Velocity and the Holy Grail (Part 1)

By Nunzio Signore (B.A., CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

Ball on FireIn the pitching world the word “velocity” has become the holy grail. Unfortunately, there is no single thing I could tell you to do to increase velocity as every pitcher is different.  What may work for one athlete may not work for another.  So in this 4 part series, I’ll touch briefly on 12 different topics I think are important and very relevant. Each topic could be a blog in itself, so I’ll try to keep these short and sweet

1. Improving Pitching Mechanics: I tell parents when they walk into RPP that the athlete is the race car, the pitching coach is the driver and we are the mechanics.  We can create a strong, powerful and mobile athlete (much like a dragster), but it means nothing if you have a lousy driver (pitching coach).  Finding an instructor who has a basic understanding of movement and physical anatomy will go far in helping to optimize your mechanics and make your delivery more efficient.

Here is an example.  We have a pitcher in the gym right now who has been throwing in the mid-80s. When watching his delivery, it was obvious he wasn’t incorporating his glutes in his descent down the mound. If this kid is throwing in the mid-80s using mostly his upper body then coaching him to “engage his glutes” (one of the strongest muscles in the body) will be a quick fix towards more velocity. Here’s an exercise we use to teach glute/lower half engagement during the delivery:

(Walking Box Squat)

2. Increase Lower Body Strength and Power: After a long throwing season, more throwing in the fall may or may not be in a player’s best interest. This is the time of year when they may want to steer their focus towards getting more “athletic”.  A pitcher will be much more aware of using his lower body if he becomes more aware that he actually has one!!  In addition, the posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) are among the biggest and most powerful muscles in the body. They are capable of producing much more force than the upper body. Not to mention the more lower body we can incorporate into the delivery, the less chance there is of over-using our upper half.  Bottom line, increasing lower body strength and power is like putting a bigger engine in the same size chassis.

(Supine Hip Bridge)

Strengthening the lower half in the weight room will also help to release testosterone, a major player in gaining “lean muscle mass” which brings us to topic # 3.

3. Gaining Lean Muscle Mass: Statistics have shown that there is a clear relationship between body mass and velocity. More body weight gives an athlete more force when moving down the mound, thus having a positive impact on velocity. The downside to this, however, is that the lead leg has to absorb that extra force upon landing (at foot strike). If the body weight gained is lean muscle, the leg will be stronger and better able to stabilize with no problem. However, a body that gained “body fat” with little lean muscle mass and is still trying to support the extra force at landing will be much more likely to get injured.  Gaining lean muscle mass will give you the strength to deal with all the new force your body is creating.  In regards to control issues, if the weight gain is done naturally it would be gradual.  Most control issues happen when a pitcher gets “too big too fast”.  Once his pitching coach teaches him to settle in to his new more powerful machine, he can begin to use the extra velocity to his advantage.  Gaining unwanted body weight (fat) will still give you that extra force, but will do nothing in terms of added strength to help absorb that force at foot strike and let’s face it velocity doesn’t matter if you’re on the DL.

Injured Player DL

Please stay tuned for Part 2 as we cover more topics relevant to increasing your velocity.

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