Nick Steen

Prof. Loy


6 December 2019

The Overhand Throw


The overhand throw is a challenging motor skill that involves movements throughout the entire body to complete the motion of a projectile forward. The movement begins at the feet and works its way up through the trunk, finishing at the hand. It is often and most commonly used in sports such as baseball, football, and dodgeball.

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The overhand throw is broken down into 5 separate phases, the windup, early cocking, late cocking, arm acceleration, and follow-through. 


The windup phase and stance are the starting position of the movement. The phase involves the front leg to be raised, moving the center of gravity on to the back leg in order to transfer the momentum and force to the upper body and ball while the ball is held near the center of the chest.

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Early Cocking

The early cocking phase begins when the forward leg reaches its peak height and the ball starts to move backwards in a cocking position. The hip extends along with upper torso rotation to allow an increase in distance for a higher production of linear and angular energy. The phase ends when the lifted foot reaches the ground.

Late Cocking

The late cocking phase occurs when the front foot plants on the ground and the throwing shoulder reaches the maximal external rotation. The hips also reach maximal rotation while the torso continues to rotate and begins to tilt forward.


The acceleration phase is exemplified from the time of maximal external rotation of the shoulder until the ball is released. The torso continues to tilt forward while the back leg is extended, transferring the center of gravity onto the plantar foot. The throwing arm is also extended until the release of the ball.

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The final phase is the follow-through phase which includes the deceleration of the movement. This phase begins at the release of the ball and full extension of the elbow. Muscle firing decreases all throughout the body which opens it up for injury.

Joint Gleno-humeral Scapulo-thoracic Left Hip Right Hip Elbow Radioulnar
Joint Motion Internal Rotation

Horizontal Adduction

Protraction Flexion

External Rotation


Internal Rotation

Horizontal Abduction

Internal Rotation

Ulnar Deviation
Segment Moved Upper arm Scapula Thigh Thigh Lower arm Hand


Sagittal  Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Sagittal Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Sagittal Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Sagittal Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Sagittal Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Sagittal Plane

Antero-Posterior Axis

Force Producing Motion Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers Muscle Contraction of Prime Movers
Prime Movers Pectoralis MajorSubscapularis


Latissimus Dorsi

Pectoralis Major

Lower Trapezius

Gluteus MinimusGluteus Medius Gluteus MaximusGluteus Medius Triceps BrachiiBiceps Brachii Flexor Carpi Ulnaris
Contraction Type Eccentric Eccentric Concentric Eccentric Eccentric Concentric
Normal Range of Motion 60º-180º 20º-30º 30º-90º 30º-90º 75º-120º 70º-90º

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Right Overhand Throw


Facilitatory Reflex

The stretch reflex facilitates the contraction of a muscle being stretched. When the muscles are stretched in the overhand throw, the stretch reflex controls how the muscle contracts. This is important because it allows the person to manage many factors such as how hard or how far they want to throw something.

Inhibitory Reflexes

The Golgi Tendon Organ senses change in muscle tension and is initiated by high tension in the muscle to decrease the risk of tearing. This reflex acts as a safety mechanism in many sports, especially in the deceleration phase of an overhand throw.

The Labyrinthine Righting Reflex instructs the body to return the head to a neutral position when the body is tilted or spun. In a baseball pitch, the center of mass is transferred from the back foot, to the front foot. In order to keep balance and avoid falling over, the righting reflex activates to maintain a center of gravity.

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Mechanical Objective

The mechanical objective of the overhand throw is to project a projectile most efficiently and effectively in a desired direction. Using the energy produced from one side of the body and transferring to the other to is used increase the momentum of the object. Controlling the amount of power that you produce to throw an object in a certain direction can affect the target destination.

Forces Involved

The forces involved in the overhand throw is from the thrower, gravity, and air resistance. The force from the thrower is created by muscles contractions in the human body against the object being thrown. Gravity plays a role in a constant downward force towards the center of the earth. As an object is thrown, on earth, it will always return to the ground because of the constant gravitational pull. Air resistance plays a role in the opposite direction the object is moving in, slowing it down until it is brought to a complete stop. 

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Performance Errors

Many errors can occur during the overhand throw which can result in poor performance or injury. The movement should not feel awkward or painful in low quantities. A major error that is quite common is an unstable front leg. If the person has a weak front leg, it is more difficult to effectively transfer the energy that has been built up. Another error is a cut off throw, which is a dangerous and an incorrect movement in the follow-through phase that creates a larger risk of injury because of the improper deceleration of the muscles. 

Strategy for improvement includes training drills and focusing on technique. Perfecting the beginning stance and then progressively working through each phase is a great way to breakdown the movement and find any mistakes that are being made. Also consulting a trainer or professional to supervise the movement would benefit the thrower.