Why Most Young Pitchers Get Worse During Their Season—And What They Can Do To Stop It

Pitchers shouldn't stop their strength training efforts once the season starts.

We're approaching the climax of high school baseball season, and still have the full summer ball circuit ahead of us.

Year after year, you see pitchers have a great first month to the season, only to fizzle out and watch their velocity and command drop off as the year progresses. Why does this happen?

Usually, it's because they've totally stopped training. This cease in training may not have a notable effect for the first few weeks of the season, but after a significant amount of time, it always catches up to the athlete. We need to kill the thought that training stops once the season begins. Arguably, training becomes more important than ever during your season, as it's essential to staying strong and preventing your body from breaking down. The most important games are played at the end of the season, right? So why the heck would you stop training months before that?

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We're approaching the climax of high school baseball season, and still have the full summer ball circuit ahead of us.

Year after year, you see pitchers have a great first month to the season, only to fizzle out and watch their velocity and command drop off as the year progresses. Why does this happen?

Usually, it's because they've totally stopped training. This cease in training may not have a notable effect for the first few weeks of the season, but after a significant amount of time, it always catches up to the athlete. We need to kill the thought that training stops once the season begins. Arguably, training becomes more important than ever during your season, as it's essential to staying strong and preventing your body from breaking down. The most important games are played at the end of the season, right? So why the heck would you stop training months before that?

With that in mind, here are five tips to help you stay sharp from your first start to your last. Even if you haven't been doing these things so far, it's not too late to integrate them into your routine and enhance your performance.

1. Don't Stop Strength Training

If you maintain or increase your strength during the season, your recovery and performance will improve. One of the worst things you can do is stop resistance training once your season starts. Detraining, meaning the loss of gains achieved through training, comes on quickly, and can have a significant negative impact on your performance in just 2-3 weeks. You obviously don't want to lift every single day, but a little goes a long way toward combating detraining. The reason we lift in season is the same reason we lift in the offseason. To get stronger, more explosive, more resilient to injury and better at our sport.

Here are a few keys to better in-season strength training:

  • Don't just use light weights. Light weights aren't going to get the adaptations we want. Lift moderately heavy weight in training schemes that challenge you.
  • Don't introduce a bunch of totally new movements you didn't do during the offseason. Your routine should stay built around the same major exercises (albeit possibly with minor variations) you used during the offseason.
  • Keep workouts quick and keep volume (sets/reps) low. I like using 2-3 sets of 3-5 reps. This will help you stay out of hypertrophy work and keep soreness to a minimum while still retaining strength and power.
  • Move the weight fast. Don't grind out a bunch of slow one-rep maxes during your season, but do move moderately heavy weights quickly. You want to throw hard, practice moving weight fast.
  • Schedule your big lift for a day or two after your start. Two workouts a week total should suffice, but even one is vastly superior to none.

2. Condition Smart

For pitchers, the smartest way to stay conditioned is not to run miles. You don't come close to running a mile in a game, so why should your conditioning be of a method that's long, slow and pounding on the joints?

It's the same principles as strength training: if you want to throw fast, train fast. Some of my favorite baseball pitcher conditioning drills include:

  • 20- to 30-yard sprints followed by ample rest
  • 80- to 100-yard tempo runs, where the athlete gradually gets up to 70-75% of top speed by the finish line then walks back to the start for recovery
  • Med Ball Circuits

You can use a timer or reps, but the goal is to keep reps low, get the heart rate high, and to rest substantially longer than you work. Again, you don't need many reps here.

3. Don't Neglect Mobility

It's not enough just to do a few arm swings before you pitch. You have to make a conscious effort to take care of your body every day. Make sure you're stretching in addition to your strength and conditioning work. These are some of my favorite stretches:

By mid-season, constantly throwing means you're doing a lot of rotation. Thus, I believe you can benefit from including some anti-rotation work into your routine. Injuries often happen due to overuse and asymmetries. You need to include anti-rotation work and also make sure we're working on your non-dominant side to help you max out your rotational power but do so in a safe, repeatable manner. Two of my favorite "anti" core exercises are Side Planks and Pallof Presses:

Don't feel the need to turn these into marathon-length reps. You'll likely get a lot more out of six 10-second reps with great form and rigidity than one 60-second rep where your form begins breaking down less than halfway through.

This is one of the classic anti-rotational exercises. Perform 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each side, with the focus on keeping your torso facing perfectly forward (not slanting) as your hands move farther away from your body.

5. Fire Up Your Neural System

Pitchers don't really have much time to "get going" during the game. One bad inning can ruin a start, so you need to be primed and ready to go on that very first pitch. This is where a sort of "neural charge" workout performed on game days can be a great weapon for you.

It's important that you keep up with your training. It doesn't take much effort. If you can:

  • Lift twice a week.
  • Condition twice a week.
  • Do some sort of mobility work every day.
  • Perform the "neural charge" once a week.

Then you're going to have a distinct advantage over your opponent. It doesn't have to be overly complicated. Keep training, keep feeling good, keep pitching with your best stuff throughout the season.

Photo Credit: THEPALMER/iStock

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Topics: BASEBALL | PITCHER | HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS