Major League Baseball lost a pitching icon last week with the passing of Cleveland Indians legend Bob Feller, one of the greatest right-handers of all time. He was 92.
Some baseball historians and experts consider Feller the pioneer of off-season training. He revealed the nature of his workouts during an interview earlier this year.
“You hear people talk about how pitchers need [to strengthen] their legs, and they do, but sometimes the upper-body gets forgotten,” Feller told the [Cleveland] Plain Dealer. “You’ve got to have upper-body strength to be able to throw with your elbow away from your body.”
It was this ability that powered Feller’s most devastating pitch, the curveball. And he built the foundation during his off-season workouts by performing his go-to exercises: Bench Dips and Fingertip Push-Ups.
“Doing [exercises] like that will strengthen the ligaments around the ulnar bone and ulnar nerve in the elbow,” Feller said. This is especially important because the muscles and ligaments surrounding the elbow are at significant risk for injury due to the unnatural throwing motion for a curveball.
Yes, the times were different back then, but his training methods worked for “Rapid Robert,” who won 266 games from 1936-1956. Feller left many more wins on the table when he enlisted in the Navy during World War II, missing four seasons during the prime of his career.
Nevertheless, Feller pitched 279 complete games, threw three no-hitters and an astounding 12 one-hitters. And it all started with a simple routine of Dips and Push-Ups, two exercises that have stood the test of time.
Check out the videos below to see Feller's training in action with other athletes. Be advised: Fingertip Push-Ups are not to be taken lightly, so start with the Basic Push-Up and work your way up to the advanced variation.
Feller’s Bonus Tip: On proper mechanics and delivery for throwing a curveball: “You have to keep the elbow away from the body. It’s up and down. I tell the kids to get a pillow, take the ball in the bedroom, and work that up and down motion. Keep the elbow away from the body and snap—[like you would] pull down a window shade or crack the whip.”