Training Athleticism in Pitchers – Part 1

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)

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In order to effectively train a pitcher as a complete athlete we first need to:

  1. Understand the key points in the delivery and how to develop effective power by training it in the weight room
  2. Identify and fix energy leaks (mechanics / disconnects)
  3. Be able to assess what “type” of pitcher we are dealing with in order to effectively train them to produce optimum power to throw a baseball

In the next two articles, we’ll review each of these independently. Let’s get started.

1. Key Points in the Delivery – Graeme Lehman does a great job of comparing a pitcher to shifting gears through the delivery much like a race car. These are not all, but what I believe to be the key points (gears) I look for when analyzing video. I’ve included what type of strength training is associated with each phase in order to maximize our time spent in the weight room. 

  • 1st gear: Gather Position/Glute Load – Absolute Strength
  • 2nd gear: Drive Phase (back leg power and timing) – Strength/Speed
  • 3rd gear: Back Hip Rotation/Hip and Shoulder Separation – Speed/Strength
  • 4th gear: Acceleration Phase – Speed
  • 5th gear: Ball Release/Deceleration – Speed

For more on the strength speed continuum please click here.

2. Avoid Lower Half Energy Leaks – While energy leaks are not solely associated with the lower half, I believe that most upper half leaks are directly related to what’s happening down below. For today, we’re going to deal with the “Gas”, the “Brakes” and “Hip Rotational Power”.

a. The Gas – Back Leg Drive / Timing – The key is timing the peak just before front foot contact and the ability to drive the body over a strong, stable back leg (right). This is not to be confused with “fake” glute load which is merely a result of creating a counter balance from opening up the front leg prematurely (left).

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Remember, more force into the ground equals more force FROM the ground which translates into a higher velocity ceiling.

b. The Brakes – Strong Front Leg Stability – The back leg (gas) will only put out as much force as the front leg (brakes) can handle. This includes the ability to extend the knee from first foot strike to ball release in order to more efficiently transfer force up the leg, through the core and into the arm (right). On the top, we see a less stable front leg combined with over striding, creating too low of a position to get out of from foot strike to ball release.

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(Less Stable Front Leg)

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(Stable Front Leg)

c. Hip Rotational Power (hip and shoulder separation) – Increasing the amount of time between when the hips rotate and when the shoulders rotate is crucial to get a good “pre-stretch” from the back leg glute and the front side lat. This extra torque will in turn bring the throwing arm further into lay back thus helping to create a harder throw with less stress coming from the arm.

Stay tuned for part 2, when we’ll take a look at #3 on the list covering some of the physical factors that make training this very complex population of athletes different from player to player.

See ya’ in the gym…

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