How to Increase Pitching Velocity in Baseball
Playing sports requires that we practice, over and over again, what we will be required to do on the field, court, etc. This requirement is especially critical for pitchers in baseball, particularly the ones looking for ways to increase the velocity in their pitches.
Pitching creates such a demand on your body, especially your arm. When a pitcher prepares to throw a baseball there is torque and stress put on an arm. This strain has been a leading factor in some players needing ligament replacement surgery, otherwise known as Tommy John surgery, later on in their careers.
I’m not trying to scare any would be pitchers from giving it a try but there are risks to pitching. Fortunately there are tons of pitchers who have very successful careers pitching with no major injuries along the way, I’m going to guess that a majority of them learned how to pitch when they were young and established strong pitching mechanics.
A pitcher’s mechanics are his best friend. When fatigue sets in you rely on these practiced mechanics to get you through the exhaustion. A pitcher with poor mechanics won’t have such a strong safety net and might try to get too much out of their arm only, which could increase their chances for injury.
A strong base of good mechanics will allow a pitcher to continue to blossom as they progress and get older. This foundation will encourage increased velocity, if they are willing to work for it.
How to Pitch in Baseball
This might sound really weird, but anyone can pitch in baseball and I have seen many examples to prove this claim.
The best example I have is when my son was fourteen. We won our division and went to the Tournament of Champions. We went into the tournament very short on pitching because our division tournament went longer than it was initially scheduled; we clinched the division the evening before the first TOC game.
As we worked our way deeper in the tournament we pretty much ran out of arms. I had one guy who wanted to pitch so I gave him the ball. He was not a hard thrower at all but, because he lacked a lively fastball, the other team just couldn’t hit him.
His work kept us in that game and it was his only pitching appearance for us that entire season, his dad videotaped the whole thing.
My point is that, if you can stay around the strike zone, you can be a pitcher. Major League pitchers can throw in the upper nineties but success can be found with a less than blazing fastball.
Of course we all want more velocity on our pitches so we will go over a few things that will help pitchers get a little more pop in their catchers gloves when you pitch.
There is a misconception that pitchers get their power and velocity from their arms when, in fact, the majority comes from their legs. Sure the torque discussed earlier comes from your arm but pushing off of the rubber on the mound creates more drive and power than your arm can.
Now that we know where the power truly comes from you can cater your workouts to strengthening your legs. I’ll be honest, these workouts are not glamorous but you will appreciate them when you start to throw harder. The great thing is you don’t have to have a gym membership to get your legs stronger.
A word of warning, don’t jump into workouts if you haven’t been exercising regularly. Start off slowly and let your body get used to the increased activity. The goal here is to increase your pitching velocity, not to pull a hamstring.
The simplest thing to do is go jogging. Running will tone your legs and get your blood pumping, always a good thing when working out. Another one that I make my pitchers do is lunges. Just have the player’s lineup and have them take one normal step but have them squat down so their opposite knee touches the ground, take another step and repeat. After a couple of sets of these the guys will be sweating and rubbing their quads in front of their legs.
Squats are a good exercise as well. Stand with their feet a bit wider than their shoulders and act like they are going to sit straight down. Make sure their backs are straight for this exercise to have the proper effect.
These are the two primary things I put my pitchers through to work on their legs but there are more out there. I like these because they can do them at home and increase the difficulty by using dumbbells as well.
Major League Pitchers
Like I mentioned earlier you don’t have to have a high velocity fastball to be a professional. One of the greatest pitchers I saw growing up was Greg Maddox. His fastball was, at best, around ninety miles per hour but he had incredible control and could hit his spots with any pitch he had. The low nineties sounds like a lot but we have a local high school junior pitcher who was clocked at ninety-three last year.
Many pitchers do have good fastballs which make players like Maddox stick out so much to me because he was unique.
Today’s game certainly is centered on higher velocity pitches. The amount of pitchers throwing in the middle nineties is pretty high.
Let’s be honest, everyone loves to see a pitcher who can throw heat. Team owners know this as well, which might explain why the stadiums have a miles per hour display somewhere around the field.
Pitchers recognize that having good velocity on their fastball is a great weapon to possess. Being able to have a lively fastball, and have a few other off-speed pitches to complement it, is what many pitchers hope to master.
For me I really enjoy seeing a power pitcher face a hitter who can hit a good fastball. It is a real treat to see two professionals trying to beat each other and creates additional drama that adds to the enjoyment of watching a baseball game.
Everyone realizes that exercise is a vital key to getting, or staying, in shape. Even though our brains know this information, our wills don’t always follow through with the actual exercise.
For pitchers exercise is something that they cannot afford to skip.
A good exercise regimen will prepare a pitcher for the demands that his body will go through. The good thing about exercise for pitchers is there are a good variety of things that can be done to get a good workout in.
I’m a strong believer in the value of long toss but I do not advocate jumping right into a long toss program, especially if a pitcher hasn’t been throwing much. The biggest thing I watch for when a pitcher starts working out in a new season is fatigue and soreness because it can lead to more serious problems. If a guy complains about his arm hurting we try to locate the muscle that is bothering him to make sure it is not his elbow or shoulder. If he does feel discomfort in either joint the pitcher is not throwing anymore, this is non-negotiable.
Muscle soreness is expected, that can be addressed with ice and rest. Any of us who do something physically strenuous, when we are not used to it, will be sore the next few days. For pitchers this soreness is normal but I would suggest that it is still monitored. Players don’t always want to admit when something is bothering them so coaches should be on the lookout for any warning signs. Guys rubbing something or making faces when they are throwing are good signs something might not be right. Any good coach will not allow a player to possibly hurt himself, long term, just to play baseball.
When you have built up your endurance to effectively use a long toss program you are successfully exercising your arm, but a pitcher isn’t done yet.
As mentioned earlier leg exercises are a necessity to any pitcher, especially if they want that velocity on their pitches. Running is a great thing to do, even after pitching. Pitchers routinely do pitching practice off to the side of the field in the bullpen. After a bullpen session do a few laps around the field. This is a quick way to get some exercise as well as help minimize any possible soreness from pitching.
I would also work in the lunges on alternating days. Going back and forth on exercises allows your body to heal and for the work you are putting in to really do the most benefit. It is also OK to have an off day to allow your body to rest completely. I tell my guys to have an off day or two during a calendar week but I do suggest some light stretching, just to keep loose.
These are just a few examples of pitching exercises that can be done. More are out there and pre-designed routines are available too for the guys who want everything mapped out for them.
Whatever you decide to do is OK, just keep putting the work in and the increased velocity on your pitches will be all of the validation you need for the effort you have put in.