Strong legs are essential in baseball for pitchers who want to throw fast. The power that comes from their lower body transfers through the arm. So it’s crucial that they know how to use the ground and the mound to generate that power.
1. Transfer of Energy: Pitching requires a sequential transfer of energy from the ground through the lower body to the upper body and ultimately to the arm. The legs are the foundation for generating power and transferring it efficiently through the kinetic chain. The force generated by the leg drive is transmitted through the core and into the throwing arm, resulting in increased fastball velocity.
2. Ground Reaction Forces: When a pitcher pushes off the rubber with force, the ground reaction forces generated by the legs contribute significantly to the overall power production. By driving off the pitching mound, the pitcher can harness the force generated by the leg muscles to propel the body forward, increasing forward momentum and velocity.
3. Stability and Balance: Leg strength is essential, but it is stability and balance that transfer speed and power through your pitching motion. Lack of stability and balance will lower your speed and power output. Pitchers with stability and balance can maintain proper lower body mechanics that optimize weight transfer, which maximizes the throwing motion and generates higher velocity.
4. Core Engagement: Leg strength and power are closely linked to core engagement. The lower body muscles, particularly the glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors, work with the core muscles to generate rotational power. A strong and stable core allows a pitcher to create greater hip and trunk rotation, increasing arm speed and fastball velocity.
5. Endurance and Repeatability: Pitching involves repetitive motions and leg strength is crucial for maintaining endurance throughout a game or a season. Fatigue in the legs can lead to a breakdown in mechanics and a decrease in velocity. Strong leg muscles can withstand the demands of pitching and help pitchers maintain their speed over extended periods.
Phases of Development for Leg Strength and Power
When designing a strength training program, consider the following:
- Incorporate compound exercises that target multiple muscle groups.
- Use a combination of heavy lifts with lower repetitions (3-6 reps) and moderate-weight lifts with higher repetitions (8-12 reps) to develop both strength and muscular endurance.
- Gradually increase the weight or resistance over time to challenge your muscles and promote progress continually.
- Allow for adequate rest and recovery between training sessions.
- Always prioritize proper form and technique to minimize the risk of injury.
Phase 1: Strength and Force Rate Development
Strength training is crucial for pitchers as it helps improve overall strength, stability, and power, which can contribute to increased velocity and injury prevention. Here are some essential exercises for strength training that are beneficial for pitchers.
1. Squats: Barbell squats are excellent for developing lower body strength. Focus on proper form, gradually increase the weight, and perform variations like front squats, goblet squats, or Bulgarian split squats to target different muscle groups.
2. Deadlifts: Deadlifts target the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Perform conventional or sumo deadlifts to improve overall lower body strength and power.
3. Lunges are effective for developing lower body strength and stability. Perform walking, reverse, or lateral lunges to target different muscle groups and movement patterns.
4. Core Exercises: A strong core is vital for generating power and transferring force from the lower body to the upper body. Include exercises like planks, Russian twists, medicine ball slams, and woodchoppers to strengthen the core.
Single Leg Exercises for Stability
1. Single Leg Squats: Stand on one leg and perform squats, focusing on maintaining proper form and balance.
2. Single Leg Deadlifts: Hinge at the hips while standing on one leg, lowering the torso, and reaching towards the ground with the opposite hand.
3. Single Leg Box Step-Ups: Step up onto a box or platform using one leg, driving through the heel, and then step down. Repeat on the same leg for several repetitions before switching legs.
Phase 2: Power and Velocity Development
To develop power and velocity in your legs as a pitcher, you’ll want to focus on exercises that enhance explosive strength, lower body power, and hip mobility. Here are some leg exercises that can help.
1. Front Squats: Front squats target the quads, core, and upper back. They can help improve leg drive and explosiveness in pitching.
2. Box Jumps: Jumping exercises like box jumps develop explosive power in the legs. Jump onto a sturdy box or platform, focusing on maximizing height or distance.
3. Kettlebell Swings: This dynamic exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core. Perform explosive swings, generating power from the hips.
4. Plyometric Lunges: Perform alternating lunges with an explosive jump between each lunge. This exercise enhances lower body power and stability.
5. Resistance Band Exercises: Utilize resistance bands for exercises like lateral band walks, resisted squats, or resisted lateral lunges. These exercises engage the hip muscles and promote power development.
6. Sled Pushes: Pushing a weighted sled develops lower body strength, power, and speed. Focus on short, explosive pushes for maximum power output.
7. Step-Ups with Knee Drive: Step onto a platform or bench with one leg and forcefully drive the opposite knee upward. This exercise targets leg power and hip mobility.
8. Medicine Ball Throws: Perform explosive rotational throws with a medicine ball to mimic the rotational movement of pitching. Stand perpendicular to a wall, hold a medicine ball at chest height, and rotate your torso while forcefully throwing the ball against the wall.
9. Overhead Medicine Ball Slams: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, hold a medicine ball overhead, and forcefully slam it into the ground. Focus on generating power from your hips and core.
10. Resistance Band Rotational Pulls: Attach a resistance band to a sturdy object at chest height, grab the band with both hands, and step away to create tension. Rotate your body away from the anchor point, then quickly rotate back, mimicking the pitching motion.
Phase 3: Plyometric Explosive Phase
If you’re a pitcher looking to improve your power and speed, you might want to try plyometric exercises. These exercises are all about quick, explosive movements that help strengthen and coordinate your muscles. Here are a few examples of plyometric exercises that pitchers might find helpful.
1. Box Jumps: Stand facing a sturdy box or platform with your feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees, swing your arms, and explosively jump onto the box, landing with soft knees. Step down and repeat for multiple repetitions.
2. Depth Jumps: Start by standing on a box or platform, then step off and immediately explode into a vertical jump as soon as your feet touch the ground. This exercise enhances lower body power and reactive strength.
3. Lateral Bounds: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Push off with one foot and leap as far as possible, landing softly on the opposite foot. Repeat on the other side for multiple reps. Lateral bounds help develop lower body power and lateral explosiveness.
4. Tuck Jumps: Start with your feet hip-width apart. Squat down and explosively jump up, bringing your knees toward your chest in a tucked position. Land softly and immediately repeat the jump. This exercise targets lower body power and explosiveness.
5. Single-Leg Hops: Stand on one leg with a slight knee bend. Jump forward as far as possible, landing softly on the same leg. Repeat for multiple reps before switching to the other leg. Single-leg hops enhance leg power and stability.
6. Skater Jumps: Begin in a slight squat position with your weight on one leg. Then, leap sideways, pushing off with the leg you’re standing on, and land softly on the opposite leg. Repeat side-to-side for multiple reps. Skater jumps improve lateral explosiveness and stability.
Phase 4- Complex Training
One way to improve athletic performance is through a training method called complex training. This involves combining heavy strength exercises with explosive plyometric exercises that work the same muscle groups.
For example, a pitcher might do a strength exercise like lifting weights followed by a plyometric exercise like jumping. This type of training helps increase power output and overall athletic ability.
1. Back Squat (Strength Exercise): Perform a set of 4-6 repetitions with a heavy load, focusing on proper form and maximal effort.
2. Box Jumps (Plyometric Exercise): Immediately after completing the back squat set, perform a set of 4-6 explosive box jumps, aiming for maximum height or distance.
The combination of heavy strength training and explosive plyometrics in complex training helps improve neuromuscular coordination, muscular power, and the ability to generate force quickly. Other exercises that can be included in complex training for pitchers are:
- Deadlifts followed by Broad Jumps
- Bench Press followed by Medicine Ball Chest Passes
- Lunges followed by Split Jumps
- Overhead Press followed by Medicine Ball Overhead Throws
When incorporating these phases into your program, it’s essential to consider the following:
1. Proper Technique: Ensure you have a solid foundation of strength and technique for the chosen exercises before attempting complex training. Maintain proper form throughout each exercise to minimize the risk of injury.
2. Rest Periods: Allow for adequate recovery between the strength and plyometric exercises. The rest period should be around 30-60 seconds to maintain the intensity and quality of each exercise.
3. Progression: Start with lighter loads and lower-intensity plyometric exercises. Gradually increase the intensity and volume as you develop strength and power.
4. Individualization: Tailor the complex training program to your specific needs and goals as a pitcher. Consider your current fitness level, injury history, and overall training program.
If you want a personalized training program, contact me here on my website.
Or, if you want to know more about strength and complex training, check out my book, Instant Strength.