Practicing throwing and pitching alone won't help to build a faster throw -- baseball players need to strength train to increase speed. If you don't develop strength and power with throwing-specific exercises, you'll never have a great throw, notes strength coach Eric Cressey, owner of Cressey Performance in Boston -- a facility specializing in training baseball players. It isn't as simple as following a generic strength training routine though. Your whole program needs to be tailored to improving your performance on the field.
Pressing for Pitchers
Your pressing muscles -- the shoulders, chest and triceps -- need to be strong to throw a baseball fast. The bench press is the go-to move for these muscles for many guys, but it's not the best choice for pitchers. Bench pressing can lead to shoulder impingement, so you'll need to find alternative pressing moves, notes Tony Gentilcore, trainer at Cressey Performance. Neutral grip presses using a Swiss bar, along with dumbbell presses and different types of pushups, such as weighted, decline, or band-resisted are far better and safer choices.
It's All in the Hips
Throwing a baseball doesn't put that much strain on your upper body. A degree of upper-body strength is vital for throwing, but if you can't fully generate power from your hips, your velocity won't be up to scratch, according to physical therapist Eric Schoenberg. To build up hip power, perform rotational movements such as cable wood-chops, performed by standing side-on to a cable machine, holding the handle over one shoulder and bringing it down in a chopping motion to your other side. These can also be done with a resistance band. Vary the height of the cable or band and the direction you pull in, aiming to generate maximum power on each rep, while still demonstrating control.
Pull Your Socks -- or Sleeves -- Up
Pulling exercises for the upper body are just as important as pushing ones. Pulls work your upper back muscles and a strong upper back improves shoulder function and reduces the risk of injuries to your shoulder girdle, notes strength coach Joe Meglio, in an article for EliteFTS.com. Meglio advises performing both vertical pulls, such as chin-ups and horizontal pulls such as barbell or dumbbell rows in every upper body workout.
Your mid-section has a massive role to play in generating power for a faster throw. NASM personal trainer Joe Baur recommends performing two core exercises regularly in your training. The first of these is bicycle crunches -- a cross between a regular crunch and reverse crunch -- that requires that you bring your elbow to your opposite knee on every rep. Baur also prescribes a plank series. This is like a normal plank, but involves lifting different limbs off the floor to increase the challenge on your core muscles. Assume a plank position, then lift your left arm out to the front, while kicking your right leg back. Switch sides and keep alternating lifts.