Is it possible to throw really hard and hit your spots?
Since fastball velocity tracking started in 2008, average pitch velocity in major league baseball has steadily increased from around 90pmh to 93mph at the time of this writing.
At camps and showcases all around you will see scouts holding out their radar guns to check velocity. Coaches at all levels will ask how hard you throw. Friends compete to see who can throw the hardest. All of this sends a very clear message--velocity is important, and you should get more of it.
So much focus has been placed on enhancing throwing velocity that many programs and camps have begun to pop up with their marketing message aimed at just that.
Young pitchers and their parents are placing all their bets on getting to the next level from being able to throw harder, and not much else. Becoming a pitcher has taken a back seat to throwing at or above 90mph. The newest of young pitchers and their parents have bought into the throw hard mentality.
But what about having control of your pitches—your command?
I hear it from scouts all the time… “This kid is a good, hard thrower, but he’s a terrible pitcher. He can’t find the plate to save his life.”
So how do you marry the two?
How can you throw really, really hard, and have excellent command of your pitches?
We first need to analyze how the body moves to answer that question.
The Kinetic Chain
The body moves in a series of sequences to generate ball velocity and command. These sequences start from the ground and go all the way up to the hand. All of these sequences linked together are called the kinetic chain.
In the next few posts I will break down the kinetic chain into it’s sequences, or links, for simplicity, so that you may understand what connections need to be made in order to throw hard, and stay on target.
In the baseball pitcher looking to throw with more velocity, the ultimate goal is to create tension at key points in the kinetic chain. Creating tension, like pulling back on a rubber band to make it more taunt, will pass force from one link to the next. When this can be done quickly and efficiently, it generates acceleration of that link, which finally ends up on the ball and is measured as pitch velocity.
When any one of these links aren’t performing at their best, for any number of reasons (which we’ll get to later), links farther down the line take on more tension/stress and create poor movement patterns which negatively impacts ball velocity, control, and no surprise here, puts you more at risk of injury. You will only be as strong as your weakest link.
But before we get to deep into the kinetic chain, there are a few specifics you need to wrap your mind around.
Once these specifics are understood, it will make the whole process simple to understand. It will also justify the rationale for what you need to do to become a high velocity pitcher, who can pitch without pain, and hit your spots so you can become a more valuable piece of the team.
Lets get going!
The body is able to move in any way we ask it from specific muscle contractions. There are three types of muscle contractions, and they are:
· Concentric contractions
· Eccentric contractions
· Isometric contractions
A concentric contraction is when a muscle shortens when contracting. Imagine reaching into the fridge and pulling out a gallon of milk. If we reference the bicep, when you pull the milk out of the fridge towards you, the bicep muscle balls up and becomes more visible because it’s shortening….just like when you flex and kiss your bicep in the mirror.
To make this real simple to understand, I call concentric muscle contractions, the ‘Go Fast’ muscles and eccentric muscle contractions the ‘Slow Down’ muscles (more on this in another post). But knowing full well, that these muscles must work together to create the 90+mph ball velocity that you want to achieve.
The main muscle groups that help the pitcher Go-Fast, in the correct sequential manner are (and some simple exercise ideas to train them):
· Drive leg Quadriceps (Dead Lifts, Lunges, Squats)
· Drive leg Glutes (Dead Lifts, Single Leg Squats)
· Drive leg Calf muscles (Calf raises, jumping, Olympic Lifting)
· Stride Leg Groin muscles (Hip Adduction table raise)
· Anterior or front Abdominal/Core muscles (Regular Planks, Torture Twists)
· Shoulder Internal Rotators of the throwing arm (Explosive Lat Pull Downs, Pull Ups, Band Internal Rotation)
· Triceps of the throwing arm (Tricep Kickbacks, Clapping Push ups)
· Wrist flexors of the throwing arm (Wrist curls, Forearm pronation)
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