Rotation is crucial in sports, not because you create this circular movement around a center, but because you stop it. In fact, this act of limiting rotation is even more important in events like sprinting where the body must maintain an efficient straight line of movement (see Sparta Point 9/22/10). Yet, we will focus on more obvious examples of rotation, where the body spins around a vertical axis, such as hitting a baseball or throwing.
Most research on overhead rotational athletes, such as baseball and volleyball, examines upper body mechanics, despite the initiation and cessation of these movements by the lower body. However, a 1998 study out of the Department of Orthopedics at Johns Hopkins University concentrated on the legs’ role in throwing a baseball. Collegiate and high school pitchers performed their movements on force plates (see Sparta Point 1/27/10), driving off one plate with the back leg and landing on another plate with the front leg. The results demonstrated that the highest forces were produced by the landing leg, and just below half of that force was produced by the driving leg.We have conducted similar informal studies at Sparta using our force plate, and the major difference between our professional and high school players is this ability to create more force on the landing leg, or the front side. These athletes showed little difference in the ability to start this rotation by driving off the back leg.
So whenever you want to rotate, whether it is hitting a baseball or making a cut during an agility run, the focus should be on the landing to stop any excessive spin. Part of this ability to stop rotation is strength, you need to get stiffer to control your rotations, and exercises like single leg jumps and the Olympic lifts can help develop this RATE (see SpartaPoint 12/8/10). The other part of this skill is timing and repetition. So by practicing your baseball swing or running passing routes for football, you’ll teach yourself when to stop the rotation at the best time.
Anyone can start rotating; it is the ability to stop it that will define your movement.
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