T Nation

Baseball pitcher specific training

My friend is a pro pitching prospect who needs to add some lbm and increase velocity on his fastball. He’s 6’2 165lbs and has no clue about proper training and diet, but he is willing to follow anything i give him to the letter to acheive his goals. I was looking for any specific training regemins that anyone has for pitchers. Adding 5mph to his fastball can get him a minor league contract so i was looking to help him out.

Pitchers should train conservatively with their upper bodies. The power, speed etc. will come from the leg, hips, and trunk. I think one style of training that could wrk would be to use swiss balls and use contra lateral style movements. But without getting fancy he may want to concentrate on squats, lunges, lateral lunges, and lots of ab and lower back work. Throw in some preventative rotator cuff exercises because pitching can be very traumatic on your arm.

I would first ensure that he has proper pitching mechanics. I am guessing he is a high school kid (from his weight), so he probably hasn’t had the greatest coaching in the world. Have him find a pro in the area that gives lessons or a good college coach. Proper mechanics is the easiest way to add MPH.

In terms of weights, basically anything this guy does will get him stronger, assuming he doesn’t lift. It also depends on where he is in his training for the season. How close is he to the season starting? What does his throwing program consist of over the next month? A weight program for a pitcher must be determined by the throwng program. Remember, throwing a ball is the most important thing, not how much you can bench. A little more info will help to recommend a weight program.

Something that can always be done at any time is a good rotator cuff/elbow program. Assuming he has never done anything for the rotator/elbow, a good start would be the following: Shoulder

A1 front arm raise (flexion)

A2 side arm raise (abduction)

A3 turned arm raise at 45 degress from body (scaption)

A4 bent over arm raise (horizontal abduction)

B1 lying external rotation

B2 lying internal rotation


A1 wrist flexion

A2 wrist extension

A3 radial deviation

A4 ulnar deviation

A5 wrist turnover (supination and pronation)

Starting at 3 lbs with 12-15 reps for 1-2 sets with 30-60 sec rest between sets should be a good start. He’ll probably need more weight for the elbow exercises, at least I would hope so.

Good luck.

actually he’s not a high school kid he’s about 22,he led NCAA D3 in era for most of the season last year. his weight is his problem and was one of the things i was looking to increase through a program for him. Most scouts say he’s too small, apparently they havn’t seen pedro’s awsome physique. I was helping him look for a coach in my area but we’ve had no success looking for anyone with any experience so far. Right now he has no season plans not at least until summer time when he joins one of the local semi/former pro leagues.

Consider that a pitcher’s velocity is determined mostly by the torque and elastic power of the shoulder and abdominals, along with of course proper mechanics. You don’t necessarily have to be muscular to be a strong pitcher. Just look at Greg Maddux. The guy is a tub, but he can throw damn hard, because his form is excellent and he has very powerful, fast internal rotators.

Of course, give him a sound weight program that will add a base of muscle mass, but for improving his pitching speed in particular, I would look to focus on upper body plyometric training AND a lot of core conditioning (read up on Paul Chek here…). The speed that his body can rotate about the waist will be just as critical as anything. -Doug

His best bet would be to try to get into an independent league for this year. There are tryouts around the country for various leagues, look in Baseball America, etc. Many organizations have open tryouts, as well, and independent teams scout these tryouts also. Most of these are in the south, so if he wants to play, he may have to spend a week or so traveling to some camps.

Since he isn’t throwing right now, I would recommend any program that will build functional strength utilizing the core exercises: bench, squat, deadlifts, power cleans (if he is coordinated), chins, dips. Obviously, you don’t want to include squat, deadlifts, and power cleans in the same training cycle. As long as his technique is sound, he shouldn’t be susceptible to injuring his shoulder/elbow with any of these exercises. Since he is obviously slim by nature, he isn’t going to bulk up enough in such a short time for that to be a concern. This is all based on the fact that he has at least been doing something with weights. If he hasn’t, I’d start at reps in the range of 12-15 to get him going, then drop the reps to 4-6 after a few weeks. I would focus on some medicine ball work for the trunk to develop power, as well, maybe two days a week. Also, I can’t emphasize enough a rotator program. If nothing else, do external/internal rotation type exercises.

Stretching is also something that should be done everyday. 15 minutes or so a day should be plenty, since he probably doesn't do much stretching anyway.

If you want, I can probably post some tryouts if I can get a hold of someone who knows alot about them.

One of my friends just got recruited to be a pitcher for Florida State next year and right now he is on a workout schedule that they gave him. i was amazed with all of the stuff that they have him doing. i looked at it briefly and there was lots of plyo drills, power cleans, and other complex exercises that i didnt think a pitcher would normally need to do. they must know what they are doing though because they have a pretty damn good baseball program. i can try to find out more of the details of the program if you want, but i don’t think it is a program that you would generally do to bulk up (lots of cardio and endurance stuff in it).

I would have to disagree with DOUG that the power of a pitch comes from the shoulder and abdominals. Power comes from the hips and glutes, The same goes for throwing a punch you learn to use your hip power VELOCITY = force over time. The only lifts that will deveop hip explostion are powercleans, snatchs, and squat mainly the first two. Learn to PNF stretch the shoulders and keep the Rotators strong as well. Over strengthening of the shoulder muscles could lead to tightness so make sure to stretch.

Tapper, it’s true that you need strong legs/hips to throw to your max potential, but you’re only as strong as your weakest link. You can’t efficiently transfer the energy from the lower body to the ball if everything between the legs and the ball are weak.

Also, velocity does not equal force over time. Velocity equals distance over time (ex.: feet/second). Maybe you mean POWER?, which is energy over time (ex.:lb(force)-ft/second). This doesn’t mean much to the average guy, as long as he knows what he is trying to acomplish, it doesn’t matter what he calls it.

You raise a good point Tapper, and it’s a good analogy to a boxer throwing a punch. Just a correction I’d like to give though, in that I never said that the power of a pitch comes only from the abdominals and shoulder. I only gave suggestions for improving pitch velocity by training these specific areas with plyometric and core training.

However, I still see the pitch (and punch) as a rotational movement, with much of the torque coming from the core. Another correction: the "hips" do not specifically rotate the body. They transfer power in the baseball pitch almost along a straight line, depending on the pitcher's specific style. This power from the hips comes when the pitcher's left leg (assume a right handed pitcher) is kicked up, and the right leg pushes and abducts, both of which power the pitcher's body towards home plate. So yes, you're right in saying that the hips do in fact contribute a great deal.

Try standing up right now... assume a boxer's stance and throw a right cross. You'll see that the motion is almost entirely dominanted by the CORE. Your body rotates about the waist, and your right arm literally follows your body. The pitch is much more complex, and I would argue that the hips are MORE involved in a pitch, but that doesn't change the fact that core strength is of great importance. So how's about a compromise Tapper, they're BOTH important...

Good suggestion on the PNF stretching by the way.

I meant to say power regarding power movements not velocity. As far as the punch goes I find that learning to use the hips and not the upper body is the hardest part. I have been boxing with a coach for a little while and he says I have a tendency to use my upper body strength to much and that I wont get any power. My Legs are very strong and when I harness them correctly I don’t even feel like I use my upperbody its just one snap and my legs throw everything from the hips. On paper it looks like your using your chest shoulders etc but its really not. Its kind of like when your doing a powerclean alott of guys use there upperbody to much and they can barely do more than they can curl but when they learn to relax the upperbody and use the legs BAM! the weight comes up!

Okay, I understand the confusion here. We are in fact arguing the same thing Tapper. Let’s clarify…

The “hips” do NOT rotate themselves Tapper. The core abdominals/obliques rotate the hips, so what your thinking of, using the hips to rotate, is actually your abdominal core rotating your body. And you’re right, when you relax and let your body unload into the punch, your arms do minimal work. But it is not your legs per say that are providing the force. It is your core musculature. I’m serious, stand up and throw your relaxed, “focus on the legs” punch, and see if you can pinpoint where the force is coming from. I bet you’ll find that the lower part of your core is where you experience the most tension.

I have seen this confusion many times with tennis coaches I've worked with, noteably Nick Bolletari. "The power comes from the rotation of the hips and shoulders" was his mantra, which is all so true. The ROTATION of the hips in this and all scenarios comes from your core. So my suggestion for someone looking to improve his power in throwing or punching motions is to focus on core training.

You want an example? Thought so... Let's look at one of Paul Chek's favorite exercises, the woodchopper. Paul has pushed this exercise for years as being a wonderful exercise for strengthening the core, and guess what. The motion looks almost exactly like the motion of the pitcher's throw.

Now, I am not arguing that the legs are not involved and very important. But you seem to be confused in that you're saying that the legs themselves rotate the hips, which is not true. So, we are actually both arguing that focusing on exercises which bring the hips around will produce the best result, you just seem to be confused as to what is actually responsible for this rotation.

One last thing, your analogy to the power clean is very misleading and inappropriate, even though what you specifically state about using the legs to drive the weight instead of the arms is true. The power clean is a one dimensional exercise, ie the motion occurs with your torso straight ahead the entire time. And, the focus is on the weight going UP, not AROUND. In that scenario, the legs are in fact the dominant muscle group, but that exercise in no way reflects the specific motion of a pitcher other than the fact that both require a great deal of "power."

In addition to the other comments, I would recommend some direct tri and bi work in order to promote elbow integrity.

I read on an Olmpiclifting website that Steve Bedrosion gained like 8 mph on his fastball when he learned to do the olympic lifts. This was when he retired and then made his comeback with the Braves.

Doug, I was wondering if you could post a routine to emphasize the rotational aspect of throwing, exercises like the woodchoppers you described in a previous post. I am familiar with most exercises, but would like some guidance on number of exercises, frequency, etc. I am pretty well trained and my “job” involves what this thread is all about, so I’d like to incorporate more of this type of stuff into my routine.

Sure… I don’t have time to write you a full 12 week program right now, but here are some general guidelines for you.

1)Lift for strength. Heavy weights, low reps should be your mantra. (Try 1-6 styles, wave loading, etc…) If you’re up to it and know how to do them, include the Olympic lifts, the snatch and the power clean once per week each, preferably at the beginning of your leg training days. I would advise you to assess your recovery each week, as these lifts are very demanding. If you find them to be too much, use them only on your deadlift day, possibly rotating the lifts each week.

2)Do your core work first in the workout, on the days when you don't use the Olympic lifts. Medicine ball work is perfect if you have access to a good partner. The simplest drill is to have your partner throw the ball to just above your hip. Let the ball carry your body around, and when you are fully rotated, explode back to centerline and throw the ball back to your partner. It doesn't always work perfectly because your aim won't always be right, so if your partner throws off-line a little bit, catch the ball and rotate all the way around anyway... You can do these drills from above the waist, shoulder, or at hip level. If you don't have access to either medicine balls or a good partner, woodchoppers and lateral leg lowering would be my next picks. Use a combination of these exercises for 3 sets once per week. The other core day, I would like you spending the time on more standard abdominal work, ie upper and lower abdominals. I'm sure you'll have no problem finding examples of these types of routines. Keep the total training time to about 5 minutes though.

3)Keep your volume very low. After doing 2-3 sets of either core work or Olympic lifting work, do no more than 10 working sets, possibly even lower. You may consider excluding direct arm work in favor of strictly compound movements, but that's very individual and you need to examine your specific goals and situation.

4)Perform all your shoulder exercises in the standing position, with your abdominals "vacuumed." In fact, while your at it, vacuum on ANY exercise you do in the standing or seated position...

So, organize your workout into 4 days, 2 upper body, 2 lower body, with Olympic lifting added to the lower body days, and core training before the upper body days. This is only one of many options you have, but that's how I would do it...

Doug, thanks for the lengthy response! Sorry if you thought I wanted a detailed program for the entire body. I would never ask for something like that here, especially for free. I was just curious about a rotational/abdominal type routine, which you outlined, but all the other info was great.

I pretty much do exactly what you outline, right now, with the exception of only one leg day per week. I think I will drop my arm day and add another leg day since that probably is more towards my goals. It is possible to do med ball work without a partner as long as the med ball is the rubber kind that bounces. You can throw these against a wall, just don't stand too close!

About your last point about doing shoulder exercises in the standing position. If you mean traditional type stuff, sounds like a good idea. But, exercises specifically targeting the rotator cuff muscles, I think should be done both standing and lying. Since most people throw with the arm elevated above the shoulder, most standing exercises lose their strength curve (if that's the right term) when the arm goes past shouler height. By performing these in a lying position, the strength curve is emphasized with the arm in a position that is above the shoulder. This is something I've learned from talking with various baseball trainers/PTs and from doing this for many years.