For my whole career as a strength coach working with pitchers to increase their velocity has taken up a pretty big piece of my time and thought process from internships into my paid career as a professional and even now as a business owner. The majority of my clientele has been baseball, and the majority of those baseball players have been pitchers. During this time, I've used a wide range of tools to help these pitchers reach new highs in their velocity. Among these tools, one of the most important ones is rotational power exercises. Some are very conventional, ones you would see at facilities like Cressey performance, Driveline, or Top velocity. Others, I've come up with myself to fit my specific clientele and to train specific aspects of rotation. Many of these exercises I've seen great results with, and I'm happy to say every pitcher who's walked through our doors has gotten what they've come for, which is an increase in velocity. This leads me to my next talking point, which are three exercises that I use that may not be in the mainstream rotational power exercise toolbox, but they have actually become key exercises in our program.
Now I'm not claiming to have the secret to increasing your velocity. It still takes hard work, consistency, and execution day in and day out every offseason to see the results you want. These exercises also do not replace a good pitching coach and the skill of throwing. These exercises are meant to complement your skill training and teach you how to reach greater levels of intent on your fastball. That's it. This will not make you throw 90 mph by itself, but it will come in handy during the process.
Why Is Rotational Power Exercises Important In Rotational Athletes?
It seems like an obvious question, right? But in the weight room, this is actually a pretty new concept. When you talked power 10-15 years ago, the only thing you'd hear about or see in text books are the Olympic lifts. While they do train power, power is also plane specific and leaves out a dominate plane of motion in the game of baseball. If you just rely on the power clean, hang clean, and snatch, you probably won't see increases of rotational power, especially when you have a more advanced athlete, and you may be setting them up for failure or even injury. This is where rotational power was born and completely changed the game for rotational sport athletes in the weight room.
3 Key Rotational Exercises That No One Is Using
Half-Kneeling Overhead Rotational Toss
The first one is called the half-kneeling overhead rotational toss. Admittedly, I don't think I've made this one up. After I started using it, I think I've seen it a few times on social media, but never the less this is a great one to teach hip shoulder separation and where to put the lead leg. This is also great for training intent; generally, I use a 2lbs med ball and don't go any heavier because it tends to mess up technique. While I may call this a power exercise, it definitely gets into the realm of speed-strength because it's such a light object, and it's a ballistic movement. But having exercises that focus more on velocity than power will have just as much of a positive effect as power movements. Generally, we like to perform this for 3-5 sets of 1-3 per side.
Med Ball Long Toss
I love the long toss. It teaches great intent in a very measurable way. It also puts even more stress on the shoulder and elbow than pitching from the mound. This can be a good thing to strengthen the arm when done at the right volume, but could also be a negative when overdone. But the hips and lower half can take a lot more volume than the arm, and this is a great way to continue to train that intent and movement without overdoing it on your arm. You will need a lot of space or high ceilings and a net to perform. You could use this as a power exercise before your workouts, as a warm-up before long toss or even games, and even at the end of long toss to get more volume. As a piece of advice, when using these, always perform it on both sides and use 2lbs-4lbs med but no heavier. Generally, we perform 3-5 sets of 2-3 per side.
Ballistic Landmine Clean To Press
This exercise is my Olympic lift version of rotational power. I love using this as an indicator of our athletes' rotational power. If you can move heavier weight just as fast and hit the wall, your rotational power has most likely increased. This is a great way to train the intent and driving force from the back leg. I've also found that this helps quite a bit for hitting, and since the movement is slower than hitting and throwing, it allows you to feel any mistake that happens at your back leg and adjust in real-time. Since this is ballistic and violent in nature, you can instantly tell how powerful each rep is by how hard it hits up against the wall. Generally, we like to perform this for 3-5 sets or 1-3 reps per side