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There are many myths associated with pitcher strength training. Strength training is an absolute necessity for any pitcher looking to succeed at the higher competitive levels.
This article attempts to dispel the most common myths regarding pitcher strength training.
Myth #1: Strength training makes pitchers tight and less flexible
Some opponents of strength training for pitchers believe that weightlifting will make pitchers tight and less flexible.
This is a very common misconception. One of the fears is that when you lift heavy weight, your muscles will be come bulky and slow. But this is only possible if you are using a poorly designed strength training program not specific to pitching.
For example, going into the gym and performing a chest routine incorporating incredibly heavy weight, barbell bench press, or multiple chest-specific workouts all in one session, could make weightlifting counterproductive for pitchers. Your strength training program must be properly designed to ensure that it is beneficial for pitching.
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What is a proper exercise ratio for pitchers?
Most pitching programs have a 2 to 1 policy, which is 2 back workouts for every 1 chest workout. The reason for this ratio is because the back muscles are utilized much more in pitching than the chest. If you maintain a routine utilizing the 2 to 1 ratio, then you will never have to worry about become tight or less flexible when strength training for pitching.
In addition, it is recommended that you perform dynamic stretching prior to exercise and static stretching following your workouts because this will ensure that you maintain flexibility as a pitcher.
Myth #2: Strength training increases a pitcher's chance of injury
Many pitching trainers believe that weightlifting can increase the chances of injury in pitchers. This is partially true because injuries do happen, but they happen because of negligence.
Weightlifting injuries occur when people do not take the necessary safety precautions. As a baseball pitcher, your goal is not to become a bodybuilder. Pitchers need to be athletically strong and lean, but not overly muscular. They must maintain the necessary flexibility needed for pitching a baseball.
The main purpose of lifting heavy weight for a non-pitcher is to increase muscle mass, but the purpose of lifting heavier weight for pitching is to increase your overall strength, explosiveness, and prevent injuries.
More injuries are likely for pitchers who are weak, and have muscular imbalance.
As long as you understand that weightlifting as a pitcher has the purpose of getting stronger and more explosive, rather than getting purely muscular, then you will never suffer an injury.
But you must remember, lifting heavier weight comes with responsibility!
What does proper exercise technique look like?
Many people you see in the gym do not understand that weightlifting isn't a race. Lifting the weight in an erratic manner is not only dangerous because of possible injuries, but it does not properly work your muscles.
As a pitcher or even as a weightlifter, it's important to maintain proper form during each and every weightlifting workout. What I consider to be proper form is the idea that you are performing not only the positive portion of the exercise, but most importantly, performing the negative portion as well.
An example of the positive portion of an exercise would be the pushing of dumbbells upwards during a bench press, and the negative portion is the effort of lowering the weight back down to your chest. Many people fail to perform both parts of the repetition.
Myth #3: Strength training reduces pitching velocity
This myth has been a pretty famous one among supposed pitching experts. Many of these experts believe that by strength training, pitchers will become bulky, and unable to throw the baseball with any significant velocity.
The only possible way that weightlifting could affect a pitchers velocity is through excessive heavy lifting with the upper body. This could result in large, bulky muscle that can actually slow down your arm whip. Pitchers need to focus on the lower half of the body.
Strength training the core and lower portion of the body has the capability of increasing pitching velocity. The legs are essential to pitching velocity because they are the driving force behind throwing a pitch.
If you examine most major league pitchers, they have extremely large and explosive legs, and this is largely responsible for their pitching velocity. It's important to develop a program that will include strength training and explosive exercises. Pitchers have to be explosive in order to generate velocity.
Although the lower half should be the primary focus for pitchers, do not neglect training the upper body. Pitchers must have muscular balance, so it's important to train all muscles of the body.
How can you avoid weightlifting injuries and increase velocity?
- Perform dynamic stretching prior to working out
- Use proper technique and form when weightlifting
- Do not lift more weight than necessary (you're a pitcher, not a powerlifter
- Avoid overhead exercises such as military press
- Avoid barbell bench press
- Try to avoid heavy or excessive weightlifting on game day
- Use static stretching following your workouts
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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To get to the next level, preparation is everything. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.
If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my latest strength training, conditioning and throwing programs for baseball pitchers of all ages.
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