Many high school and college pitchers have come to me with the same question. How can I add speed to my fastball? When I ask them what they are currently doing I usually find out they are spending too much time on shoulder exercises and little to no time on core training. There is a big misconception about what makes a pitcher throw a ball harder. What you must first understand is that the force of the ball comes not from the shoulders or arms but from the core of the body. If you are not familiar with core training it focuses on the hips, oblique, abdominal, and lower back areas. If you ever watch apitcher wind up, you will notice that he lifts his leg, twists at the hips away from the batter and then twists back towards the batter before releasing the ball. This is not just something that was made up for tradition of the sport there is a reason for it. The core of the body is responsible for the force of the ball. With that being said, it is very important to incorporate core training into your strength training program if you want to reach the full potential of your fastball.
Although increasing your pitching speed is your number one goal, there is a more important reason you should be training your core. Injury prevention. Every baseball player (hitters and pitchers) That has come to me with shoulder problems assumes that he needs to increase his shoulder strength. Again, this assumption could not be farther from the truth. The reason the shoulder problems arise is from lack of core strength. If the force of the ball is supposed to come from the core and the core is weak, then the deltoids and rotator cuff are forced to exert more force than those muscles can handle. So in the end a strong core will not only help you become a better fastball pitcher but will also keep you healthy and in the game year round wiht the ability to play at the top of your game.
There are different ways to train the core and I have used everything I have come across when training my pitchers. From my experience I have found that medicine ball training is the most effective way to increase your pitching speed. There are several different ways to incorporate medicine ball training into your program. The first way is to use it as a warm-up. Start out with an exercise like woodchoppers at the beginning of every workout and superset with stability ball crunches. Three sets of each exercise for ten repetitions. After that you can get right into your normal strength training routine. Another way is to incorporate it at the end of your routine. You cann use the same exercises, sets and reps just later in the workout.
The program that my pitchers seem to like the best is a three-day program consisting of all core training techniques. Personally I agree that this is the most effective way for you to increase your fastball for a couple of reasons. One, you will not put too much stress on your body by lifting heavy weights with limited range movement. Two, it is not time consuming and can be done during the off-season as well as the in-season. Three, it works.
In 2005, a twenty-year old pitcher from New Jersey came to me for advice while preparing for a try-out with the Los Angeles Dodgers. When I duscusses the program with him he was a little skeptical but I encouraged him to follow through with it. It was only four weeks later that he came to me and said, "Hey, that stuff really works! I added two clicks to my fastball." He went from an eighty-six mile per hour fastball to an eighty-eight mile per hour fastball in just four weeks. Imagine the results in four months.
Here is an example of the program I used to train my pitcher who was trying out for the dodgers. We trained Monday, Wednesday and Friday changing exercises on each day. This is Monday's workout.
Woodchoppers 3 sets x 10
Front reaching lunge with medicne ball 3 sets x 10
One arm medicne ball toss on stability ball 3 sets x 10 from 3 different angles
Band rotations 3 sets x 10
Pikes 3 sets x 10
Medicine ball toss on balance board 3 sets x 10
This program may not look very impressive to the average muscle head at the gym but you must always ask yourself, what am I training for? If you are not training to stand on stage and pose against other bodybuilders then do not train like a bodybuilder. If you are training to enhance your performance on the mound then you must train like a pitcher. Use sport specific movements that will simulate exactly how you will move on the mound. The single most important goal for a pitcher is to stay injury free. The most effective way to accomplich this is with a good core training program. Once you are free of injuries and are able to put time into your new core training program you will watch your fastball blow right by the opposing batters. Training smart and traning goal specific are the keys to success as an athlete. Give core training a try and watch the numbers on your fastball rise.
Coach Jerry Kreber is a high school baseball coach in Omaha, Neb., and owner of the blog Baseball Ideas, www.baseballideas.blogspot.com.
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