to game situations.

 A Pitcher’s Waggle?  ”SYNCH UP” before throwing

"Synching Up"

So, how can we start the process of recruiting the right muscles in order and have our body perform at a higher level?  First, get comfortable looking like the weird guy practicing a few isolated movements which are sure to look foreign to most baseball players.  But who cares?  It’s your career, your success.  Be a trendsetter  not a follower.  Break down your “pitcher’s waggle” into 3 parts.  The core, the hips, and the blending of both.  Let’s start with the core.  Use the gif image as a guide.

Core

Notice how I first engage my pelvis my turning my belly button towards my target.  You want to feel your abdominals starting to work.  This sets up the first level of rotation.

Hips
Tom Brady Throwing

Tom Brady demonstrating a proper sequence of rotation

In the gif image, I’m using the Gateway Drill to feel the rotation of the rear hip in sequence with the external rotation of the arm.  Focus on rotating the rear hip open and your torso moving into thoracic extension.

The Blend

After you activate the abdominals and hips, move the body together into one fluid movement that encompasses the rotation of the core and hips.  You should start to feel your lower half rotation working before the upper body rotation.  Allowing the lower half to fully open creates the lag in the arm (creating energy) into release.

A variety of movements can help you feel the intended sequence but when training my students in the building and online, I use a combination of “Zombie Walks“, “In The Club “, and “Gateway Drills” to dramatically improve the sequence of rotation that builds into the release of the baseball.   The drills are exclusive for all Baseball Rebellion members and provide a proven methodology of training the proper sequence of rotation.  And if you are still thinking about the “In The Club” drill, yes, it looks like something you would perform dancing in a club.

Final Thoughts

Train to develop the sequence between the lower body and upper body. Learning how to create the ultimate stretch between the upper body and lower body is a separate topic but the execution of the abdominals and hips rotating before the shoulders and arms can be trained efficiently regardless of how much stretch you create.  When training, avoid activating the arm into rotation.  Concentrate on feeling the right muscles in order rotate.  Remember, the arm is just along for the ride.  Stay in the car as long as you can.  #chrysler300

-Justin Orenduff, Leader of the Pitching Rebellion

#JCVD

When I was a kid, a typical Friday night started with my father driving me to Blockbuster where I would pick out a Jean Claude Van Damme movie, my favorite Hungry Man meal from the grocery store, and ended with endless roundhouse kicks as I watched JCVD in Bloodsport.  Over the last week, as part of the pitching program, I have made all of my students watch Jean Claude’s latest commercial, and I encourage you to watch as well.

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About the Author

Justin was a Freshman All-American at GW University and then transferred to VCU where he earned all American Honors. In the summer of 2003 Justin was selected to the USA National Team where he pitched alongside Jared Weaver and Justin Verlander. He was then drafted 33rd overall by the LA Dodgers. After retiring from the Dodgers in 2009, Justin returned to VCU where he earned his B.S. in Business Management. Justin has dedicated himself to educating the masses about the pitfalls and dangers of misguided and misinformed training techniques and create efficient, sustainable, and healthy deliveries for all ages. He authors Baseball Rebellions Pitching Blog and is the lead pitching instructor at ITS Baseball, Baseball Rebellions research facility.

One Comment on "Golf Legend Ben Hogan’s Lesson For Pitchers: Proper Sequence of Rotation"

  1. Steve Black November 21, 2013 at 1:53 pm · Reply

    Hogan is the King! – Love his stuff and I have always used his approach and then translated it back to baseball.

    To be great at anything you need great instruction (train smart – like you guys) and as Hogan said “Dig it out of the dirt” – most don’t want to work for greatness – and when you get the same lame results from all the so called gurus out there you almost expect kids to quit – but you guys inspire with your techniques and the actual in game improvements simply inspire more work – Then it’s a journey to see how far can you go – Thank you for bringing Hogan into the conversation. The truth is here, the proof is in the Rebellion, you just have to join it to see it.

    steve black

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