The “Athlete” Pitcher: A Look at the Modern Power Arm Part 1 of 3

What is the key to throwing a mid 90s fastball? This has seemingly been the question of the century when it comes to training pitchers to gain velocity. We live in an era that has accepted mediocrity, at best, in this realm of modern training. The number of pitching related injuries over the years have continued to rise, and with this we have only grown more cautious. The modern day view will reminisce on the days of Nolan Ryan and cringe at the idea of throwing a complete game with 150+ pitches. It is comfortable to demonize the “wreckless” approach of old, and say that we have progressed. Have we actually progressed? Or have we taken steps backwards? It is my opinion that we have largely accepted a culture that promotes arm weakness.

Long Toss

RHP Trevor Bauer (Now with the Cleveland Indians) warming up with his long toss routine before a start.

Let’s rewind to the the year 2009. I saw my velocity increase 6 MPH in one summer before my senior year of high school. Did I fully know what I was doing? Absolutely not! The only thing I knew was that I was unsatisfied and fueled by my desire to prove scouts and schools wrong who were doubting my abilities as a pitcher. I hit the weight room for the first time that summer and paired my training with an aggressive, or should I say “wreckless,” long toss program. I religiously played long toss with my dad every other day. My approach was simple, warm up my rotator cuff, and then stretch out until I was throwing as hard and far as I could. From there I would come back in keeping that same level of intensity until I was about 75 feet or so away from my dad. At that point I would spend an extra 20 minutes throwing absolutely as hard as I could. My dad was a champ, and his poor hand took a beating day in and day out. Not only did I see my velocity spike dramatically during this time period, but I also developed the ability to maintain it over the course of a game. My overall performance on the mound dramatically increased, and I found that my recovery was improving right along side my performance. This was just the beginning of my awareness. I knew that I was on a journey to discover the true path toward the ultimate training regimen for modern-day pitchers.

One of the elite power arms in the game today, Gerritt Cole consistently sits between 97-100 MPH

One of the elite power arms in the game today, Gerritt Cole consistently sits between 97-100 MPH

Throw really hard, so that you can develop the ability to throw really hard!! Could it possibly be that simple? Largely, I believe it is. For so long we have been stuck in the idea that strength and endurance alone can fill our craving for more velocity. While partly this is true, it does not provide the whole story. As an “athlete” pitcher, it is essential to have a strong foundation of functional scapulo-thoracic (upper-body), and rotator cuff strength. In addition to this, it is a bonus to have a solid foundation of lower body, and rotational specific core strength. This without a doubt provides the base we need as an athlete, and the ceiling/ potential to produce power. Strength is simply a prerequisite for power development, and power is something that must be trained. Power is defined explicitly as work divided by time, and also as force times distance. The commonality between these two equations is speed. Given that the average pitching delivery takes between 1-2 seconds, it is only common sense that we should focus on training pitchers with extremely high intensity for only a few seconds at a time, and dial in the work to rest ratio accordingly right?

Stay tuned…

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