Pitchers of all ages and all levels of performance are looking for three things, better command, better pitches and MORE VELOCITY! Whether you’re a little leaguer or a pro baseball player there’s a pretty good chance you’re looking for more velocity or better sustained velocity throughout games or the season. In this post we’re going to to discuss 5 things you can do to maximize velocity.
- Increase Arm Length
- Gain Strength and Power
- Create Better Hip Shoulder Separation
- Improve kinematic Sequencing
- Train for Explosiveness
Increase Arm Length
Lengthening your arm path will biomechanically allow you to throw harder. By increasing the length of your lever (throwing arm) you will increase the amount of force applied to the baseball at release which will facilitate an increase in throwing velocity. Players at different positions on the baseball field throw with different arm actions because they have different goals or the baseball. A catcher uses a shorter arm stroke because his goal is to get the ball from point a to point b as quickly as possible, an outfielder uses a long arm stroke because he wants to maximize distance and carry. A pitcher also uses a a long loose arm action in order to maximize velocity and movement.
In order to comfortably and effectively lengthen arm action in your throwing delivery you need to do three things:
- Improve Flexibility and Mobility
- Find the Proper Rhythm and Timing
- Use a gradual progression in order to keep the transition smooth
Gain Strength and Power
Work in the weight room will translate into better velocity on the mound if you train your body the right way, maintain flexibility and athleticism. An understanding of how pitching athletes should train to maximize velocity and performance while minimizing risk of injury is important before starting a program. Find a trusted strength and performance professional to assist with over seeing your development if necessary. Athletic development is one of the most important components to velocity maximization. We will keep this portion brief in this most with much more detailed content on our recommendations in the future posts.
Create Better Hip Shoulder Separation
Hip shoulder separation is a term that was coined by Dr. Tom House of the National Pitching Association and has been determined to be one of the most important mechanical factors in improving pitching velocity. Hip Shoulder Separation refers to the position of the body in the pitching delivery at foot strike just before the shoulders begin the rotate forward toward the target. The separation refers to a disassociation of the hips and shoulder as the hips open toward target while the shoulder remain closed creating an elastic stretch in the muscles of the hips and torso storing energy that will be used to accelerate the arm forward and turn into force transferred into the baseball. This is often referred to as the ‘X’ factor in golf when referring to the energy that is created and transferred through the body in the golf swing.
This picture of Tim Lincecum shows some pretty serious hip shoulder separation
Improve Kinematic Sequencing
Kinematic sequencing refers to the sequence and timing of events in the rotational athlete’s movements that will transfer energy and speed from one body part to another and finally to the throwing hand or striking implement into the ball. This is another biomechanical principle that has cross application to the golf swing. Throwing a baseball or hitting a golf ball is not one movement it is a series of movements and in order to maximize throwing velocity or swing speed one must sequence these movements in the proper order to ensure the speed and energy moves efficiently from one body part to the next. Learning to properly sequence your movements should involve slow motion video analysis or 3D Motion Analysis if available. It is important that the athlete have a strong understanding of how the body is moving and how that connects to what they are feeling. Often times there is a disconnect between what an athlete feels and how the athlete moves. Video or 3D Motion analysis can help build this connection and give the athlete a better grasp on their body as it completes the chain of movements. Below is an screenshot of 3D Motion Analysis demonstrating Kinematic Sequencing.
Train for Explosiveness
Understand that the act of pitching is an anaerobic, explosive movement. Thus, we want to train our body to be explosive. The human body is an amazing organism possessing the ability to adapt to different stresses and environments. If we want our body to be able to run long distances without stopping, we should gradually train our body to do so knowing that it will make the necessary adaptations and condition itself to run long distances slowly by developing the proper biomechanics, muscle fiber and body type. As a pitcher, this is not what we want. We want to train our body to operate with maximum explosiveness in order to optimize pitching performance. In order to do this we will use exercises that train our body to be explosive through movements similar to those used in the pitching delivery. Plyometrics, Medicine Ball Workouts, Sprint work along with explosive jumps, quickness and agility work will be done to maximize our body for the act of pitching. A pitcher also needs to be strong, stable and powerful to repeat his delivery so other types of exercises are necessary as well but they fit into the program at different times of the year. As a pitcher gets closer to the season, more of an emphasis should be put on explosiveness and functional strength. Eric Cressey of Cressey Performance put together a nice YouTube video discussing to strength-speed continuum and how it relates to training baseball athletes.