Home Baseball Content Exercise of the Week: Heidens with External Rotation Stick

Exercise of the Week: Heidens with External Rotation Stick

Written on November 2, 2012 at 9:04 am, by Eric Cressey

For this installment of exercise of the week, I have to give full credit to Cressey Sports Performance pitching coordinator, Matt Blake.  A few weeks ago, Matt and I were having a conversation about ways to expand our exercise selection with respect to developing power in the frontal and transverse planes.  We have medicine ball work and a host of variations of Heidens (also known as "skaters"), but you can never have enough.

As the conversation progressed, we got to talking about some of our young pitchers who struggle with finding the right timing to stiffen up on the front leg.  They either stomp down early because they aren't stable enough to ride the back hip out a bit longer, or they stiffen up late and "go to mush" on that front leg.  We want to train them to accept force on that front leg - and do so with the right position (a position of hip external rotation/abduction, where the athlete is decelerating internal rotation/adduction). 

So, Matt asked if it would be possible to simply open the front leg up to make this a more specific deceleration position.  So, the Heiden with External Rotation Stick was born.

One of the key coaching points on this exercise is that you want to jump a bit more "up" than "out," as compared to a traditional Heiden.  Very simply, this upward movement gives an athlete time to reposition the hip, knee, ankle, and foot correctly to accept this force.  If an athlete can't land in perfect technique (knee shouldn't cave in, and the torso shouldn't round over), he or she is jumping too far.  Simply reducing the distance of the jump is a great regression.  Find a distance that allows the athlete to land without these compensations (or coming up on the toes), and then gradually work to build this up.

This is just another option for developing power in rotational athletes, but certainly one that will add variety and challenge your athletes in new ways, so check it out!

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20 Responses to “Exercise of the Week: Heidens with External Rotation Stick”

  1. Graeme Says:

    Way to think outside of the box/sagital plane.

    The single leg landing on the front leg is great. Going into my thesis I would have guessed that the Hop n’ Stop test (jumping from one leg onto the other in the sagital plane and coming to a complete stop in under 1 second) was going to correlate to throwing velocity since that front leg is so important. As it turns out the stats didn’t agree but I don’t think my subjects had enough time to “learn” this test.
    Great work thinking Matt and solid work on the demo Eric.
    Graeme Lehman

  2. Phil Says:

    Eric (and Matt), fantastic stuff! This is one of those issues I see a lot with pitchers – collapsing the front knee (or put another way, not stabilizing and accepting force properly). I’ve been using a different variation for a while, basically a side hop and redirect since it forces the pitcher to brace up properly. But this variation will make a great addition – really like how it incorporates hip rotation to work on landing/bracing up in a position that more closely resembles front foot plant in the pitching motion.

  3. Scott Umberger Says:

    I like the last mod even better.. The hard landing(heel) on the front foot of the picture also causes the eyes to bounce. Not very good for focusing in on the target.

    I have modified some of my horizontal medicine ball throws for my hockey players by making them drive out on a 45 degree angle(which is the direction in which they stride). I’ve also toyed with doing something similar with ice hockey goalies.

    All excellent stuff for athletes that are ready for that kind of specificity. The problem is that most if them aren’t ready because of the lack of development that they’ve had before they walk in our doors. Another soap box rant for another day!

    Hope all of you are pulling through in the Northeast.

  4. Ben Brewster Says:

    You should call these “Waldens” after Jordan Walden

  5. Daniel Says:

    What are good rep schemes to use with heidens/heiden variations? I usually do around 5 sets of 6 reps each side.


  6. Jeff Says:

    Thinking about how this new exercise might be applicable to tennis and the most obvious answer is launching into groundstrokes – for example, the modern forehand (Djokiovic, Federer) involves exactly this type of motion: launch into stroke and end with full body rotation.

  7. James Ledford Says:

    Do you think it would be beneficial to delay the shoulder rotation until after landing when performing these, since that would replicate the hip and shoulder separation in a pitching delivery?

  8. Eric Cressey Says:


    Usually working with 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps.

  9. Ron Says:

    Great info and great movement drill.

  10. Tom Landry Says:

    Are you using a sample to determine why you want the stride leg to “stiffen up” and is this to occur at ball release or right after ball release? The reason I ask is a majority of MLB power pitchers,ie: Ryan,Clemens, Johnson, Strasburg, Chapman have stride leg flexion at ball release. This isn’t something in the delivery you can “teach”.

  11. John J Says:

    Awesome stuff. You read my mind—for the last week I was considered this stuff because 1) your article several weeks ago talking about accepting force (the sling shot analogy) and 2) I coach (and train in the gym) a tennis player on the pro circuit and I was trying to explain this exact topic to him and was thinking of ways to convey the message. I really haven’t seen much about this stuff anywhere else—any suggestions? Thank for the great info, Eric.

  12. dominik Says:

    Hey Eric, that is a great exercise. I will certainly try it out.

    BTW what do you think about my “tire drill”?
    I’m a baseball player and I have a hard time finding high power output rotational exercises.
    any other you can recommend?

    rgds dominik

  13. Eric Cressey Says:


    I don’t think we’re trying to teach the timing, but rather prepare the athlete physically to accept that force and distribute it appropriately over the active restraints, as opposed to the passive restraints. I certainly see the point you’re trying to make, though. Thanks for the note!


  14. Eric Cressey Says:


    Not even sure what to make of it! Entertaining, to say the least. Certainly trains rotational power, but I’d be a little concerned with the vibrations’ effects on wrist and elbow health.

  15. Eric Cressey Says:


    I don’t think you’d need to get that specific, but it’s worth trying out.

  16. Jeff Says:

    Great exercise! I have a lot of hockey players i work with do a similar exercise that i call a rotational box drop. Same idea where the focus is on deceleration. An aerobic step with a riser is usually all that is needed.

  17. Nicholas St John Rheault Says:

    Nice EC,

    You guys (and CP Staff) should have your own encyclopedia of training terms (new and pre-exsisting) I’m sure it would be a hit!

  18. John Says:

    Eric and Matt, great exercise and insight as to why pitchers collapse on the front leg at foot contact. Do you think doing a couple sets of this as part of a sport specific warm up on throwing days would be appropriate (NCAA D3 athletes)? I’m thinking it would be beneficial for my pitchers to get the feeling of landing on a stiff leg before throwing.

  19. Eric Cressey Says:


    I don’t know that I’d use it every day, but a few times a week, it’d be fine.

  20. dominik Says:

    Eric I found out that it doesn’t hurt the hands when you just hook the tire with the top knuckle of the hands and the thumb not touching it.

    that way it will basically fly the last 1-2 inches and not hurt the wrists. but if you are trying to grip it it will really hurt.

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