Justin Verlander using back leg drive to move fast down the mound
What are the elements that help baseball pitchers improve their pitching velocity?
Most baseball coaches would have you believe that pitchers could improve their pitching velocity by simply adding more full body strength or arm strength.
Pitching instructors will tell parents that their son’s velocity will just come in time. But the question parents should ask is – how will it come in time if it is not trained or practiced?
There is no scientific evidence to support the idea that more strength will improve pitching velocity. And it makes little sense to believe that pitching velocity will just come in time.
What has been proven however is that speed of movement is far more important than gaining more strength. And that pitchers who want to improve pitching velocity are far better off practicing moving faster under control and trying to continuously move faster.
If you want a pitcher to throw faster then he had better work on moving faster and getting his body into the correct position to throw. Remember it is the body that creates velocity…not the arm.
What most coaches do not understand is that the faster you move the less strength is available.
For example, when you first try to push a stationary car in order to jump start it, the individual who is pushing uses a lot of initial strength to get the auto moving. However, once the car is moving, less strength is required and more speed of movement is what gets the car going faster.
In baseball pitching, the initial momentum and speed of movement built from shifting the weight from the back leg to the front leg is the single biggest determinant of pitching velocity.
Once the pitcher lands the energy from moving down the mound fast can be transferred to the upper body where trunk rotation speed and powerful trunk flexion forward are what creates arm speed. However, if the pitcher moves down the mound slow there is far less kinetic energy to transfer at landing.
Thus, the faster a pitcher moves under control with efficient and well timed pitching mechanics, the faster he will throw.
Reds’ Chapman nearing completion of back leg drive – back leg is extending very fast
Two Of The Fastest Moving MLB Pitchers Also Throw The Fastest
Two MLB pitchers, who move very fast down the mound, come to mind. Detroit Tigers’ RH pitcher Justin Verlander and Reds’ closer Aroldis Chapman are two of the highest velocity pitchers in the major leagues and also two of the fastest moving MLB pitchers down the mound.
Parents would be wise to make sure that their sons are not being taught to move slow in order to have better ball control. This will only serve to teach the body to throw slow.
This is why all pitchers should focus on velocity and ball control at the same time rather than thinking that velocity will just come in time.
Velocity will only come to pitchers if they focus on improving it during practice sessions. Pitchers should never just focus on trying to hit the glove without moving the body down the mound as fast as possible under control.
Thus as the following study reveals, focusing on strength training actions will not help pitchers improve velocity.
TO IMPROVE SPEED MOVE FAST AND FORGET STRENGTH TRAINING
Kluckhuhn, K. L., Signorile, J. F., Miller, P. C., Webber, B. C., & Garcia, M. (1997). An analysis of high-speed isokinetics and pitching. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 29(5), Supplement abstract 1273.
The importance of strength, power, and acceleration were investigated in baseball fastball pitching. The only variables that related to pitching were those associated with speed. Acceleration and power at the fastest movement speeds accounted for almost all fastball pitching variance (99%). Strength was not related to speed of movement and therefore, should not be a variable considered when training for speed.
Implication. To improve pitching speed it is necessary to train for speed first. This is best done by consistently trying to move and exceed previous maximum velocity. Any training that does not allow maximum speed in a trial will be useless and could be detrimental.
The use of strength training, which does not allow maximum movement speed, will not enhance speed of movement.