How many of you have asked this question of your pitching instructors?
You: How long should my stride be?
Instructor 1: 6 feet.
Instructor 2: 8 foot lengths.
Instructor 3: Your body length.
Based on the conversations I have been having over my 20-year career coaching softball, my guess is ‘a lot’. I’ve actually had the question asked of me in three completely different parts of the country in the last couple of months. The issue becomes that seemingly every coach will spout out a different answer to the question.
Here’s the reality: there is no fixed answer.
If you study biomechanics of pitching across the board, you will find that you want your stride to be at least 75% of your height. Beyond that, you have to talk about all of the variables that contribute to the pitching motion. Some of the biggest basic components are:
Leg Length:Height Ratio
Muscle Insertion Angles
Some of the issue is that people are overgeneralizing things based on the very best pitchers in the world. If you’re telling a 4’6” pitcher that she needs to be striding as long as someone like Jennie Finch, you’re really setting her up for immediate failure. Or for those that are saying, “Well, that’s just the eventual goal,” you need to understand that you may be developing the detrimental habit of overstriding, which can be problematic because your pitcher will not be able to generate as much power in her hips and core.
So if there is no fixed answer to this question, what should we be looking for in pitchers?
Shin angle. In the wind up, the drive foot ankle needs to get as loaded as possible to create maximal power.
Stride leg height. Again, there is no fixed height, but in general, right around knee height is a good marker to look for. If the stride foot stays lower than that, the body doesn’t have enough time to set up the maximal core and hip angles you are looking for to create maximal velocity.
Ankle, knee, and hip extension & angle. Once you check that stride leg height, you want to make sure you are maximizing extension at all of these joints and in the right direction.
The goals in all of this are: power, consistency, and balance. Understand that when developing young pitchers, you may have the wrench of growth spurts being thrown into the mix as well, which often times affect the repeatability of a movement along with being able to always maintain posture & balance the same way.