How to improve your pitching speed
How to increase throwing speed?
Throwing a ball sounds very simple, you step up to the plate, decide where you want the ball to go, and throw it. This, however, could not be further from the truth. Whether you play sports for fun, or in a league, the information, technique and exercises in this article will help you increase your velocity and improve your performance.
Understanding the Physics of Pitching
Pitching a baseball is a balance between strength and knowledge. By understanding the technique and physics involved in your body movement, you can implement it regardless of your physical state.
Coach Bill Thurston from Amherst College in the early 90’s was the first to highlight that pitching velocity is affected by a combination of rotational forces in your body, and if you can efficiently work these forces together it will greatly improve your pitching velocity.
Ultimately, a pitcher’s velocity depends on how quickly he can transfer energy from the lower half of his body and legs into the rotational forces of his torso, which brings the arm through to release the ball.
Imagine your body is like a space shuttle lifting off into space. The shuttle uses its largest boosters first to build up the momentum, and then gradually smaller boosters are used to maintain and add speed to the shuttle until it’s released into space.
In baseball, the pitcher drives first with their legs, then hips, then shoulders, arm, wrist, then fingers. This transfers momentum in a whip-like action to funnel and concentrate the energy through your body into the ball.
To improve your pitching mechanics, pick your knees up and rotate your torso and hips to build momentum. A pitcher's body rotates around the foot he keeps planted firmly on the mound. Keep your elbows up as this maintains the force generated from your torso.
Finish with a strong follow through by keeping your arm and hand directly behind the ball to build more velocity behind your pitches and at the very end before releasing your wrist should snap the ball in that whip-like motion.
Transferring the maximum amount of generated force into the ball involves properly positioning your fingers during the pitch.
Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind when pitching:
- Always keep your fingers behind the ball.
- Hold the ball using your thumb, pointer, and index fingers.
- Place your fingers across the stitching, running parallel with it.
- This grip can also help with accuracy and consistency when throwing pitches.
Whilst understanding how to pitch will get you some of the way, a healthy body and mind will do the rest. The difference between a healthy, active lifestyle, and an unhealthy lifestyle in an athlete is extremely noticeable.
Here are some tips on to help you maintain an active lifestyle:
- Drink More Water. Water is key in muscle building and maintaining strength. When your cells lose water, the protein production can slow and breakdown which means you will struggle to maintain the muscle mass you are hoping to gain at the gym. Dehydration can also affect your sports performance and likelihood of injury which can often occur in pitchers. Basically, do not skip having that glass of water!
- Eat Better. Alongside water, eating is equally as important in providing energy for our bodies. Whether healing from injuries or creating energy, these are both incredibly important aspects in improving your pitch.
- Healthy mind. Distractions and pressure can greatly impact the technique and power you put into your throw, so learn to meditate and calm your mind before you step up to the mound.
Take Time Off Sports
The most important, yet perhaps counterintuitive technique, is recovery. Your determination to be the best pitcher may harm it. The strenuous forces on your body, countless exercise routines, and muscle gains can exhaust your body.
After a sports game or some active exercise, make sure you get plenty of sleep and rest to allow your body to repair itself and build strength. Take some time each year after the season to rest your pitching arm for some time, pitching is an uncommon action for the body so to reduce risk of injury you must rest.
Strong vs Fast Arm
You must find a balance between a strong arm and a fast arm. Although this article discusses in depth the different muscles you should strengthen and build, a strong arm can also slow you down. Therefore, while you do need arm strength to throw harder, a fast arm is equally as important so you need to find a balance.
Arm Speed is generally defined as a measurement of two kinetic actions: elbow extension and shoulder rotation. Practicing throwing and pitching long toss throws will help build your arm speed, especially with weighted balls (4 oz, 5 oz, and 6 oz).
Maximizing arm speed when you release the ball, will result in a faster velocity. Furthermore, the better you can directionally apply arm speed directly at the target, the more efficient the delivery will be!
The most important contributing factor to increasing your pitch velocity is building strength. Lean muscle throughout the body will help add power and stability to your throw. There are many different exercises to increase your muscle gains, but the following are the most important muscles to focus on during fitness workouts if you want to elevate your throw to the next level:
Gain Lean Muscle Mass
In physics mass is correlated to momentum, and momentum is correlated to velocity. This means that when you increase your mass, your velocity will automatically increase. In the world of baseball, players with larger physiques throw faster with less effort than smaller players.
This is also why fitness is key. You could easily argue that an overweight player is a better pitcher, which is true, but your leg will absorb the extra force as you throw. An overweight or unfit player is therefore highly prone to injury. This means that lean muscle is a better alternative as you gain the strength alongside the weight. It will also mean that your leg will be able to dissipate the force as you throw.
Control is key in gaining lean muscle. Most muscle gains are gradual, but issues can arise if the pitcher gets too big too fast. Make sure to practice your throwing and technique as you gain muscle to be able to control this new momentum you are generating.
Increase Lower-Body Strength
The lower body provides the power to your pitches. Returning to the space shuttle analogy, your lower body is the fuel booster which will kickstart that momentum. Focusing on your quads and glutes in your exercises will provide you with the horsepower needed to generate that immense pitching force.
However, don’t forget that legs are used during the early phases of pitching, which means that they are equally as important. It sounds strange but big legs, hips, and butts will result in increased ball velocity.
If the core is not strong enough to help transfer the energy from the legs and hips to the shoulders, then you will get a large amount of power lost through insufficient movement. Some pitching programs will claim that core alone will add a projected pitching velocity of 3-5mph if you have sufficient base support and strength.
Fitness workouts such as planks are a static exercise that will target and fully engage your core. The exercise itself is simple and can also be done at home. For a plank, rest on your elbows instead of your hands and keep your back as flat as you can. Engage your core muscles to keep your torso straight and your hips up and hold the position until you are unable to continue doing so.
If you are looking to engage more in core strengthening, then a fitness workout such as dynamic cable lifts at the gym is the answer.
As previously stated, your legs and hips are where the power begins, but it is also in the legs that your stability and balance is held. When pitching, a pitcher's body should rotate around the foot planted on the mound, this means there is a lot of pressure on that leg to generate and transfer the energy into the ball whilst keeping you balanced as you rotate.
Fitness workouts including lunges, squats, and calf raises do not require weights and can be done almost anywhere. Working your legs two to three days a week can quickly improve your lower body strength as well as balance.
If you are looking for something extra, however, single-leg deadlifts in the gym are a popular way to strengthen your muscle on the leading leg whilst improving internal rotation.
Moving to the upper body, arm strength and arm speed are key to increasing your pitching velocity. Wrist flexion and strength are major contributors to velocity, and many coaches have incorporated a ‘wrist flick’ in the warmup to ensure strength and flexibility.
Your wrist and arm are most prone to injury as this is where all the generated energy is funneled into, and with the whip-like action of the wrist, a sprain is common. To avoid this, engage in posterior rotator cuff strength exercises which will build your speed and strength in the forearm and wrist.
Back to physics once again, and the equation for power is force multiplied by velocity. Once you increase your force production with the above strength training, you must also be able to understand how to apply the strength. Typically, athlete’s offseason will do weighted jumps to produce force rapidly and thus increase power.
Rearranging the formula results in velocity equals power divided by force. Therefore, athletes must work to increase their power because if you just increase your force, then the wasted energy will only result in a lower velocity. Working on internal rotation exercises and generating power will help complement the force provided by your strength.
Pitching Sports Programs and Coaches
A pitching program consists of sports activities, fitness workouts, and training plans that place emphasis on different skills and strengths. A baseball pitcher's fitness workouts are designed to produce desired training effects that include increasing pitching velocity, improving velocity endurance or "late-inning stamina", and reducing the risk of injury.
The plan is attired to your body and mind and will help encourage you to progress in various ways. Alongside this understanding of physics, the gaining of muscle, and lifestyle changes can drastically help enhance your skill and technique.
Baseball360 has over 11 professional Canadian athletes who can train you to become the next greatest pitcher. Coaches will incorporate pitching plans alongside their years of experience in sports to really show you how to gain speed in pitching. If you want to delve deeper into the world of baseball and pitching, then this is a great opportunity for you.
Sports equipment can help accelerate your progress to becoming a great pitcher. Most importantly, every pitcher needs their accompanying pitchers’ sports glove. Baseball360 has nine high quality, incredible pitching gloves to aid you.
Baseball360 provides a wide range of sports products to help you on your training journey. We offer over 19 different weighted balls which will give you the variety needed to increase your arm speed when training. The brands on offer consist of Louisville and Rawlings which are two of the most famous baseball brands.
To practice throwing and become the fastest pitcher, a high-quality crafted baseball is the answer. Aside from the weighted balls, Baseball360 also offers over 38 balls to enhance your play as you practice.