How can you improve your throwing velocity? If you were to ask me (a guy that has never played baseball) how to improve your throwing velocity, I would probably be able to ramble off 50 or 60 different ideas. If you were to ask the average minor leaguer, or major league hopeful, you would probably get one answer - long toss… and maybe a couple med ball drills (big maybe there).
Over the next week or so I will go over what I believe to be the most effective ways to improve throwing velocity of a baseball or softball player of any age and skill level. The ideas shared are all a result of research conducted throughout the world over the past 35 years. Enjoy the ride on the education highway!
Increasing Throwing Velocity Volume 1. The Pullover
Baseball and softball players, parents, and coaches are shocked when I tell them I have never played baseball. To be honest, I think never playing baseball is a blessing in disguise. I have dug through archives, and followed the top baseball strength and conditioning coaches throughout the nation. Doing all of this forced me to look at the benefits each drill presents, and how it actually works for the athlete. And I have an unbiased opinion since I’m not a former baseballer stuck on what I used to do in high school or college.
Over the past 4 years I have read up and discovered my favorite most effective ways to improve throwing velocity in the gym. Yes, I know there are plenty of ways to improve velocity outside of the gym, but for this article I’ll stick to my single favorite, and what I believe the most effective upper body exercise to improve throwing velocity, the Dumbbell Pullover.
Before we get into the pullover, let’s take a quick look at what is happening within your body while you throw, then what it will take to improve your throwing velocity.
A biomechanical analysis of a baseball throw shows that 46.9% of your power comes from rotation of your hips, leaving 53.1% of your power coming from your arm action. This analysis makes it clear to see that both lower and upper body exercises have the ability to improve throwing velocity. We will talk more about this in the upcoming articles.
Many baseball strength coaches pay close attention to training and strengthening the rotator cuff, which is a must to maintain the health of any overhead athlete. Throughout the early phases of the throwing motion (the wind up, early cocking, late cocking, and acceleration) your rotator cuff is primarily responsible for stabilizing the head of your humerus in the center of the glenoid fossa. During the follow through, your RC is still stabilizing your humerus, but is now also responsible for decelerating your arm speed.
Although you can’t perform on the diamond without a healthy rotator cuff, I’ll save the RC talk for later. Let’s look at how to improve throwing velocity, and how you can get your baseball and softball athletes, kids, or yourself throwing harder.
Different Ways to Improve Throwing Velocity
There are 4 primary ways to improve throwing velocity. Each category will be covered in depth in the upcoming days.
1.) Throwing velocity can be improved through improvements in neuromuscular efficiency. In other words, by training with plyometrics, your nervous system can be more efficient at recruiting musculature needed for high force and high speed movements. Throwing is both a high force and high speed movement, so plyo’s will help with this.
2.) You can improve throwing velocity by training overload of force. The most effective way to train with an overload of force during the throwing motion is with overweight balls.
3.) You can improve throwing velocity by overloading velocity of the throw using underweight balls.
4.) The final way to improve throwing velocity is through the use of nonspecific overload training. Nonspecific overload training is simply training your baseball or softball players through a general resistance training program. Key here is it’s a general strength program (not some fancy program using fancy machines).
Most Effective Exercise to Improve Throwing Velocity
Of those 4 ways to increase throwing velocity, research has shown that nonspecific overload training via resistance training appears to be the most successful. A study by Hermassi et al. placed its subjects in either a moderate intensity bench press group and pull over group, a high intensity bench press and pull over group, or a control group. All three groups maintained their regular team practice schedule. The study showed the greatest improvement in throwing velocity following the 10 week high intensity and moderate intensity training program, improving 6.2 meters per second (13mph) and 5.1 meters per second (11.4mph) respectively.
Call me crazy but a 13 mph increase in throwing velocity following 10 weeks of a progressive exercise program involving just the bench press and pull over is significant.
Now I know this is only one study. However I do believe it was well conducted, consistent, and had some very very favorable results in support of benefit of the pull over and nonspecific resistance training when the goal is to increase throwing velocity.
Before you get all bench press and pull over crazy, it is important to note that none of the subjects reported any signs or symptoms of a shoulder injury before the study. The subjects in the study were also part of a national team, they had very structured practices, and they had some of the top strength coaches doing their workouts. Not all athletes have that liberty out here. And although not noted, it is safe to say the subjects in the study did not have a schedule similar to the baseball players out here in southern California, or anywhere else in the nation for that matter.
The Dumbbell Pullover
So how do you do a pull over? Here is a video to direct you on my two favorite variations of the pull over.
And the more advanced version
When you feel your athletes are at a high state of training to handle a complex set, try out this complex.
By combining the pull over and med ball slam you are training the maximal strength and maximal speed of the speed strength curve. Again make sure your athletes are at a trained state. Throwing this in the first day of a training session will make your athletes very sore. I can also promise that your athlete doesn’t have the core strength or coordination to handle the two exercises back to back. And finally, a complex set places a large stress on your central nervous system; enough complex training in a short amount of time will truly tax your athletes CNS, increasing the risk of injury and decreasing the amount of time before they are at a state of overtraining.
Take Home Message
There are endless ways to improve throwing velocity. You can't fit a square peg into a round hole. In other words, the key is finding what works best for you, this requires finding the right coach that designs a program for you, instead of fitting you into theirs!
Nonspecific resistance training, specifically the pullover, is one of many ways to improve throwing velocity. It is important to remember a training program that will improve throwing velocity is nothing if the athlete isn't healthy enough to perform. Make sure the athlete can move properly and isn't suffering from any issues that could hinder his performance on the field! Being able to throw heat means nothing if you can't rip it on the field!
Stay tuned for guidelines on over and underweight throwing programs to improve throwing velocity!
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