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Want to Increase Pitching Velocity? Improve Layback

Updated: May 5, 2022

What is Layback?

Layback refers to the position of maximal shoulder external rotation in pitching. It is pictured below

layback baseball pitcher velocity
ISU_79 on Flickr, CC BY 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

It is easiest to think of layback as the farthest point behind you that your hand will go before accelerating towards the plate. It is a combination of multiple movements, but it is most associated with shoulder external rotation. There are different factors that go into shoulder external rotation, but the primary causes are joint and muscle anatomy.

Research by Reagan, et al. showed that college baseball players had an average of 10.6 degrees of greater retroversion in their throwing arm. Retroversion refers to the position that your humeral head assumes relative to your scapula in your shoulder joint. If you want to picture it, think about rotating your shoulder forward as if there was an axis straight up and down through your shoulder. That is a retroverted position. Some retroversion is normal, as the study from Reagan, et al. showed an average of 26 degrees of retroversion on the non-throwing arm. However, baseball players and especially pitchers gain significant retroversion from throwing a baseball at a young age. The reason that younger players see bony adaptations is because they still have open growth plates. These are the areas at the end of bones that grow as we get taller. They are weaker parts of the bones and thus can be deformed. Normally, bony deformation is something to be avoided, but it is necessary in this case.