In baseball, throwing is normally the first skill you ever learn. But, it’s also where a lot of trouble and issues can start as well.
Not surprisingly, what causes the most time-errors in baseball is not due to poor fielding – it’s due to poor throwing.
In almost all cases when you’re looking at team averages, the players are much better at fielding the ball than they are at throwing the ball.
To reduce throwing errors, reduce the risk of injury from throwing, and improve overall throwing speed and power – coaches need to start implementing more intelligent throwing workouts into their team’s program design.
Breaking Down Throwing Mechanics
If you will recall from my previous blog on “How to Steal a Base”, the four pillars of baseball performance come from training these specific movement qualities:
- Changing levels
Today, we are going to be analyzing the throw and then choosing the correct workouts and/or exercises that are appropriate to utilize in order to maximize your progression.
If you are to observe a pitcher throwing a fastball, you’re going to see that he lunges from one leg to the other, changes his center of gravity, pulls and pushes with his arms at the same time – all while rotating both his upper and lower body first backward before exploding forwards.
If you know your movement mechanics, you will quickly realize that the pitch includes all four movement pillars – but it is the “pushing and pulling” aspect of these mechanics that are going to create the largest training effect on improving throwing performance.
The way in which force is generated during the throw occurs in a diagonal pattern – from right hip to left shoulder, and left hip to right shoulder.
As you can see above, a right-handed pitcher will send the ball flying forward toward to plate by using a diagonal pattern of force generation that crosses the back of the body. Meaning, the right hip to left shoulder during the wind-up and cocking phases – and the front of the body (right shoulder to left hip) during the acceleration and release phase.
Although locomotion is used to step forward, level changing is occurring when opening and closing his stance, and rotation is happening throughout the entire pitch – it is the pushing and pulling muscles that are driving the primary acceleration and deceleration components of throwing.
Once that fastball has been launched and is on its way to the catcher, a similar diagonal movement pattern is used to decelerate the pitching action across the backside of the body.
These deceleration muscles are in many cases the muscles responsible for keeping you injury-free, but also play a strong role in allowing you to throw the ball as hard as possible.
For a right-handed thrower, these muscles would include the left hamstrings, left glutes, and right lat.
Training Smart Leads to Less Injuries
A huge mistake made by a large percentage of the baseball training industry is that they only focus on where injuries occur during throwing – which is the shoulder.
But, I can tell you in many cases that the origin of an injury isn’t always the issue, and that very often the only reason it was injured is that it was compensating for an issue elsewhere in the body.
If you look at the shoulder of a baseball player during a throwing motion, you will see an amazing amount of rotation. Then, when the shoulder gets injured, the normal “cure” most players use is rest, ice, and some rotator cuff exercises for rehab.
Although I’m not saying this is “bad” – I am going to say that this traditional approach should likely be evaluated and updated to some degree.
Primarily because this is the type of work in no way represents the rotation the shoulder moves through in baseball, nor are these exercises perform at the speed and range of motion used during a game either.
What accelerates and decelerates the arm during a throw is not the shoulder – but the core. The body during a throwing motion in many ways represents a bow (like you would use for a bow and arrow). The strongest portion of the bow that generates the most power/tension is right in the center (which would be your core).
This is the area that must be trained with big, compound movements so that the front of the body can effectively accelerate, and the back of the body can effectively decelerate.
These big muscle groups need to be trained with big movements to create a balancing effect that doesn’t put the shoulder in a compromising position.
Moreover, you can run these bigger movements through a greater range of motion and with more speed than isolated rotator cuff work – which much better represents what you’re going to be asking those muscles to do during a real game setting.
The “Bow” Motion articulates the importance of core stability and power for throwing performance and injury prevention
Properly Training the Throw
The “pushing and pulling” motions are exactly what we need to be focused on here as they are the movements and muscle groups that are responsible for both the acceleration and deceleration of a throw.
Too many people forget the importance of deceleration – but in order to create the most sport-specific result, we need to consider all avenues of training sport replication.
Way too many athletes and coaches are hyper-focused on training acceleration, but this can be compared to adding horsepower to an engine that doesn’t even have any brakes yet.
You’re going to crash and burn, my friend.
You need to choose exercises that train the body along with the core in order to teach the “center of the bow” to do most of the work so the shoulder and wrist don’t need to overcompensate and risk injury.
Not only will this approach increase the power and speed of your throws – but it will keep your smaller joints happy and less prone to injury.
With so much focus on acceleration, players are shocked when I tell them that deceleration is just as important to throwing as acceleration is. Primarily because most of the injuries in throwing occur on the backside of the body – whether lower body or upper body.
Deceleration provides you the brakes you need so that you can go full horse-power in your throwing but stay healthy while doing so.
The Throwing Workouts
Acceleration Throwing Workout
A1: Standing staggered stance cable chest press: 3 x 10/arm with 10secs rest
A2: X-up: 3 x 10 with 10secs rest
A3: Plank with diagonal elbow to knee touching: 3 x 30-60secs with 2mins rest
*Notice the emphasis on diagonal, cross-directional power and core recruitment. Also, an overall theme of working on the front of the body.
Deceleration Throwing Workout
A1: Single leg one arm DB Romanian deadlifts: 3 x 10/side with 10secs rest
A2: BB bent over row: 3 x 10 with 10secs rest
A3: DB alternating front reaching lunges: 3 x 10/leg with 2mins rest
*Notice the emphasis on diagonal, cross-directional power and core recruitment. Also, an overall theme of working the back of the body.
Throwing Workouts Conclusion
The above workouts could each be performed two times per week depending on your needs and overall program design.
Using these workouts and exercises similar will get you a highly baseball specific result to improve your overall throwing power and reduce your risk for injury – all while keeping things nice and simple and not requiring any fancy equipment.
If you want more workouts check out our Baseball Training Programs that we offer here at BaseballTraining.com!