How To Increase Pitching Velocity
Often when speaking about pitchers, including both beginners and professional Major League baseball players, most ask one shared question: so, how fast do they throw? This is because, in addition to placement and movement, pitching velocity is one of the most important indicators of a baseball player’s strength. Not only is the ability to throw a fastball important for baseball pitchers, but it is also crucial for defense.
As a result, prioritizing improving your pitching velocity is undoubtedly efficient in becoming an overall stronger baseball player. Even college scouts and coaches for the youngest players like the Little League and most advanced players like the Major League place a strong emphasis on a player’s throwing speed.
Are you looking for ways to increase your pitching velocity? Then you want to keep reading.
Average Pitching Speeds
Before we start discussing how to improve on your pitching velocity, let’s first examine what ranges of numbers you should be trying to aim for.
10 Years Old and Younger
Fastball: 40 - 50 mph
Changeup Velocity: 30 - 40 mph
Knuckleball: 25 - 35 mph
11-12 Years Old
Fastball: 50 - 60 mph
Changeup Velocity: 40 - 50 mph
Knuckleball: 30 - 40 mph
13-14 Years Old
Fastball: 55 - 75 mph
Changeup Velocity: 45 - 65 mph
Knuckleball: 30 - 50 mph
Fastball: 75 - 85 mph
Changeup Velocity: 65 - 75 mph
Knuckleball: 50 - 60 mph
College and Professional
Fastball: 80 - 95 mph
Changeup Velocity: 70 - 85 mph
Knuckleball: 55 - 70 mph
Don’t be discouraged if your numbers don’t exactly align with those above. It often takes hours of practice for multiple years to truly perfect the ideal pitching velocity.
Now the most important part: How do you get there?
Factors That Determine Pitching Velocity
Understanding what specific elements influence pitching velocity is the first step to increasing it as after reading through this list you will know exactly what areas of pitching you need to focus on reinforcing.
Being more biomechanically built plays a huge factor in a pitcher’s ability to throw with efficient velocity and make more dynamic movements. However, even if a baseball player is not naturally inherited with perfect biomechanics, all players can build their endurance by moderately exposing their bodies to hefty loads. More strength leads to more velocity and power and thus harder throws.
Power is strongly aligned with strength and is dependent on two variables: force and velocity. Force refers to the amount of strength you apply to the ball where velocity is about how fast you apply the force in any given direction. It is also important to note that force and velocity have an inverse relationship, meaning that when velocity increases, the force decreases. This explains why even baseball players who do not possess much weight can throw very impressive pitches. In addition, remember that your source of power does not come from your arm, but the greater muscles of the body.
Having proper mobility is important in helping to maximize a baseball player’s effectiveness in pitching. In addition to the throwing shoulder, other joints such as the hip and pelvis play a crucial role in increasing pitching velocity, specifically rotational mobility.
Several other factors that determine pitching velocity include body weight, muscular endurance, and flexibility.
Actions You Can Take to Increase Pitching Velocity
Gaining Body Weight
Recent studies have shown that baseball players with more mass tend to throw harder and faster than players with less mass. This is because having more weight as an athlete allows you to produce greater forces, and thus have more strength when pitching. Here are a few easy ways to gain body weight:
Eating more calories, can include an extra 500 calories or even doubling your conventional calorie intake
Eating foods that have more nutritional value and fiber
Trying to lift heavier weights
Focusing on gaining muscle
Getting at least 10-12 hours of sleep
Hanging out with people that are big eaters
Setting a weight gaining goal to keep you motivated
Adding a daily protein supplement to your diet
Balance is crucial. The better balance you have, the more control you have. The more control you have, the better you can transfer the energy from your body to the ball. One of the ways to do this is to eliminate the “balance point”, which researchers have found leads to decreased velocity and accuracy in pitching. Utilizing a balance point also results in overall worse athletic posture, slower delivery time, and decreased momentum.
The Perfect Grip
Using proper finger positioning during pitching is critical as by utilizing your motion behind the ball as efficiently as possible, you can create maximized power. A major part of finger positioning and maintaining full force entails the way you grip the ball. For a fastball, the best way to grip the ball, for control and velocity, is the four-seam grip. For this grip, the index and middle finger should both lay across the perpendicular seams while the “horseshoe” seam faces into your ring finger. Lastly, the thumb should be placed underneath the bottom seam and in the middle of the horseshoe seam on the bottom of the ball. Make sure to lean towards a looser grip when holding the ball as it allows for less friction, and thus a quicker release when throwing the ball. This grip is also essential if you want maximal backspin and velocity!
Using your entire body
Focusing just on your arm movement is not going to give you the results you wish for. Instead, each part of your body plays an active role in helping generate effective and powerful pitches. Being able to know how to work your body together in a cohesive and coordinated manner comes a long way. In fact, each part is so vital that weakness in even just one body part can hurt the entire pitch. Let’s look at some of the elements that together help create an impressive pitching velocity.
Your wrist, accounting for 10% of the force applied during the pitch, is an important component in the pitching motion. This is why improving your wrist snap is surely the grand finale of a powerful pitch. Make sure to do this at the release point as if you rotate your wrist any earlier, you face the risk of losing power in your throw. To nail your wrist snap, practice keeping your wrist bent slightly backward during the final down string and then flick your wrist forward during release point. This will help accelerate the ball. Here are some exercises to strengthen your wrist flexion.
Exercises to Strengthen Wrist Flexion
Leg strengthening is key to improving ground reaction forces as it allows for the transfer of energy in the body (leading to greater velocity and less stress on the arm) and provides a base for good balance and athletic posture. It also allows for more power behind each throw. Below are some exercise ideas to strengthen your legs.
Exercises to Strengthen Legs
Torso and Pelvis Rotation
Higher speeds of torso and pelvis rotation will undoubtedly increase your pitching velocity so committing to improving this internal rotation is crucial. In other words, the more separation a pitcher obtains from their hips to their shoulders, the better and faster their pitch will be. Therefore, you should try and rotate your pelvis while the torso is closed for as long as possible. This allows for more energy to be transferred to the pitcher’s arm.
Work on Deceleration
Deceleration is the process of slowing down after your pitching release point. This is especially important in keeping your arm intact and preventing any injuries. It will also teach your body how to accelerate faster. Think about it this way. Imagine you are biking rather fast along a path. Would you rather want to ride a bike that has well-working brakes or a bike with ruptured brakes where you have a greater chance of falling? The same analogy applies to pitching. A great way to master this is by doing reverse throws.
Reserve Throw Pitching Drill
Take a small ball (2 lbs.)
Get down on one knee and put the ball near your leading leg
Follow the ball behind your head and practice throwing it backward
Additional Exercises to Increase Pitching Velocity
Importance: Increases rotator cuff external rotation strength
Try to lift weights that are about 50% to 60% of the maximum weight you can lift. Mix these exercises with stretches as well.
Importance: Promotes flexibility and arm strength
Bench presses, pushups, wrist curls, and triceps pulldowns
Importance: Focuses on upper-body strength training such as triceps, forearm muscles, and chest which are key muscles involved in pitching
Now, the tips and tricks listed above are just a few of the many ways to enhance your pitching strategies. In reality, there are numerous habits you can incorporate in your pitching to increase velocity and power in all your throws. Ultimately, by practicing the right techniques and maintaining a healthy body, you are in the right field to increase your pitching velocity.
Be sure to check out Ryan Weiss's coaching program and his other training programs to elevate your game.