When conditioning for any sport, it is important to understand that conditioning doesn’t just mean “getting in shape,” as most people think. (Check out STACK’s conditioning page.) A well-conditioned athlete is fit in relation to his or her sport and position. When planning a baseball conditioning workout for pitchers, think about the nature of the work. A pitcher completes a very explosive movement that lasts about 3 seconds and then rests for 20 seconds. The goals for pitcher conditioning should be to mimic the physical stresses of competition and train the same energy system. (Learn how to condition for your sport.)
If you look at the pitching motion, the push off the back leg and the hips exploding open are two key lower-body movements. With a proper conditioning program, pitchers can learn how to become more efficient in both. Performing plyometric exercises and agility drills will train planting and pushing off explosively, opening the hips, and improving coordination and body control. A pitcher with good body control and awareness will be less likely to have a mechanical issue that could lead to an injury when he or she becomes fatigued during a game.
You have undoubtedly noticed the lack of long distance running. Long-distance running teaches pitchers to be slow. To be fast, you must train fast. Long runs also train the wrong energy system. If you think about it logically, doing the same slow motion continuously for an extended period of time is the exact opposite of pitching. Pitchers, would you rather be built like a sprinter or a marathon runner?
Sample Conditioning Workout for Pitchers
- Stand on one leg and push off, jumping as high and far as you can directly to the side
- Land on the opposite leg and explode back the other way as quickly as possible
- 3×5 on each leg, 1 minute rest between sets
- Set up cones in the shape of an L
- Shuffle along one line, then sprint the other line
- Concentrate on pushing with each shuffle and having a solid plant to change direction into the sprint
- 5×5 yards each direction, 15-20-second break between reps
Down and Backs
- Sprint 5 yards, plant, and explode back in the direction you came from
- Explode off the line when changing directions
- 5×5 yards, 12-20-second rest between sprints
- Start in base running stance
- With a quick crossover step, sprint 10 yards like you are stealing a base
- Complete 10 sprints with 15-20 seconds rest between sprints
These exercises focus on change of direction, explosiveness, and lateral movement. This workout should not make you feel incredibly tired. Make sure to take the recommended rest breaks. You should feel fast and explosive after these drills.