The ability of a player to throw hard and accurately is a valued asset to any baseball team. Who isn’t impressed by the pitcher who hurls a blazing fastball past hitters or the outfielder who gets the ball to home plate on one bounce? Whether you are in the little or big leagues, you can add velocity to your throws by following a well-designed resistance training program. And by strengthening the muscles in your arms, shoulders and back, you stand a better chance of avoiding the disabled list.
Get an Early Start and Keep Going
While it is possible to see improvements in as early as a few weeks, you’ll achieve the best results by starting your strengthening program early during the off-season. This allows you more time to build up arm strength. It also allows you to include strenuous training sessions that build muscle and schedule ample recovery time. Once the season starts, your training program should be redesigned to maintain the strength you gained without overtaxing your body for practice and games.
Build Your Foundation with the Thrower’s Ten
Throwing a baseball is a complex movement involving all the major joints of the arm -- shoulder, elbow and wrist. Your strengthening program should include all the muscle groups associated with these joints. Dr. James R. Andrews, one of the world’s leading sports-specific orthopedic surgeons, recommends on the Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center website the Thrower’s Ten Exercise Program. This comprehensive set of resistance exercises is specifically designed for athletes who use an overhead (overhand) throw. Build up your base of strength by gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift over time.
Plyometrics for Speed and Power
A 2005 survey of major league baseball strength and conditioning coaches found 16 out of 21 used upper body plyometrics training. Plyometrics are a variation of resistance training designed to maximize explosive power output. They combine moderate weights with fast, forceful movements that work multiple muscle groups. Medicine ball throws against the floor or wall are examples of upper body plyometric drills designed to strengthen the muscles involved in the overhead throwing motion.
Weighted Baseballs for Neuromuscular Integration
Weighted baseball drills reinforce interactions between the nervous system and muscles by using your actual throwing motion. For example, throw three sessions per week, using specific pitch counts and a combination of weighted and standard baseballs. Weighted baseball drills put more stress on the joints, so be sure you have established a foundation of muscle strength from general resistance and plyometrics training before advancing into these.
Don’t Forget the Legs and Trunk
Putting maximum velocity on a baseball engages your entire body, creating a kinetic chain that links your legs, trunk and arms. Thus, part of your training program should include exercises to strengthen your lower body. Avoid endurance-type training, such as extended running, which actually reduces your explosive power. High-intensity, short-duration running drills will help develop the right combination of strength and speed.
- Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center: Thrower’s Ten Exercise Program
- EricCressey.com: Medicine Ball Workouts -- Not Just for Athletes
- Journal of Applied Sports Science Research: Effects of Weighted Implement Training on Throwing Velocity
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of a 4-Week Youth Baseball Conditioning Program on Throwing Velocity
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Effects of General, Special, and Specific Resistance Training on Throwing Velocity in Baseball: A Brief Review
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: Strength and conditioning practices of Major League Baseball strength and conditioning coaches
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: NCSA’s Performance Training Journal -- Baseball & Softball
- Sports Health -- A Multidisciplinary Approach: The Kinetic Chain in Overhand Pitching
- Sports Illustrated: Under The Knife: Top Surgeons Blend Research, Track Records