The Kinematic Sequence - Proximal to Distal (Part 1)
Updated: Jan 22
In today's post - Demetre breaks down the fundamental anatomy principals you need to understand in order to make the best player development decisions for your pitchers. Knowing how the body moves and why is essential in this industry, here is your go to article to get started!
“There’s no magic bullet for improvement” screamed the pitching coach, “other than maybe proper sequencing, that will fix a lot of things” he admitted rather sheepishly. “It is the only thing I have come across that improves command, velocity, and helps sustain health. It really is the 'secret sauce' in pitching, a pitcher’s ability to properly sequence the body in order to deliver the baseball."
There is a ton of verbiage used to speak about the pitcher's delivery, which takes time for the average user to pick. Understanding anatomy and the way the body moves is essential for making proper development decisions. This post's goal is to break down the anatomy of a pitcher and the concept of the Kinematic Sequence simply, and continue to grow throughout the Kinematic Sequence Series.
NOTE - the following blog post is designed to be more informational with the intention of going into deeper concepts and modalities in later posts.
ANATOMY OF THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE
First, we will dive into the parts of the body that play a role in delivering the baseball. We will break these down into the proximal pieces, and the distal pieces, taking a look at proximal first. The following image is the definition for ‘proximal’.
The two most proximal pieces of the body we will discuss are pelvis and the trunk.
Pelvis, also called bony pelvis or pelvic girdle, in human anatomy, is a basin-shaped complex of bones that connects the trunk and the legs. It supports and balances the trunk.
The pelvis is king when delivering the baseball. I believe the ability to control the pelvis is at the forefront of every elite pitcher.
There is a distinct difference between the pelvis and the hips. Typically the human body has one pelvis and two hips. The hips are a projection of the pelvis and upper thigh bone on each side of the body. The hip is the joint between the thigh bone (femur) and the pelvis; also the area adjacent to this joint. The hip joint is a ball-and-socket joint; the round head of the femur rests in a cavity (the acetabulum) that allows free rotation of the limb.
The torso or trunk is an anatomical term for the central part of the human body from which extend the neck and limbs. The trunk includes the thorax and abdomen.
The pelvis and the trunk are the primary proximal pieces of the body.
Now let us take a look at the distal pieces of the body.
The distal pieces of the body we will discuss are the arms and the legs.
The arms are the two upper limbs of the human body from the shoulder to the hand. The arm acts as a lever in pitching, transferring energy from the torso to the baseball & responsible for delivering the ball’s release.
A look at the arm and how it moves from the shoulder joint
The legs are the limbs on which a person or animal walks and stands. The legs are responsible for supporting the pelvis, by carrying it down the mound into rotation and transferring energy from the ground up.
A look at the legs, and how they move from the hip socket
TIMING OF THE KINEMATIC SEQUENCE
The efficient sequencing of motion in a pitcher is called the Kinematic Sequence. It describes the proximal to distal sequencing of each body segment in order to deliver the baseball. Each body segment accelerates and decelerates through ball release. The proximal pieces initiate the sequencing, and the distal pieces conclude the sequencing and each segment builds off the acceleration of the previous, during proper sequencing, each successive segment peaks faster and later than the previous segment. This causes energy to transfer through the anatomy in hope of releasing the ball at its highest speed.
The following image displays some of the anatomical parts of the kinematic sequence and an ideal rate at which they accelerate and decelerate.
The actual act of throwing the baseball using the Kinematic Sequence is illustrated below. The pelvis fires first, followed by the trunk, followed by elbow extension, into ball release.
The following image depicts solely the proximal pieces of the body throughout the course of the delivery. Eliminating the distal pieces of the body allows one to lock-in on how the proximal pieces move through space.
During an efficient Kinematic Sequence, the proximal pieces fire first and are responsible for delivering the distal pieces of the anatomy to finish the Kinematic Sequence. Proper sequencing requires each piece to sequence in order, and in my eyes the proximal pieces are of the utmost importance in initiating an efficient Kinematic Sequence.
This post looked to introduce the pieces of the anatomy involved as well as introduce the concept of timing during the Kinematic Sequence. I believe athletes who optimize their sequencing enhance their ability to throw hard, throw with command, and stay healthy.
Next time we will look into how these pieces work together to generate force.
The following are a list of Journal Articles that discuss aspects of the Kinematic Sequence in more depth.
Andrews, J. R., Zarins, B., and Wilk, K. E. (1998). Injuries in Baseball. Philadelphia,
Bartlett, R., Muller, E., Lindinger, S., Brunner, E, and Morriss, C. (1996). Three dimensional
evaluation of the kinematic release parameters for javelin throwers of different skill levels.
Best, R. J., Bartlett, R. M., and Morriss, C. J. (1993). A three-dimensional analysis
of javelin throwing technique. Journal of Sports Science.
DiGiovine, N. M., Jobe, F. W., Pink, M., and Perry, J. (1992). COMPARISONS BETWEEN AMERICAN AND KOREAN BASEBALL PITCHERS
Dillman, C. J., Fleisig, G. S., and Andrews, J. R. (1993). Biomechanics of pitching
with emphasis upon shoulder kinematics. Journal of Orthopedic and
Sports Physical Therapy, 18(2), 402-408.
Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Barrentine, S. W., Zheng, N., and Andrews, J. R.
(1998).Kinematic comparisons of throwing different types of baseball
pitches. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 14(1), 1-23.
Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Barrentine, S. W., Zheng, N., and Andrews, J. R.
(2001). Kinematic comparisons of 1996 Olympic baseball pitchers. Journal
of Sports Science, 19, 665-676.
Feltner, M. E., and Dapena, J. (1986). Dynamics of the shoulder and elbow
joints of the throwing arm during a baseball pitch. International Journal of
Sport Biomechanics, 2, 235-259.
Fleisig, G. S., Andrews, J. R., Dillman, C. J., and Escamilla, R. F. (1995).
Kinetics of baseball pitching with implications about injury mechanisms.
American Journal of Sports Medicine, 23(2), 233-239.
Fleisig, G. S., Barrentine, S. W., Zheng, N., Escamilla, R. F., and Andrews, J. R.
(1999). Kinematic and kinetic comparison of baseball pitching among various
levels of development. Journal of Biomechanics, 32, 1371-1375.
Fleisig, G. S., Escamilla, R. F., Andrews, J. R., Matsuo, T., Satterwhite, Y., and
Barrentine, S. W. (1996). Kinematic and kinetic comparison between baseball
pitching and football passing. Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 12,
Gowan, I. D., Jobe, F. W., Tibone, J. E., Perry, J., and Moynes, D. R. (1987). A
comparative electromyographic analysis of the shoulder during pitching.
Professional versus amateur pitchers. American Journal of Sports
Medicine, 15(6), 586-590.
Han, T. R., Kim, S. K., Yoo, M. J., Chung, S. G., Lee, S. U., and Lee, S. J. (1996).
Kinematic analysis of throwing motion of Korean professional baseball
pitchers. Korean Journal of Sports Medicine, 14(1), 13-21.
Matsuo, T., Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Barrentine, S. W., and Andrews, J. R.
(2001). Contributions of factors based on kinematic relationship to the
inter-subject variability of baseball pitch velocity. Journal of Applied
Biomechanics, 17(1), 1-13.
Mero, A., Komi, P. V., Korjus, T., Navarro, E., and Gregor, R. J. (1994). Body
segment contributions to javelin throwing during final thrust phases.
Journal of Applied Biomechanics, 10, 166-177.
Neal, R. J., Snyder, C. W., and Kroonenberg, P. M. (1991). Individual differences
and segment interactions in throwing. Human Movement Science, 10,
Stodden DF, Campbell BM, Moyer TM. Comparison of trunk kinematics
in trunk training exercises and throwing. J Strength Cond Res.
Stodden DF, Fleisig GS, McLean SP, Andrews JR. Relationship of
biomechanical factors to baseball pitching velocity: within pitcher variation.
J Appl Biomech. 2005;21(1):44-56.
Stodden DF, Fleisig GS, McLean SP, Lyman SL, Andrews JR. Relationship
of pelvis and upper torso kinematics to pitched baseball velocity. J Appl
Thurston, B. (1998). The fine art of pitching: coach's perspective. In J. R.
Andrews, B. Zarins and K. E. Wilk (eds.), Injuries in Baseball (pp. 589-603).
Watkins, R. G., Dennis, S., Dillin, W. H., Schnebel, B., Schneiderman, G., Jobe,
F., Farfan, H., Perry, J., and Pink, M. (1989). Dynamic EMG analysis of
torque transfer in professional baseball pitchers. Spine, 14(4), 404-408.
Werner, S. L., Fleisig, G. S., Dillman, C. J., and Andrews, J. R. (1993). Biomechanics
of the elbow during baseball pitching. Journal of Orthopedic
and Sports Physical Therapy, 17(6), 274-278.
Werner SL, Guido JA Jr, Stewart GW, McNeice RP, VanDyke T,
Jones DG. Relationships between throwing mechanics and shoulder
distraction in collegiate baseball pitchers. J Shoulder Elbow Surg.
Werner SL, Suri M, Guido JA Jr, Meister K, Jones DG. Relationships between
ball velocity and throwing mechanics in collegiate baseball pitchers.
J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2008;17(6):905-908.