Increase Your Fastball Speed with Strength Training
Baseball players often to turn to personal trainers with concerns about their fastball velocity. Pitchers sometimes wonder why their fastball speed seems to drop during the in-season, and they wonder what they should be doing during the pre- and off-seasons to keep their bodies in condition and their fastball from losing its edge.
There are several myths surrounding fastball speed and there’s also no shortage of bad advice and outdated recommendations circulating around the baseball world, from little league coaches to major league trainers to the internet. But there are a few truths about the fastball that shouldn’t be ignored by those who are serious about building and maintaining fastball speed. Most important, conditioning and strength training increase fastball speed, they don’t hold the fastball back. But the strength training and conditioning exercises pitchers choose should be the right ones. Strength training programs won’t help if they’re executed incorrectly.
Below, we’ve listed five key tips for putting speed behind a fastball and maintaining power and force all season. Try these fastball recommendations and see what happens to your mph.
Generating Fastball Velocity: Throw, But Don’t Pitch
Pitchers should understand the differing effects of throwing drills versus pitching. To build fastball speed, throw fastballs. The more you throw, the better. Endless long tosses and throwing drills are what brought many major league pitchers where they are today. But as you throw, focus on speed and technique alone, not on pitching.
Too much attention focused on accuracy and lining up batters will draw your mind away from the details and subtle motions that put speed behind a fastball. Some experts even suggest that too much pitching during the pre and in seasons may actually be the worst thing you can do if you’re trying to generate and maintain fastball speed. Just throw. Focus on staying behind the ball at all times, or keeping your fingers behind the ball at the release point. In addition to form, keep your mind on speed and distance.
Generating Fastball Velocity: Don’t Overestimate the Value of Rest
During the in-season, contrary to some outdated advice, pitchers should be throwing often. Experts recommend throwing drills at least six days a week or more. Some coaches insist that rest is key and shouldn’t be compromised, and that undermining rest time can reduce fastball speed and increase the likelihood of injury. But sports scientists and trainers are now started to recommend the opposite. According to these experts, the body has an often-underestimated ability to condition itself to many forms of stress, and it may be too much rest time that actually generates weakness and potential injury. As long as the arm is engaged in throwing drills, not pitching, it’s almost impossible to overdo it.
Fastball Velocity and Strength Training: Work the Legs
As all experienced pitchers and coaches know, fastball speed doesn’t come from the arm alone. The velocity of the fastball starts in the legs, and gathers force as it moves up through the hips and core. By the time the power of fastball reaches the arm and then the ball, most of its velocity has already been established. So a program designed to increase fastball velocity should start with strength training in the legs.
Cardio drills like running can help, but the primary power that the legs bring to the fastball is best generated through aggressive resistance training. No matter what strength training drills and exercises you choose, it’s a good idea to add resistance with an elastic band, like the KBands, attached to the legs. This will build strength and help athletes reach the failure point faster than working out with body weight resistance alone.
With a resistance band in place, work on knee-ups that generate burn in the quads and glutes. Then rotate the body to the side and try compound strength training moves like oblique knee-ups. (For more detail, investigate the video workout blog on this site). As your strength training regimen generates power in the quads, hamstrings and glutes, you’ll be building a strong foundation under your fastball, which will lead to consistent speed.
Strength Training and Fastball Speed: Working the Core and Hips
Any strength training move that generates power and stability in the core will contribute to a high-velocity fastball. Work the core with body weight exercises like crunches, planks and bicycles. And remember that balance is an essential part of core strength as well. With the resistance training bands in place around your legs, stand on one leg and lift the other to the side, keeping your knee straight. At the same time, raise your arms over your head and bend at the torso in the direction of the standing leg. Position your body in a T-shape and hold that pose for as long as possible. Drills and balance exercises like this can supplement your strength training regimen, generate power in the core and build velocity behind your fastball.
Work the Rotator Cuffs
Even through the velocity of the fastball comes primarily from the hips, core, and legs, it’s a good idea to dedicate a large portion of your strength training regimen to the shoulder. Conditioning your rotator cuffs will give the fastball a final burst of speed as it’s released, and strong rotator cuffs also mean protection from injury and strain.
Great rotator cuff strength training starts with overhead flies and moves that draw the arm across the body against resistance. Optimize suspension training devices like the KB Duo for modified flies and pushups. And use the KB Powerbands to increase resistance as you keep your elbow straight and draw your arm across your chest. Again, see the video blog for more detail.
As you condition your rotator cuffs with strength training, keep safety in mind. Don’t do overhead exercises that bring the arms behind the level of your ears, and don’t begin any resistance training move with the arms behind the plane of the body. The rotator cuffs can be an excellent generator of fastball speed, but they’re also vulnerable to injury, which can lead to training setbacks.
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