Pitching Lab… How We Merge Pitching and Strength Training

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

The Pitching Lab is a unique training program specifically designed to produce the “complete pitcher”. It’s truly a merger of strength training (in the weight room) and pitching (inside the nets).  Most players that haven’t trained with us probably don’t appreciate how intertwined our strength training is with our pitching program.

So, let’s get into it…

1. Improving Mechanics w/Strength Training

Pitching mechanics are really about how you “shift gears” to maximize your top-end speed when you release the ball. But how powerful each gear is will decide how fast we can go in each of those gears in order to unfold the delivery and create a consistent, more powerful throw with a higher velocity ceiling.

RPP’s strength training program for pitchers is directly tied to helping improve mechanics and strengthening those gears by increasing mobility, strength and overall athleticism. There is no doubt that specialized training in the weight room reaps huge rewards on the mound. Here are a few great examples of how mechanical issues on the mound can be caused by weakness or tightness elsewhere in the body.

“When the front side is opening too early while coming down the mound, many times the main culprits are a weak abductor or the glute in that stance leg or hip IR”…

 (Single Leg Dead Lift)

“Lack of back leg extension is a direct indicator of a lack of force production into the ground from the back leg. This can be caused by, among other things, tight adductors or a weak hip hinge”…

(Side Board Lateral Lunges)

“Insufficient isometric quad strength can inhibit getting out of low positions in the delivery, one of them being the angle from first foot strike to ball release (posting up). As a result, hip rotation during the deceleration phase will be shorter, placing added stress on the posterior shoulder and elbow at finish”…

(Split Squat Iso Holds)

“It is amazing how many of the issues observed on the mound are actually tied to a pitcher’s physical limitations off the mound”

2. Pitching Program

Although we have many pitchers that simply train with us and pitch elsewhere, I truly believe that many of them are missing an enormous amount of training that goes on inside the nets that is relevant to what we do outside the nets.  Let me explain…

The Pitching Lab begins in late fall, our pitching sessions begin in mid-December and conclude near the end of February. But the work that goes into it begins on the first day of the Lab when each pitcher is assessed and video-taped. We perform our table assessment to evaluate insufficient movement patterns / metrics as well as power-testing to find out whether the athlete needs a more force or elasticity driven program in order to help create more power. This will not only help us decide how they are going to be trained in the weight room, but it’s also used to re-assess later in the program to evaluate their progress.

Video Analysis and Mechanical Remapping – The use of video analysis helps us break down their mechanics, not only from a bio-mechanical standpoint but also from a sequencing/delivery view point. From there, we can better prepare a set of throwing correctives for mechanical remapping. Since every pitcher is different in their delivery, these programs and correctives are 100% customized for each and every single pitcher in the program and is an integral part of how we help pitchers achieve a higher velocity ceiling.

Ramp-up (on-ramping) – Unfortunately, many throwing programs have issues with workload management (on- ramping). Pitchers need to take time to ramp-up throwing capacity in order to throw hard while minimizing the risk of injury.  This is the only way to slowly increase workload capacity rather than see a sharp increase all at once when high intent throwing begins. Our throwing program is intended for pitchers who are just starting to throw after a 6-8 week shut down, and the Pitching Lab takes all this into consideration and includes a proper Ramp-up adding stress incrementally over a 4-week period, allowing the connective tissue to adapt as it accepts more energy.

Pitching Sessions – Our pitching program involves throwing/pitching 2x per week.  Frankly, I think it’s a must that pitchers throw 2x per week in preparation for the spring.  Throwing once a week does not allow the connective tissue of the arm to develop the resiliency necessary to resist the demands of a high-level throw.

The pitching sessions are also all inclusive and cover a vast array of topics, from the mental side of the game to pitch selection and sequencing.  Here are a couple of relevant videos covering these topics:

(Clearing Your Head Routine)

(Pitch Sequencing)

Timeline – Here is an approximate timeline from November – February for the pitching component of the program (session counts may vary depending on the calendar from year to year).  What we do in the weight room (right side) is 100% tied to what we do inside the nets (left side)…

Pitching Lab Weekly Chart

The Pitching Lab encompasses ALL of the protocols required to compete at the highest level. Remember, strength training, mechanics as well as your warm-up and recovery are all as equally important as how much you throw.

See ya’ in the gym…