Five Exercises to Improve Your Fastball
The first time you picked up the rock (baseball) and took the mound, you were probably in the ally, backyard or neighborhood park. With no formal training, you threw it as hard as you could hoping it would blow past the batter.
Your friends were heckling the team at the plate, trying to distract each hitter. Although the catcher waved his hands and fingers, all the signs were just for show. You had only one pitch and that was to wind up, tense up, grit your teeth and heave.
Did you ever notice as a kid, that when playing a quick pick-up game of baseball, the fastball was the second best pitch? The first essential pitch was the bean-ball. If you could hit enough batters you could also strike out the rest in fear. Well, that doesn't have the same consistent result in more organized play and a fastball needs fine tuning. Another factor of the fastball that I had found over the years, was its demand on the body or physical fitness.
Pitcher in Action
The Quick List
Without further ado, here is the quick list:
- Long Toss (my favorite)
- Walking Lunges
- Sit-ups / Core Strength
- "Jobes" Shoulder Reps
Pitching is a Fight and a Marathon Race Combined
Granted, there will be some easy matches. Additionally, you can part out the nine innings among several pitchers, but when the game demands one pitcher to give their best for the win; pitching is a fight and a marathon race.
If the pitcher could strike out every batter with three strikes, there would be nine throws per inning for a total of eighty-one (81) pitches. That's not too bad. However, observe that they are throwing the ball at 85 MPH to 100 MPH speeds at a distance of 60 feet. Their bodies contorting and flexing, all the while maintaining a focus to step and release with the correct minuscule timing as to not let the ball go sailing off into the stands or hit the batter in the head.
Yet, there is not going to be a simple, quick, three-person strikeout per inning. The pitcher is also going to go through a round of warm-up pitches. It is safe to assume that for a night at the ballpark, a starting pitcher will have thrown well into the hundreds. These reps will be exhausting and if a fastball is the main pitch, keeping a high speed on the ball will put a real hurt on the body.
Going The Distance
The List Further Explained
Long Toss: This is not the same as "playing" catch or warming up. This is for a workout that will build strength and stamina. The biggest revelation about long toss was asking myself, "why didn't I know about it sooner." A partner doesn't have to reciprocate. In fact, I knew of one pro pitcher that would have several buckets worth to throw and then pay a kid to just receive them.
Try to use all the fundamentals in throwing and incorporate the crow-hop if you like. The distance should increase as you go along, trying not to rely on too much arc. These throws have meaning behind them and shouldn't be lobs. The distance should eventually be enough to impress the outfield coach; you're probably headed there anyway if you can't make the pitching gig work.
Walking Lunges: I feel that most people will know what these are, but only question why they are important. The body is going to take a lot of impact on and utilize drive during the "tall and fall" method, but also other pitching techniques. The ultimate speed and strength for the fastball comes from legs and core, not the arm.
I like walking lunges better than stationary. I think it provides balance and coordination with forward momentum, which resembles the pitching task. I also like the distance covered which lends to being outside on the field (part of why one loves that game).
Five Exercises for the FastballClick thumbnail to view full-size
The List Continued...
Running: I was on the track and cross country team in high school. As a college and semi-pro pitcher, I had a routine that was similar to those demands, but was dwarfed by the college runners. Running three to four miles should be routine. I also noticed guys supplementing some bike time, but I considered that a separate necessity.
To make it to +5 innings, especially if the pitcher bats and runs the bases, will require endurance. I know that there are naturals, super heroes and fat jolly icons, but good fitness is what most will need to be a winner.
Sit-ups / Core: I don't remember the planking craze during my prime, but I see all sorts of core workouts being toted. I can recall some debates: pitching speed is from the core/hips vs. pitching is from the legs. I don't know who was right, but I kept both in focus and knew most guys to do the same. If the core fatigues, the legs will be paper weights and useless. Just about everything becomes useless if your stomach and back muscles aren't conditioned to last.
This type of workout isn't rocket science. Some basic stomach crunches and two-handed throwing of a medicine ball were good for me. I think planks are also a good idea.
Jobe Exercises and Rotator Cuff Rehab
Perhaps the most complex exercises are popularly referred to as the Jobe Exercises. I recommend consulting a rehab tech / physical therapist for detailed information on proper technique. Most clubs have probably already done this and are passing along the exercises to the best of their knowledge.
I have included a video that has some demonstration as well as a generic exercise/rehab diagram. I was typically using light resistance via rubber bands, but also had more advanced equipment the higher I moved up through the leagues. Still, the basic rubber band and dumbell system can be properly used to strengthen the rotator cuff / supporting shoulder muscles.
Basically, if this is neglected a pitcher can be subject to early fatigue and injury. The weakest link in the chain is all that requires failure, causing everything to come to a halt. The smaller support muscles in the shoulder will need their due attention.
Jobe Exercises with Rubber Band
Baseball Tips Are Like Fishing Advise
There must be a hundred different tips and advises to being a better pitcher or hitter. It's kind of like asking someone about fishing at the community hot spot: many different theories and tactics including the proper way to hold open your mouth.
These five exercises that I have reviewed are truly incorporated in college and pro baseball. They are rather simple and easy enough for anyone to apply and start early.
© 2015 t aaron brown