Pitching Workout Mistakes

By S. Johnson, MS, ATC

1. Not performing a baseball-specific workout
Most high school lifting programs are created by the football coach. There is nothing wrong with the program but football is certainly different than baseball and the workout should be adjusted accordingly. In football the majority of the movements require the athlete to use their chest and “push”. In baseball the athlete needs more balance because they are using their arms to throw. This requires more upper back strength, an area that is often under worked in most workout routines.

2. Improper ratio of “push” vs “pull” exercises
A “push” exercise is normally an exercise used to strengthen the front of the upper body (i.e. the chest). A “pull” exercise is normally used to strengthen the back of the upper body (i.e. a seated row). Most people choose to do more chest or “push” exercises because they are easier, more common, and work the muscles that you can see in the mirror each morning. Think about it for one minute. When you look in the mirror you look at your chest, biceps, abs, and quadriceps (thigh muscles). We don’t look at our upper backs in the mirror. In addition we sit a tremendous amount during the day. We sit at our computers, sit in our classroom, sit in the car to and from school, sit to eat, etc. Because of this large amount of sitting, certain muscle imbalances are going to occur. Sitting over time causes the muscles in the front of the shoulder to get tighter and the muscles in the back of the shoulder to become longer. Any muscle group that is longer has a tendency to be weak and for a pitcher a weak upper back spells trouble.

To off set these imbalances we want to make sure our workouts incorporate more upper back strengthening exercises. The proper ratio for a pitcher is three times the amount of upper back or “pull” exercises as chest or “push” exercises. For example, if a pitcher performs three sets of bench press then he would need to do nine sets of upper back exercises (example: 3 sets of Ys, Ts, and Bent Ts). For position players the ratio should be 2:1 instead of 3:1 but the upper back should always be worked a little more frequently.

3. Failure to do enough anaerobic exercises (short sprints)
Baseball subscribes to the old school of training and it is still very common for pitchers to do a lot of running. Although having a good aerobic base is good, running long distance does not make you a more effective pitcher. Pitching is actually a power sport and any running program should include some interval sprinting to focus on power output. Always train to make the lower body more explosive and this combined with sound mechanics and proper muscle balance will help you achieve your pitching potential. See the interval sprinting program in this manual for more details.

4. Not enough emphasis on flexibility and muscle balance
Too often athletes today get caught up on how big they can be or how fast they can throw. When athletes “break down” there is a flexibility and muscle balance problem that always contributes to their injury. Proper attention to a regular stretching routine for a pitcher and working on body symmetry and balance can help the pitcher throw harder with less effort. If you are lifting in a gym or at school make sure you are paying attention to your flexibility as well and don’t sacrifice flexibility just for the sake of gaining strength.

5. Failure to do enough body weight exercises
Pitching successfully requires strength, power, flexibility, and most of all balance. When you only train on machines or do the majority of your training on machines, the machine does the balance work for you. You can actually get stronger in one direction but lose strength rotationally because the machine is stabilizing your body for you. Doing some free weights (example: dumbbell squats) and single leg balance drills is a good way to work on balance while also working on the bigger muscle groups.

Do your upper back exercises on a gymnic ball or single leg squats on a foam roll. Always mix in body weight exercises with machines to get the benefits of both.

6. No transverse plane (rotational) movements are included in the pitcher's routine
Pitching is a rotational activity. Why don’t we train rotationally? We train in one plane when we squat or bench press. We think that getting stronger with these movements will translate to increased velocity but this doesn’t always occur especially if the pitcher needs better balance and hip strength. One-legged hops with side kicks and 1⁄4 turns with kick backs are excellent exercises to work on balance and rotational strength. The “rewind throwing drill is an excellent way to work on rotational strength of the lead leg and balance while also working on the pitcher’s mechanics.


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