Sports Performance Training: Pitch Stronger and Longer
Sports Performance Training Specific to Pitchers
By: Coach Hollabaugh
What would you do to add 3 mph to your fastball? The answer is simple; partake in a good strength and conditioning program! Baseball is a sport that is measured by one equation: Displacement (the ball’s traveled distance)/Time. Pitchers, no matter what their age, are evaluated on their ability to get the hitter out. Many coaches evaluate this skill based on a pitcher’s ability to produce more velocity (speed measured in MPH) than the hitter can catch up to. I have heard the argument many times that pitchers should not weight train their upper body for fear of making them too tight. If someone can explain this theory to me, my ears are all yours’. Research on pitch velocity and strength training has failed over the past years to address the issue of proper muscle balance when designing a training program. How many pull to push exercises should be done? Which exercises are better than another? Should a player overhead press, or not? These are all questions that many baseball coaches, trainers, and strength coaches ask themselves, or should be asking themselves.
Only recently, has baseball begun to catch up in providing players workouts that actually increase performance and decrease injuries. However, I continue to horror stories of “push heavy” strength training programs. I want to share some information from a research article that I found by Lachowetz. The purpose of the study was to show a correlation between throwing velocity and strength training. He followed 19 collegiate baseball players that participated in an 8 week upper body strength training program. The study, specifically, measured the throwing velocity over a distance of 18.44 meters. That’s the distance from home plate to the pitching rubber. Each trial was measured with a calibrated radar gun. The strength training program used in this study was a two day upper body lift with a one to one ratio of push to pull exercises. Each upper body lift was complemented with a rotator cuff based, heavy day the next day. Proper warm-up and stretching proceeded each training session. The results from the study revealed, on average, a 3 mph increase in pitching velocity. For some players, that could mean the difference in being drafted or not, or possibly earning a division one scholarship instead of playing at a division three level.
As this workout may have produced results, it does not align with my own personal philosophy concerning baseball training, which is why I will not be posting the workout they completed. I believe baseball players are better served by completing a workout that has a ratio of at least 2 pulls to every 1 push exercise. My philosophy has been greatly molded by listening to the likes of Eric Cressy, Dani Carval, as well as many other strength coaches, and physical therapists along the way, but more on my personal philosophy in another article. The value of this information is, if you want to beef up your fastball, or gun the runners down, all you have to do is find a good strength training program.
I will conclude with one additional fact about the study that I found most astounding: The players who were in this study were already playing baseball at a collegiate level. Some, if not all of them, we’re exposed to weight training at some point prior to the study. More impressively, the players gained an average of 3 mph in just 8 weeks! Imagine how much performance improvement might occur with proper strength training over the course of a year, or longer, especially with athletes not previously exposed to this type of training!