Strength Training For Pitchers
Weight training as a means of improving one's on-field performance is a controversial topic and people have questioned its need in baseball, especially for younger athletes. The old school approach is to just go out and play the game. Many critics of weight lifting for baseball players cite that it's a game requiring skills and fast-twitch muscles and that weightlifting will only hurt athletes by making them muscle bound, stiff, and slower. These critics aren’t wrong in the sense that many classic, weightlifting routines from previous eras would require players to bulk up in a manner that would be better suited for Mr. Olympia rather than Mr. October. However, the science around weight training and its use in improving athletic performance has come a long way. There is no longer any doubt that proper weight lifting routines can be utilized to add muscle, increase flexibility, and improve any baseball training program.
Within the game of baseball, pitching workouts are the most scrutinized physical activity when it comes to proper training techniques and injury prevention. Stigmas against weight training to improve pitching performance are even greater than they are for position players. This skepticism exists for good reason -- hopping on the bench press and sculpting an Arnold-esque physique is not going to help a pitcher throw harder and will almost certainly lead to injury. This does not mean that pitchers can’t improve velocity and performance through weight training, just that any workout program should be carefully constructed and come from a trusted source. Evidence shows that proper weight training can greatly improve pitcher performance as long as the program focuses on improving flexibility and prioritizes strengthening a few key areas. We've listed three of the areas you should focus on during strength training:
While most young males are eager to create a beach body, the key here is for a pitcher is to develop his legs and glutes in order to increase the leg drive necessary to generate velocity. Squats, lunges, and deadlifts should form the basis of any pitching workouts as the player looks to maximize lower body power.
Beyond the shoulder strengthening exercises that every pitcher should be doing, upper body training for a pitcher should focus on pulling motions that strengthen the upper back. These exercises, such as bent over rows and pull-ups, should be done with an emphasis on squeezing the shoulder blades together, back and down. Strengthening the upper back through rows will cause the muscles necessary to decelerate the arm to become stronger. As a result, the pitcher’s body will allow the arm to reach faster speeds as it's more capable of safely decelerating after release. Ultimately, faster arm speed means faster pitching velocity.
The often emphasized element of athletic training is core training. The core has become one of those buzzwords in fitness that everyone wants to train. However, the focus shouldn't be doing hundreds of sit-ups so that your six-pack emerges. Engaging the core for pitching training involves doing anti-rotation exercises in order to strengthen the midsection. Cable anti-rotation presses, landmines, and medicine ball throws should be used for a pitcher’s core work. Rather than twisting or crunching, these exercises require the athlete to concentrate on keeping the abs tight and immobile as they encounter resistance.
(Related: Read about pitching backwards here.)
Targeting these three areas in the appropriate fashion during pitching training should allow an athlete to effectively build up their lower body, upper body, and core strength in a way that improves performance without hindering other facets of your game. Of course, any serious athlete should consider weightlifting, but in a careful, constructed way.
Make sure you’re taking the ultimate care of your body, without a healthy one you won’t be able to stay on the field! If you’re intrigued by strength training, but don’t know where exactly to start, consider booking one of CoachUp’s private trainers to help you out. They’ll have you using the best exercises in a safe and healthy manner in no time -- what are you waiting for?