By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
Improve and perfect your pitching abilities!
Warming up will fully prepare you for the activity of pitching and will prevent injury and imporve performance. This period will consist of fifteen minutes of stretching and jogging and fifteen minutes of throwing.
Begin your warm up period with a short five minutes of jogging, keep your pace very brisk as to not tire yourself out before you start.
This portion of the warm up will take around 10 minutes and will include free stretching
Arm and shoulder Stretches
This first stretch in a series of four to help your to ready the muscles in the arm and shoulder area. The specific area this first stretch will target is the wrist. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Also begin on your dominant arm and continue to stretch the opposite arm even though you will not be placing nearly as much force on it during the process of pitching.
1. Move your throwing arm into a 90 degree angle to your body.
2. Next make sure that the back of your hand is facing you and your hand is point upwards.
3. Slowly and gently pull the fingers back towards the body
4. Switch arms and repeat
The next stretch is very similar to the first except for one minor detail. This stretch will target your wrist extensors instead of your wrist flexors. Hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. Just as in the last one stretching both wrists is important.
1. Move your throwing arm into a 90 degree angle to your body
2. Next point your fingers facing towards the ground
3. Slowly and gently pull the fingers back towards the body
4. Switch arms and repeat.
Now we will move on the shoulder area, this is an area of particular importance because the shoulder is at great risk of injury during the pitching process. This will target your should cuff area directly. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Make sure to stretch both shoulders equally.
1. Bring your throwing elbow up to chest level.
2. Next take you opposite arm and pull the elbow across the body
3. Be sure to have the bicep touch the chin.
4. Switch arms and repeat.
This is the final stretch in the series of four to warm up the shoulder and arm areas. Once again you will be targeting the shoulder area. Just as in the last stretch this will focus on the shoulder cuff region. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds. Remeber to stretch both shoulders equally.
1. Raise your throwing elbow above your head
2. Place you hand in between the shoulder blades.
3. Pull the elbow downwards
4. Switch and repeat.
This stretch will help you to warm up you legs seeing as they are a crucial to pitching success.This stretch should be held for 20 to 30 seconds for otimum benefit. Also this should be perfomed for both legs equally.
1. Begin in a sitting down position.
2. Place one leg extended out forwards.
3. Bend the other leg so that your opposite foot is placed on the out stretched leg.
4. Next reach with both arms forward and touch the foot on the outstretched leg.
5. Switch legs and repeat.
Before starting in a game it is essential to throw for about 15 minutes. Starting from a short distance and throwing with realitive ease. Throughout the throwing period slowly increasing the distance from you and your catcher.
1. Start by throwing fastballs from about 40 to 45 feet
2. Throw with your full pitching motion although you are not at full distance
3. Every 10 pitches move about ten feet back until you are at a normal pitching distance
4. When at regular pitching distance throw 5 fastballs at 75% of your ability
5. Then 5 breaking balls and 5 off-speed pitches
6. Finish by throwing about 10 full effort pitches
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3 Cone Agility Drill
Source: Mike Griffin (former Kansas City Royals Strength Coach) – This drill works on improving both cardiorespiratory endurance and muscular strength. For the amount of time the athlete spends doing the drill, the athlete’s heart rate soars and will remain between 90 to 100% of maximum heart rate for the entire drill. Therefore this drill works the athlete at their VO2 maximum level and utilizes the key overload principle by forcing the athlete to either sprint or backpedal almost the entire time. As for muscular strength, the 3 Cone Agility Drill “is excellent for developing leg power” because it “forces players to stop on a dime without slowing down” similar to how they would in a typical drill (muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus).
1. Set up 3 cones in a straight line 5-10 yards apart from each other. Label cones numbers 1, 2, and 3.
2. Have the athlete begin standing 5-10 yards in front of cone #2. Coach can then yell out a number.
3. The athlete will sprint to that specified cone and then backpedal to starting point.
4. The coach can either wait until the athlete gets back to the original starting point to call out a number (cone) again or the coach can yell out a number before or during the backpedaling, directing the athlete to sprint to a new (or the same cone).
3-Ball Outfield Drill
Source: Mike from near maximum and then kick it right back up on the next repetition (my suggestion - have athlete do 6-8 repetitions) which will increase the maximum heart rate threshold of the athlete.
1. Make sure that the coach has 3 baseballs in hand.
2. Have the player sprint in one direction while anticipatingGriffin (former Kansas City Royals Strength Coach) – If performed several times, this drill will serve similar to a mini-interval workout because the athlete will do the drill – a sprint which could last anywhere from 5 to 12 seconds – take a short period of recovery (say 30 seconds) and then repeat the drill. The recovery period allows the athlete’s heart rate to drop down a ball to be thrown (to him) over his right shoulder.
3. After he catches that ball, keep on sprinting to catch a ball over his left shoulder and then finally again over his right shoulder.
4. This drill is to be performed as one continuous sprint and not 3 individual sprints.
5. Try to maintain sprinting at full speed while catching the balls.
Source: Mike Griffin (former Kansas City Royals Strength Coach) – The Ball Shuffle is a great drill to (once again) develop both cardiorespiratory endurance and muscular strength. By performing this speed/agility drill repeatedly, the athlete will get much more out of it (in terms of cardiorespiratory endurance). This goes back to the interval workout theory of exercising the athlete at maximum heart rate, allowing the heart rate to fall back (close to resting heart rate), and then boost it right back up to the VO2 maximum level. The Ball Shuffle Drill is also great for developing leg power (muscles: quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus).
1. Have the athlete start 5 yards in front of the coach with a baseball in his hand.
2. The athlete will first sprint to the coach, hand the ball (do not toss or throw it) to the coach, and backpedal.
3. The athlete should keep on backpedaling until the coach tosses the ball to either side (to the right or left of the athlete).
4. Then, the athlete can “shuffle” over (in a horizontal direction) to the ball, pick up the ball, and sprint back to the coach.
5. The athlete must hand (not toss or throw) the ball to the coach and then repeat the process (my suggestion - have athlete do 6-8 repetitions).
Running/Jogging continuously helps increase the athlete’s aerobic capacity. By running for more than 5 minutes, the athlete develops a rhythmic breathing pattern and maintains an elevated heart rate (again – great for aerobic capacity). By running, various muscles in the legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus), arms (biceps brachii, triceps brachii), and core (abdominal) will be strengthened.
1. Have athlete run at least 2 full laps around baseball field (on warning track) or for at least 6 minutes (whichever comes second).
2. If athlete cannot run without stopping for this period of time, have athlete run for say 2 minutes, walk for 1 minute, run for 2 more minutes, walk for 1 minute … until at least 6 minutes of running have been completed.
Track Interval Workout
Interval training is a great way to increase aerobic capacity and the body’s VO2 maximum threshold. By elevating the heart rate for an extended period of time (probably over 60 seconds for almost all athletes) and then allowing it to drop back down near resting will work to improve this threshold. By running, various muscles in the legs (quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, soleus), arms (biceps brachii, triceps brachii), and core (abdominal) will be strengthened.
1. Have athlete run (close to full-speed) 6 to 8 quarter mile (1 lap around a standardized regulation track) repeats with 3 minutes rest in between each repetition.
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Wall sit trunk twists.
EXPLANTION- Two main aspects to gaining velocity on your pitch are having strong legs as well as a fit core. This exercise works both of these areas out. The wall sits will help build power and endurance in your hamstrings and quadriceps. While the trunk twists will increase strength of the abdominals and the obliques. This is a great exercise to rapidly increase pitching performance.
1. All that is needed for this exercise is a vertical wall to sit against and a 5-10lb medicine ball.
2. Sit as if you were in a chair with your legs bent at 90 degrees and back straight up against the wall.
3. Hold the medicine ball with your arms bent at your waist while sitting.
4. Rotate your mid section so the medicine ball touches the wall on either side of you.
5. Do 3 sets of 20 touches to each wall for maximum results.
EXPLANTION- The leg press is designed to increase the power of your legs without putting stress on your neck or back which could result from doing squats. The leg press is done on a machine where the weight is changable to fit any level of athlete. You sit with your back flat against the seat and place your feet flat on the board. The pushing and resitance motions will help gain power for the legs. This exercise was designed was a large amount of weight and a lower amount of repitions. Which will create the added power needed
1. Set the correct amount of wieght for your capabilities.
2. Sit with your back flat against the seat and place your feet flat on the board.
3. Release the weight and bend your knees to about a 70 degree angle.
4. Once at 70 degrees push your legs back to the straight postion.
5. Repeat this until you can do no more.
Wieghted Arm Circles
EXPLANATION- Everytime you pitch or even just throw the ball the main body part used is the shoulder so of course this area must be strong. A good way to accomplish this is with arm circles. The differnt motios and angles will strenthen all of the mucsles in and around the shoulder. This exercise provides the endurance needed to get through thoose longs games.
1. Select a weight that feels light enough where it could easily be lifted over your head.
2. Stand up stright with your feet shoulder width apart and arms stright out to the sides.
3. Begin rotating the arms forward in small circles.
4. Progressively increase the size of the circles while keeping the pace steady.
5. After reaching the largest circles moving the circles forward repeat the exercise only moving the arms backwards.
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Description: This exercise is used to help improve the range of motion of the shoulder which is a main body part used in the pitching process. This will help stretch the shoulder muscles used in pitching . This is also used to help improve the strength of crucial muscles in the shoulder. By doing this exercise and using it properly in strengthening you can minimize chance of injury.
Procedure: The way this is done is by.
Step 1: First start by sitting on the ground with legs extended flat out in front of the body with the upper body sitting straight up. Sitting with back to a raised object behind the athlete.
Step 2: This raised object should be about 18 to 24 inches. The starting point should be about a 90 degree angle at elbow when arms are extended backwards with hands flat on object.
Step 3: The first motion involves pulling the body upwards with the arms pushing up off of the object located behind them. Until you have fully extended your arms or until you feel the stretch, continue holding it .
Step 4: If the athlete is new to this exercise, you can vary the amount you do this. To determine this, the athlete should go until they begin to feel fatigued and then you should stop.
PNF Stretching of the Hamstring
Description: The purpose of this stretch is to increase the athlete's range of motion of the legs so that they will be able to perform at a maximum level when pitching . This will allow the pitcher to go through the pitching without a feeling of tight muscles or being hindered by the legs not being able to stretch as far as possible. This also can help minimize the chance of injury.
Step 1: This is to be done with a partner. Have one of the partners lies flat on their back, with their legs extended out.
Step 2: Then start with one leg (it doesn’t matter which one is done first). Then, have the partner take the leg and push it toward the athlete until they feel a little stretch.
Step 3: Then the athlete that is lying on their back should push back against the resistance that is provided by the partner (they do that for 5 seconds).
Step 4: Then the athlete should relax, and immediately following that, the partner should increase the distance that the leg is being pushed until the next stretch point is reached.
Step 5: Step 4 should be repeated 3 times until the athlete has reached the maximum stretching point that their body is capable of obtaining.
Description: This stretch is used to stretch the glute area as well as the lower part of the back. This is important because the back is a large portion of the source of power that a pitcher uses while pitching. If you have not been fully stretched in these areas can greatly affect how much power the pitcher is getting. By stretching this properly you can avoid straining it which would result in soreness.
Step 1: First start by sitting on the ground in an upright position, with the legs extended out in front of body.
Step 2: Take one leg and bend it to a 90 degree angle and place the foot on the opposite side of the other leg.
Step 3: Then, rotating the upper body opposite of the side of the bent leg take the opposite elbow placing it on the outside of the bent leg and push away from it and rotate the upper body.
Step 4: Hold this position while the stretching is felt. This should be held for at least 20 seconds for it to take effect. Finally, switch sides and do the same for the other side.
After a prolonged strenuous pitching outing it is important to cool down and ready the muscles for the move into relaxation until the next time that you pitch. Basically once you finish your pitching outing you must begin to prepare yourself for the next time you will be on the mound. This period is not as long as the warm up but is just as important.
Just as in the warm up you begin the cool down with an jog. This is an easy jog and you should only last for about 3 to 5 minutes.
This period of throwing is quite different from the throwing period in the warm up. This time you dont necessarily need a catcher to assit with your throwing only a throwing partner. As you did in the warm up start from a shorter distance and move into a long toss and remember that you are throwing with little effort. your throws should seem easy and have a slight arc.
1. Begin throwing from 40 to 45 feet.
2. Continue to move back every 8 to 10 throws until at a long toss distance.
3. After reaching long toss distance continue to throw with relative ease.
4. Make this period of throwing only last for about 3 to 5 minutes.
With the conclusion of your cool down if there are any muscles that are sore or are bothering you make sure to adress them. Dont conclude your cool down until you believe that you are completely ready to embark on your next pitching experience. If you are not ready to move forward repeat some of or all the stretches from the warm up.
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Bethel, Dell. The Complete Book of Baseball Instructions. Beaver Books. Chicago, Illinois. 1978.
Ellis, Steven. “How to warm-up to pitch before a game.” Steven Ellis 2008 StevenEllis.com Beta. 26 February 2008 <http://www.stevenellis.com/ steven_ellis_the_complete/2007/04/how_to_warmup_t.html>.
Ellis, Steven. “Pitching Workouts: Strength and Conditioning Tips for Baseball Pitchers.” Steven Ellis 2008 StevenEllis.com Beta. 26 February 2008 <thecompletepitcher.com/pitching.workouts.htm>.
Griffin, Mike. “Pitching Drills: Three Speed And Agility Drills For Baseball Pitchers.” The Complete Pitcher 2008 The Complete Pitcher, Inc. 23 February 2008 <http: www.thecompletepitcher.com/articles/agility.htm>.
Reed, John T. “Recommended youth baseball pre-game warm-up.” John T. Reed 2008 John T. Reed.com. 26 February 2008 <http://www.johntreed.com/bbpregame. html>.
Rift, Dan and Jason Aropaff. “Special Exercises for Baseball Pitchers and Quarterbacks.” April 1998. 26 February 2008 <findarticals.com/p/articals/mi_MOFIH/i3n9_V6 ai_n18607788>.
Ripken , Cal., and Bill Ripken. Play Baseball The Ripken Way . 1st ed. Random House: New York , 2004.
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