Professional baseball leagues are filled with veteran pitchers using experience and guile to get batters out. America’s Major League Baseball has pitchers like RA Dickey and Bartolo Colon pitching well after their 40th birthdays. Dickey is a master of the knuckleball. Colon boasts superior ball placement and changing speeds.
Those skills did not make them professional baseball pitchers. At some point, they had the one ingredient all pitchers need to get their foot in the door. That ingredient is speed.
Lack of Speed Kills
Any pitcher who dreams of playing professional baseball wants to increase pitching velocity. It has become so important that there are baseball camps devoted to throwing fastballs. Training gurus focus on pushing a pitcher’s strength and flexibility well past what the player thought was possible. The results are always measurable.
Before you pay thousands of dollars for one of those camps, take a look at these eight ways to increase pitching velocity. These tips can be followed by anybody who loves playing the game. Best of all, I won’t charge you a penny.
Tips to Increase Pitching Velocity
No pain… is the way to gain
Throwing is a basic human activity dating back to the earliest age of man. Thankfully, most of us don’t have to throw rocks or pointed sticks to catch supper anymore, leaving us to use our innate ability to throw baseballs.
Throwing should never hurt. If you have pain throwing a ball, it is time to stop and rest. Figure out why you have pain and fix it. Baseball retirement homes are filled with pitchers who ended their careers by trying to throw through some sort of discomfort.
Pitching velocity starts with a form
Remember when someone first taught you how to kick a ball? You learned your approach and form determined where the ball went and how fast it got there, not brute strength.
Pitching a baseball is just like that. There are no surefire ways to increase pitching velocity, but sports science is giving us good places to start. For instance, the fastest pitchers raise their front knee between 60 and 70 percent of their overall height.
They also have long strides and land with their front knee flexed at 90 degrees. At the point of landing, their throwing elbow is bent at more than 90 degrees, their back is straight, and their trunk is twisted at the hips. They push off hard from the pitching rubber and release the ball slightly ahead of their front shoulder. The forearm provides the bulk of the torque, but the flexion of the wrist is key. Therefore, make sure you take proper care of your wrist. Tape your wrist if required.
Practice your wind up and delivery in slow motion until you find what works for you. Then repeat it every time you throw a pitch.
- Pitching velocity looks fluid
The entire windup and pitching motion never stops until after the ball is delivered. That means there is no balance stop. A balance stop is what we call it when a pitcher stops during their windup and then delivers the pitch.
There is no good reason to do that. The balance stop slows the process of delivery and therefore, slows the velocity of the pitch. It can also cause the pitcher to be distracted, balk, or get hurt. Keep all your parts, and the ball, moving.
- Velocity requires strength
Pitchers constantly work on adding strength to their legs, core rotation muscles, and upper backs. They don’t do much with their arms, especially during the season.
The most important strength factor in pitching is your push off the mound. Your back leg provides the pitch power and your landing leg absorbs the body weight to increase the effectiveness of your release.
You can never do enough work on your legs. If you do not have weights or machines to work with, do squats and thrusts every other day, even during the season.
Tossing a medicine ball against a wall and catching it off your hip is a great way to work on rotational muscle strength. Allow the weight to twist your torso and then throw it back against the wall in a fluid motion to the other side.
All types of chin-ups and pull-ups help your upper back. Scapula muscles, in particular, are often under-developed in newer pitchers and diminish velocity.
- Velocity is flexible
Along with strength, flexibility is key. Pushing off the mound and delivering a pitch is an explosive activity. The only way to make it look fluid is to have good flexibility. The medicine ball exercise and all stretching exercises will help.
Long tossing in between pitching is designed to maintain flexibility in the throwing muscles. Many professionals are turning to yoga exercises for core and leg muscles. The more flex you get in your hips, the less strain you will put on your shoulders.
- Velocity rests
Professional pitchers follow strict regimens that include limited throwing between starts. Muscles and tendons need to recover from the explosive motions of a game.
While repetition helps muscle memory and flexibility, it can also wear down your joints. Most joint injuries are the result of extended periods of minor wear and tear. Take days off during the season. The body heals while at rest, especially during sleep, so be sure to get in your winks.
Another point to mention here is that year-round baseball results in more serious injuries and permanent wear. Sports orthopedists recommend four months of no throwing activity each year.
- Pitching velocity eats right
Exercise, stretching, and resting is all part of staying healthy. Nutritionists will tell you eating right is more important than anything else. During a baseball season, you want to maintain your body weight. Pitching coaches prefer a small weight gain over any weight loss.
Weight maintenance starts with water. Keep hydrated. Snack on some protein or high carbohydrate snacks during a game, too. Carbs are your main energy supply. Protein helps rebuild and repair muscles. Invest in a visit to a nutritionist or at least spend some web-surfing time learning about nutrition.
- Pitching velocity looks the same every time
All your work and behavior is geared toward finding the perfect motion to deliver a baseball with precision and speed. The best way to target specific muscles, ligaments, and bones is to use the same motion every time. Muscle memory will help with strength, flexibility, and accuracy. It also aids in rehabilitation should you suffer an injury. Variation in pitches comes from finger placement, release points, and timing. Do not shift body parts to move pitches.
So… go get ‘em!
If you keep all these things in mind while you work on your pitching motion and velocity, we expect you will see an increase in speed over time. No one gains ten miles an hour in a week. If you can pick up two or three miles in a season, you are doing extraordinarily well.
For that reason, our last recommendation is to never use a radar gun to measure your pitches. Throw naturally and the velocity comes naturally. Radar guns make pitchers reach back and give it a little extra. That is when injuries occur. And nothing slows your velocity like missing game time.