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Repetition of fast pitches will lead to more efficient arm action.
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While traditional weight training will boost the strength of your pitching arm, it won't necessarily increase the velocity of your pitch. In addition to a regular regimen of throwing, you can do upper-body plyometric exercises to help you recruit more fast-twitch fibers in your arms, as well as arm exercises that hone technique. You can also work on hand and wrist action to work on the rhythm and speed of your throws.
The Scoop on Velocity Training
In the late 1990s, weighted-ball or velocity training became an integral part of college baseball training programs. Overload and underload exercises in which you use heavier or lighter balls than the standard 5-ounce ball were a key component of this type of training for pitchers. If you throw a heavier ball, your body has to recruit more muscle fibers to complete a throw. When using a lighter ball, you can move your arm faster. The combination of the two types of throws and the advantages they offer can significantly improve pitch velocity. According to вЂњThe Complete Guide to PitchingвЂќ by Derek Johnson, velocity training regimens were designed around the ROUR principle -- regular, overload, underload, regular -- with regard to the weight of the implement used.
Work with Weighted Balls
An example of a velocity drill that uses the ROUR principle begins with you kneeling before a net. Have your coach or a partner call вЂњgo,вЂќ at which point you throw a weighted ball into the net. Because you have to wait for the go command, the exercise also develops your central nervous system for quick reaction. By doing the exercise on your knees, you can isolate and focus on your arm action. According to Johnson, use the following sequence of weighted balls: 5-ounce, 21-ounce, 14-ounce, 7-ounce, 3.5-ounce, then 5-ounce again. Throw about 10 balls at each weight level for a total of 60 throws. You can do this exercise from a standing position, but you will be using your lower body to provide power and stabilization. To focus on the lower body and its impact on your throws, do a hot feet drill in which you quickly move your feet up and down, then step toward the net and throw. In this drill, use the same sequence of weighted balls.
Plyo for Power
Plyometric exercises for the upper body use the stretch-shortening property of your muscle fibers to build speed and strength, and can help to increase pitch velocity. Many of these exercises involve medicine ball throws, but you can also do body-weight exercises at home. For example, plyometric pushups in which you push off the ground and clap, will boost arm, chest and back power. Perform eight to 10 plyometric pushups for one set. To increase the difficulty, you can perform the clap pushup with your feet resting on a stability ball. You can also do a pushup with a medicine ball by placing one hand on the ball and the other hand flat on the ground. Focus on exploding up on the pushup and landing gently before lowering your chest.
Cock the Wrist
Exercises that encourage you to improve the mechanics of your throw, such as wrist-cocking drills, will strengthen your forearms and increase your throwing speed. For example, begin by putting a glove on your non-throwing arm. Place your gloved hand under the elbow of your throwing arm and lift your throwing arm to shoulder height in front of you. Grip the ball as if you're going to throw a fastball. Cock the hand by flexing your hand backward until it's parallel to the ground. Have a partner stand about 15 to 20 feet in front of you. Without moving your upper arm, throw the ball to your partner, drawing only your forearm and hand forward as fast as possible. When you pitch the ball, envision a clawing motion as opposed to a pushing motion. Repeat the exercise until you grow comfortable with the movements.
Speed and Genes
How fast you can throw largely depends on your genes, according to вЂњThe Pitching EdgeвЂќ by Tom House. Proper form and strength and power training may improve the consistency of your fastballs, but your genetic inheritance will limit the speed at which you can throw. A more effective strategy is to master different types of pitches -- curveballs, sliders and change-ups -- at different speeds, so you can make it difficult for hitters to anticipate what kind of pitch you'll throw. While it's an advantage to have a ferocious fastball of 90 mph or more, you don't need that kind of velocity to get hitters to strike out. What you do need is maximum control over the movement, location and speed of the balls that you can pitch.