Hey everyone, my name is Mike Campbell and I am the head trainer here at Momentum. I plan on using this blog to help share some good info on how to improve your throwing skills (want to throw harder?), pitching skills on the mound (maybe you want to learn a new pitch?), the mental aspects of the game, talk baseball, and more. I founded Momentum with the aim of creating a place where players of all ages and skill levels can come and learn how to play the game the right way.
Some brief background on myself: I played baseball locally here on Staten Island (Tottenville 2010 City Champs!), played Division 1 ball at Rider University, then transferred to Division 3 Ramapo College where we made it to a College World Series (2015) and earned the distinction of being the #1 ranked team in the country (2016). Following College, I made the transition into coaching where I can still be around the game that I love and pass along what I have learned (and continue to learn) onto the next generation of ballplayers. I have coached with Coach Tom Tierney Jr. at Tottenville (2017), Farrell High School, The Staten Island Orioles, and I offer private instruction through individual and small group lessons as well.
Throughout my time as a player, I encountered and overcame numerous obstacles including Tommy John Surgery, the dreaded yips, and Labrum/Rotator Cuff Repair surgery (post playing career). It is my hope that my unique perspective and different experiences will help those of you that read this. Enough about me! Let’s get into our first topic: How to gain throwing velocity in season. This is something that I am often asked and figured this would be a good place to begin.
Ways to gain throwing velocity during the baseball season:
Congratulations if you have made it this far! You have taken the most important step in becoming a better ballplayer: taking the time to research and learn new information. If you (or your coach) think they know everything there is to learn about the game, then you’re never going to reach your potential. The fact that you’re sitting here and reading this means that you want to get better and you’re taking ownership of your baseball career. Kudos to you.
When talking about throwing velocity, its important to recognize that the throwing motion is not simple. In fact, it’s a complex series of different movements that need to happen in the right order for the baseball to come out of your hand fast and with decent accuracy. This is commonly referred to as the Kinetic Chain. Check out the link to familiarize yourself with the idea if you do not know about it already. I will eventually dive more into detail about throwing mechanics and “chaining” your movements in your delivery. A good coach will be able to point out where you can make improvements with your mechanics. We at Momentum leverage high speed video and Pitch AI to see these things. Right now, however let’s talk about things you can do to make your throwing mechanics more efficient without reinventing the wheel.
High Intent Throwing
First thing’s first. If you’re not practicing throwing the baseball as hard as you can, you are leaving velocity gains on the table. Think about it… Do Olympic sprinters train by walking long distances? (Spoiler Alert: They don’t) Throwing the baseball with a lot of intent (trying to throw it hard) helps throwers find more optimal movements/mechanics and trains the brain to recruit more muscle and fire those muscles faster.
One really great way to work on your high intent throwing is through long toss. While many know what long toss is, few go about it in a proper way. My favorite way to long toss is the Jaeger long toss program. This program involves gradually working out distance wise, while gradually throwing the ball harder and faster. Eventually, you reach your maximum distance and are throwing the ball as hard as you can. A good rule of thumb is that if you can throw a baseball 300 feet, you can throw around 90 miles per hour. After working out to your maximum distance, you then start moving gradually closer to your partner while keeping the intensity of your throws the same as if you were throwing your max distance. Check out this video from Jaeger to get a good demonstration of it.
How are you going to throw harder if you’re hurt? One thing that is far too often neglected by players is preventative care. Make sure you run and stretch before throwing. Make sure you stretch after throwing. Don’t use ice after throwing (unless you’re actually injured). Yes, you read that right, DO NOT ICE. Soreness is caused by microtears in your muscles and connective tissue. Your body repairs these microtears and builds back more muscle, making you stronger. Icing inhibits blood flow and because of this, inhibits your body’s ability to heal itself. You can read more about it here (link).
So, what to do instead of icing? I recommend a good resistance-band program. My favorites include crossover symmetry bands, and Jager bands. If you are just starting out, the basic Jobe exercises are also good (link). Band programs give light resistance and help throwers build up the small muscles in their back called the rotator cuff. It may not be fun at first (I thought these drills were boring as a kid), but routinely doing band exercises are a surefire way to gain throwing velocity. This along with stretching and doing sprints will benefit you much more than icing.
Work on Creating Power
Power for an athlete is how much strength they have plus how fast they can move. Speed + Strength = Power. Strength training should be a priority for all athletes, not just high-level athletes. Studies have shown that kids who engage in weight training have denser bones, higher self-esteem, less sports injuries, and better body composition than their peers who don’t. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with your child going into the weight room at a young age. That’s fine but should not stop them from doing pushups, lunges, chin ups, dips, and other bodyweight exercises. We recommend that athletes start strength training as soon as they are mature enough to listen to coaching and act appropriately in the weight room.
Throw Medicine Balls
Medicine ball drills are a fun and very effective way to work on power when it comes to the rotational plane. Examples of medicine ball exercises include: overhead slams, scoop tosses, chest passes, step back scoop tosses, and heidens with a med ball. As it is with everything else discussed in this entry, INTENT is the key here. Make sure that you are focused on moving fast and trying to put the ball through the wall (or floor if you’re doing slams). Medicine ball drills should be completed with lighter weight, training more for speed than strength. Here is a great tweet exemplifying this concept from NY Yankees Director of Player Health and Performance Eric Cressey.
We have 240-pound rotational sport athletes throwing med balls as light as 4-6lbs. Train power, not egos.
— Eric Cressey (@EricCressey) November 20, 2014
One way to work on throwing harder without any stress on your arm or any expensive equipment is to run sprints. The human body has two different types of muscle fibers: type 1 (slow twitch) and type 2 (fast twitch). Sprints help an athlete develop their fast twitch muscle fibers, which are crucial if you want to throw the baseball with any kind of velocity. Variations on this can include get up and go sprints, suicides, and more. Another piece of advice here, at the risk of sounding repetitive: RUN AS HARD/FAST AS YOU CAN WHEN YOU SPRINT. Anything less than 100% effort will have you leaving results on the table.
Like I stated before, the throwing motion is a complicated series of movements that uses the entire body. Because of this, throwers need to train their entire body in order to be elite. I look forward to diving more into this subject on the blog. Hopefully this is helpful to you on your playing journey. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop me a comment or reach out via email.