Pitching Running

By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro

The goal of any baseball conditioning program should be to increase the ability to repeatedly do short explosive movements without a decrease in power. Baseball is full of these very short explosive movements, like swinging and throwing, and a decrease in power in one of these movements can cost you a game. Your pitchers running program should increase your ability to repeatedly do short explosive movements without a decrease in power.

Many times controversy begins with the issue of long distance running, particularly in training pitchers. Many coaches have been taught that players, especially pitchers, need to run several miles a day. A lot has changed since many of these coaches started their career, and the research doesn't always agree with them. To truly understand the difference between the two you need to know how your body gets the energy to do work.

Your body's three main energy systems


2. glycolysis

3. aerobic system

Each system is used at different moments for different reasons. In general, the ATP-PC system is the most powerful, but has the shortest duration. Glycolysis gives medium power and has a medium duration. The aerobic system is the least powerful but can last a long time. Baseball uses the ATP-PC system almost exclusively. In general, a baseball player will use an explosive movement like a swing or pitch, then rest for at least 12-15 seconds. Conditioning should reflect that work to rest ratio.

Remember that the main goal of a baseball conditioning program is to repeat those explosive movements throughout the game. There are usually three different types of conditioning: speed work, agility, and plyometrics. They all have different uses and should be trained differently.

How to develop speed

The goal of speed work is to improve your speed by improving your START and top speed. Usually this work will involve sprints and sprint drills.

Top speed is something that some scouts look for when they test the 60 yard dash but the start is much more important to baseball performance. The majority of your speed work should focus on short sprints. If you can improve your start, your 60 yard time will improve as well. Some things to think about when working on speed, especially the start, are to get a good forward lean and good arm action. The arms should be 90 degrees at the elbow. When the arms move forward the elbows should stay at that angle while your arms move at the shoulder.

How to develop agility

Working on agility is another way to condition baseball players. Baseball isn't a change of direction sport, but agility work does help with leg power, balance, and footwork. The general goal of agility is to be able to change direction at full speed. These drills should be done explosively to get the full benefit. I have some examples of agility drill below but many times agility drills are limited by your imagination. Sprints, shuffles, carioca, and backpedals are some typical activities used in agility drills.

How to develop power

Plyometrics are a popular activity in baseball today. The basic idea of plyometrics is to create a stretch of the muscle followed by an explosive contraction. They are great for developing explosive power but they are very hard on the body and joints so coaches should be careful of when and how much plyometrics are used. Usually plyometrics can be done with little or no equipment. Medicine balls are the most common pieces of equipment. Usually a plyometric program includes some jumping exercises and medicine ball throws.

How to train year-round

Conditioning will change throughout the year. During the beginning of the off-season will focus on more strength gains and less conditioning. As the season comes closer conditioning will become more important. Conditioning for pitchers changes in a similar way between each start. The day after a start will contain the most volume of running. Long sprints is a good choice for this day because it will keep the blood flowing for an extended period of time flushing the arm and helping get rid of the soreness.

As the week progresses the length of the sprints will decrease but more sprints should be done. The day before a start, conditioning should be intense but very low volume.

A sample seven-day running program for baseball pitchers

Here's the running program that I performed in professional baseball. Of course, the days of the week can be adjusted to best meet your own specific needs.

Short sprints
Sprint for 7 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. (Start out with 4 to 6 reps, advance to 12 reps.)

Medium sprints
Sprint for 15 seconds, rest for 30 seconds. (Start out with 4 to 6 reps, advance to 12 reps.)

Long sprints
Sprint for 30 seconds, rest for 60 to 90 seconds. (Start out with 4 to 6 reps, advance to 12 reps.)

Long run
Run for 20 to 30 minutes. (You also can substitute pool or bike workouts for the long run. See page 20.)

Short sprints
Sprint for 7 seconds, rest for 15 seconds. (Start out with 4 to 6 reps, advance to 12 reps.)

Agility drills
Perform any combination of agility exercises. (Ladder drills, dot drills, jump rope drills, or cone drills. See page 22.)

Rest day
Go ahead, relax. You deserve it!

Conditioning is no doubt important, but not as important as performing the correct types of conditioning. That's how to maximize pitching performance.

Work on it!


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