Why Isn’t My Pitching Velocity Going UP?

Every off-season athletes come to RPP looking to improve their pitching velocity. Unfortunately, quite often they also believe that throwing harder is only about pitching mechanics. Not sure exactly where this type of thinking started but it points to a complete lack of understanding about where throwing velocity comes from.  Wish it was that simple!

Yes, mechanics are extremely important.  But if you want to get to a higher velo ceiling and throw harder, you need to know that there are a number of other contributors, all of which are as equally as important as pitching mechanics.

Let’s start with what we consider to be the foundation to every athletic movement!

1. You need to be strong

You will never throw as hard as you’d like without the necessary STRENGTH to go with it! And, if you do from a sheer genetics standpoint, it usually won’t last long due to the body’s inability to handle the stress of throwing.

We’re not talking about beach muscle strength; we’re talking about use-able Type II fibers (otherwise referred to as FAST-TWITCH strength). Training for baseball requires a specialized program designed to increase Max strength, but only to a point where speed is not compromised.  Here are some basic parameters to consider when it comes to deciding when an athlete is “strong enough” to throw a 5 oz. baseball and when we may be tipping the scale to the other side, otherwise known as diminishing returns.

    • Trap Bar Deadlift – 2.25x your body weight (lower body strength)
    • Single Leg Squat – 0.55x your body weight (single leg strength / stability)
    • Upper Body Strength – Bench Press – 1.25x your body weight (upper body strength)

2. You need to be powerful

People often discuss strength and power as if they are one and the same.  We all know what we mean by strength, but power is often ignored or confused with strength.  It’s about how quickly you can deliver that strength.  Put differently – your explosiveness.

You will never throw as hard as you’d like without the necessary POWER to go with it!

Whether you are a pitcher or a position player, your pitching velo or bat speed comes from delivering your strength as quickly as possible. We all know that an athlete that is strong and cannot move quickly, cannot be explosive. You need both strength and acceleration to efficiently produce power as a baseball player.

The good news is that just like strength, power can be trained and developed. We generally work on strength adaptations earlier in the off-season and then move on to faster lifts with lighter loads towards the latter half of the off-season to help create power.

3. You need to eat

You can’t talk about an athlete’s strength and power, without talking about his body composition. Strength and power are generally tied to the amount of lean body mass and here are some targets to keep in mind when it comes to body composition:

    • 13–16-year-olds…  2.1-2.5x height to weight ratio
    • 17 years and older…  2.5-3.0x height to weight ratio

What does this mean? If you’re 17 years and 6’0” tall, then you should be targeting for a minimum of around 2.5x height to weight ratio, which is 180 lbs.

On the other hand, you should also keep your body fat percentage below 15% so eating fairly clean is important to help ensure that the majority of weight gained is in the form of muscle, and NOT body fat.

How do you get there? Your body needs fuel to get stronger. Proper nutrition should be part and parcel to your training. If you want to add 10-15 lbs. muscle mass during the off-season, you need to eat more and eat often. For most young athletes, it’s extremely difficult to add weight. If you’re in that category, then ask yourself…

How Badly Do I Want it!

Combined with a comprehensive strength training program, you should target 4,000 calories / day, spread out over 3 meals and several snacks (bars, shakes, etc.) and go from there. If you’re a hard gainer, choose snacks that are calorically dense such as:

    • Peanut butter
    • Avocados
    • Muffins, pancakes, waffles w/syrup
    • Granola
    • Milk Shakes

4. You need to be mobile and flexible

Mobility is huge for baseball players. Being too tight or too lax (loose ligaments / joints) can put limitations on your performance, while putting you at a higher risk of injury. Highly elastic guys that are like thin rubber bands, can sometimes be deceiving with their power. They may not generate as much force (strength), but they can deliver that force very quickly due to the elasticity of their tendons.

In general, similar to maintaining your strength levels (discussed further below), you should make sure that you’re maintaining your mobility throughout the long baseball season.

5. You need to have good mechanics

Good mechanics are paramount. They make you an efficient thrower and can help reduce torque on the elbow and shoulder. Without great mechanics, it’s harder to reach higher velocity ceilings, and do it safely.

Pitching mechanics generally fall into 3 big buckets and are all equally important to help you attain high velocity ceilings:

    • Arm Action – From hand break to release, your arm action plays a big role in delivering that pitch and is the final “whip” involving the smallest muscles moving at the fastest rate in the throwing motion.
    • Trunk Movement – The trunk is the conduit. It transfers the force generated from the lower half up into the arm and eventually the ball.
    • Lower Half Mechanics – Everything starts with the lower half. It is not only the first movement that happens (the load), but it happens at the slowest rate so it is the easiest thing to address first when reviewing mechanics with your athletes.

6. You need to have good sequencing in your movement patterns

Sequencing is about how efficiently you are transferring power proximal to distal. This means from the core to the ground and back up, starting with the lower half and moving up the kinetic chain. High-level pitchers may each look different in their delivery, but they all are extremely efficient at transferring force up the chain. This is one reason why 90+ mph pitches look so effortless.  They are extremely efficient in their transfer of power up the chain.

Sequencing issues can come about from a variety of different topics, including mobility, strength, pitching mechanics and ultimately awareness.  However, since much of it starts from the ground and up, good sequencing starts with lower half mechanics. For more info on the lower half please click here.

7. You need to be consistent in your training

By consistency, we’re not referring to the short term and simply working hard for a few months during the off-season. We’re talking about the medium and long-term. Building noticeable velocity improvements takes time and requires consistency in strength training as well as training on the technical side.

Often, it requires more patience than we have in us, but if you are training consistently and you give it time, pick ups in velo will come. Here in the Northeast, increases in velo often show up around mid-April / early May once the weather begins to warm up and the adrenaline rush of live batter’s kicks in.

Although most of the athletes that train with us take the off-season seriously, unfortunately, we can’t say the same about in-season training. If you want to throw hard all season long, you need to continue with training in-season. This helps avoid the “controlled fall” that happens from an extended period of throwing in showcases and tournaments / games from March through October. For an in-depth explanation on the importance of in-season training click here.

But, here is the good news! Unlike training during the off-season, during in-season you don’t need to lift as hard, or as often, or as long.  In-season training programs designed to maintain strength and power are generally performed 1-3x / week, are approximately 40-50 minutes and utilize lighter loads of 70-80% of the athletes 1RM.  You should not be sore after in-season training.

8. Your body needs periods of recovery

Full-body recovery is huge and even more so in the upper extremity due to the fact that it’s the most crowded section of the body. This is due to the amount of fascia, tendons, muscles and nerves all being packed in small areas such as the shoulder and elbow particularly.

Unfortunately, recovery happens to be one of the most ignored topics. Your body needs it to rebuild and improve and there are NO exceptions to this particular rule. Whether it’s about amount nutrition, hydration or sleep quality, it’s extremely important to engage in recovery. It is relevant both in the weight room and inside the nets.

Our lifting and throwing programs always have time for recovery automatically programmed in. With the use of training techniques such as tempo runs, mobility and fascial circuits as well as choosing the correct exercises and volume on lifting days we can improve blood flow and begin the healing process immediately after an outing or heavy lift.  On the other hand, with a  workload management program, you can monitor throwing volume on recovery days.

If you’re having a hard time throwing hard, check your recovery!

9. You need intent

If you want to throw hard, when the time is right and you’re fully ramped up, you need to throw as hard as you can.  Intent plays a big role in the body’s self-organization to perform a given task.  As Lantz Wheeler always says, be the guy that no one wants to play catch with, because you throw too hard.

10. You need to be mentally prepared for the road ahead

Much of what we’ve reviewed here takes time and hard work.

    • Getting stronger takes time
    • Becoming more powerful takes time
    • Becoming more mobile (if you need to) takes time
    • Increasing your lean muscle mass takes time
    • Improving your mechanics takes time
    • Improving your sequencing takes time

It’s a process with ups and downs and twists and turns along the way. It’s definitely not a straight line up.

Credit: Dmitri Martin’s This Is A Book

Sometimes, you may do everything and still see no change for a period as your body gets used to the changes.  But it will come!  Unfortunately too many outfits promise big velo gains in a short time span.  Until further notice, patience, perseverance and hard work are still the only way!

Closing Remarks

Don’t be fooled by what you see on the TV from professional ball players! Every single one of those guys are athletic freaks.  Sometimes folks see a relatively lighter pitcher on TV that does not look exceptionally strong, yet he throws the ball hard. They question whether strength is relevant.

First, with those guys on TV always check weight and height. Pitchers’ appearances on TV can be very deceiving.

Second, if they happen to be on the lighter side, then they do everything else exceptionally well. Big Kudos to them but they are the exception or “outliers” as we call them. The average MLB pitcher is 6’2″ and 210-215 lbs. Most guys who throw hard are not on the lighter side and are generally good to great in the weight room.

So, going to back to the beginning of this article…

Velocity is not just about mechanics!

If your off-season is only focused on #5, you’re missing most of what you need to get there.

By Nunzio Signore and Bahram Shirazi (RPP Baseball)


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