“” Pitching Research: Verbal Cues | Driveline Baseball

Coaching Instructions and Cues for enhancing Sprint Performance (Open access)

Authors: Benz, Adam, Winkelman, Nick; Porter, Jared; Nimphius, Sophia

Verbal instruction especially cues and feedback are essential to successful communication in coaching. This study looked specifically at sprint related cues but it is our belief that the types of cues matters in all sports. When comparing internal, external and neutral cues, external and neutral cues outperformed internal ones when looking at performance measures.

These results can be explained through the constrained action hypothesis (CAH). The CAH states “directing attention externally allows the motor control system to operate under nonconscious automatic processes by which movement occurs reflexively, leading to superior performance outcomes.” Future studies should investigate the effect of quantity of verbal cues on performance.

It worth exploring in baseball to use cues that are neutral or external in nature.


“Explode through your hips.” / “Explode off your back leg”


“Explode off the ground.” / “Explode off the rubber.”


“Complete the sprint as fast as you can.” / “Throw as hard as you can.”

Enhancing the Learning of Sport Skills through external-focus feedback

Authors: Wulf, G; McConnel, N; Gartner, M; Schwarz, A

What we took from this study:

  • Internal cues/feedback are instructions that refer to the coordination of their body movements / performers appear to actively intervene in the control processes, resulting in degraded performance and learning
  • External cues/feedback direct the learners’ attention to the effects of their movements on the environment (apparatus, implement) / performers use more automatic control processes when attending to the movement effect than when attending to the actual movements
  • This study reviewed some literature on previous studies on cues and included two experiments.
  • One saw that external-focus feedback had better accuracy and retention scores in a tennis style volleyball serve.
  • The second study looked at frequency of feedback in using external and internal cues. More often external feedback (100%) was more effective that less often (33%) which was the reverse of what happened in the internal-focus feedback group.

When dealing with athletes this study suggests external cues are more beneficial to learning a skill than internal cues.

Frequent external-focus feedback enhances motor learning (Open Access)

Authors: Wulf, G; Chiviacowsky, S; Schiller, E; Avila, L

What we learned from this study:

  • So far there is little evidence that feedback/cues provided after every practice trail causes learners/athletes to become dependent on it.
  • Adoption of an external focus has been shown to facilitate automaticity in movement control and efficiency.
  • Directing attention inward (internal cues) tends to result in conscious control attempts that constrain the motor system, disrupt automaticity and lead to superfluous muscular activity.
  • 48 children between the ages of 10-12 were broken into four groups. External cues (100% or 33%) and Internal cues (100% or 33%) were used with a focus on form for a soccer throw in. External-focus feedback provided after every trail (100%) resulted in more effective learning than less frequent feedback (33%).

More feedback was better but it’s important to keep the context. This was in relation to 10-12 year olds in gaining better form. Which would be different than a 20 year old who is working on control/accuracy. Keep in mind not only who you are teaching to but also if you are giving feedback/cues on form, performance or result measures.

More research is needed on how the frequency of external feedback affects the accuracy/control of certain skills in older adolescents or young adults.

Increased Jump Height and reduced EMG activity with an External Focus

Authors: Wulf, Gabriele; Dufek, Janet S; Lozano, Leonardo; Pettigrew, Christina

Previous research has show jump height increases when athletes were given an external focus versus an internal or no focus. This study wanted to examine whether there were underlying neurophysiological changes based on EMG with a change of focus.

Electrodes were placed on the following right side leg muscles: rectus femoris (RF), bicep femoris (BF), vastus lateralis (VL), lateral gastrocnemius (LG), and the anterior tibialis (AT). Each athlete had 10 jump trials for both the internal and external focus conditions.

The group with the external focus jumped an average of 1.4 cm higher relative to an internal focus. EMG activity was lower with the external focus for all muscle groups except for the lateral gastrocnemius. The timing of the muscle activation did not change significantly between the internal and external focus.

This results in decreased EMG activity, combined with more effective results (higher jump height) as a result of an external focus. The data also suggests that external focus provides the most efficient coordination of muscles.

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