The End of MLB Season

About the Author: Eric Cressey

Last Chance to Save

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By entering the coupon code HOLIDAY2007 at checkout, you’ll get 15% off on each of the following products:

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You can also get 30% off on The Ultimate Off-Season Manual (discount automatically applied).

Florida Seminar Update

Just a reminder: the early registration deadline for my Fort Lauderdale seminar on January 5th is December 15th, so don’t delay in getting your registration forms in. For more information, contact Jon Boyle at

Q&A…or just an excuse for me to rant about baseball now that the MLB season is over…

Q: I recently read on an online forum that a long-time pitching authority was quoted as saying:

“Training will not teach you how to apply more force…only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force.

“No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program…no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you.”

I know you work with a lot pitchers and are a big believer in strength and conditioning for them, so what’s your take on this?

A: I’ll start with the positive: I agree with him that pitching is all about producing skilled movements secondary to appropriate timing of all the involved “parts.” I’ve very lucky to work hand-in-hand with some skilled pitching coaches who really know their stuff – and trust in me to do my job to complement the coaching they provide.

With that said, however, I disagree that you can’t gain (or lose) velocity based exclusively on your strength and conditioning program. On countless occasions, I’ve seen guys gain velocity without making any changes to their throwing programs or mechanics. A perfect example came this past weekend, when one of our high school juniors, Sahil Bloom, had a fantastic showing at a big-time scouting event in Florida – where scouts clocked him as high as 92 mph on the radar gun.

I started working with Sahil in late July – at which time he had never been above 82 mph. None of the pitching coaches with whom he’s worked have made dramatic changes to his mechanics; he’s just added more horsepower to the engine instead of screwing around with the fuzzy dice in the mirror and chrome hubcaps. His strength is up significantly and he’s added 18 pounds to his frame while getting leaner. In the first two months alone, his vertical jump and broad jump went up by 4 and 17 inches, respectively. And, three full months still remain in his off-season.

I know what many of the devil’s advocates in the crowd are thinking: “that’s just one isolated incident!” Actually, the truth is that we’ve got dozens of these guys kicking around our facility right now – and should have 5-10 high school guys throwing over 90 mph this spring.

And, if that’s not enough, how about we just go to the research?


Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC. Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2001 Feb;15(1):148-56.

[Note from EC: Yes, it’s pathetic that this REVIEW has been out almost seven years and people who are supposedly “in the know” still haven’t come across ANY of the studies to which it alludes.]

Practical Applications

Throwing velocity can be increased by resistance training. A rationale for general, special, and specific resistance training to increase throwing velocity has been presented. The following findings and recommendations relevant to strength and conditioning specialists and pitching coaches can be useful from the review of literature.

Specific studies they referenced:

Bagonzi, J.A. The effects of graded weighted baseballs, free weight training, and simulative isometric exercise on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master’s thesis, Indiana University. 1978.

Brose, D.E., and D.L. Hanson. Effects of overload training on velocity and accuracy of throwing. Res. Q. 38:528–533. 1967.

Jackson, J.B. The effects of weight training on the velocity of a thrown baseball. Master’s thesis, Central Michigan University,. 1994.

Lachowetz, T., J. Evon, and J. Pastiglione. The effects of an upper-body strength program on intercollegiate baseball throwing velocity. J. Strength Cond. Res. 12:116–119. 1998.

Logan, G.A., W.C. McKinney, and W. Rowe. Effect of resistance through a throwing range of motion on the velocity of a baseball. Percept. Motor Skills. 25:55–58. 1966.

Newton, R.U., and K.P. McEvoy. Baseball throwing velocity: A comparison of medicine ball training and weight training. J. Strength Cond. Res. 8:198–203. 1994.

Potteiger, J.A., H.N. Williford, D.L. Blessing, and J. Smidt. Effect of two training methods on improving baseball performance variables. J. Appl. Sport Sci. Res. 6:2–6. 1992.

Sullivan, J.W. The effects of three experimental training factors upon baseball throwing velocity and selected strength measures. Doctoral dissertation, Indiana University,. 1970.

Swangard, T.M. The effect of isotonic weight training programs on the development of bat swinging, throwing, and running ability of college baseball players. Master’s thesis, University of Oregon,. 1965.

Thompson, C.W., and E.T. Martin. Weight training and baseball throwing speed. J. Assoc. Phys. Mental Rehabil. 19:194–196. 1965.

They also have a table that summarizes 26 studies that examined the effect of different strength protocols on throwing velocity, and 22 of the 26 showed increases over controls who just threw. In other words, throwing and strength training is better than throwing alone for improving velocity – independent of optimization of mechanics from outside coaching.

The saddest part is that the training programs referenced in this review were nothing short of foo-foo garbage. We’re talking 3×10-12 light dumbbell drills and mind-numbing, rubber tubing blasphemy. If archaic stuff works, just imagine what happens when pitchers actually train the right way – and have pitching coaches to help them out?

Oh yeah, 10 mph gains in 4.5 months happen – and D1 college coaches and pro scouts start salivating over kids who are barely old enough to drive.

With that rant aside, I’d like to embark on another one: what about the indirect gains associated with strength training? Namely, what about the fact that it keeps guys healthy?

We know that pitchers (compared to position players) have less scapular upward rotation at 60 and 90 degrees of abduction:

Laudner KG, Stanek JM, Meister K. Differences in Scapular Upward Rotation Between Baseball Pitchers and Position Players. Am J Sports Med. 2007 Aug 8.

BACKGROUND: Baseball pitchers have been reported to have an increased prevalence of shoulder injury compared with position players such as infielders and outfielders. Furthermore, insufficient scapular upward rotation has been empirically linked with several of these shoulder disorders. However, the difference in scapular upward rotation between pitchers and position players is not known. HYPOTHESIS: Pitchers will have decreased scapular upward rotation of their dominant shoulders compared with position players. STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive laboratory study. METHODS: Dominant shoulder scapular upward rotation was measured with the arm at rest and at 60 degrees , 90 degrees , and 120 degrees of humeral elevation among 15 professional baseball pitchers and 15 position players with no recent history of upper extremity injury. RESULTS: Independent t tests showed pitchers have significantly less scapular upward rotation at 60 degrees (3.9 degrees , P = .011) and 90 degrees (4.4 degrees , P = .009) of humeral elevation compared with position players. CONCLUSION: Baseball pitchers have less scapular upward rotation than do position players, specifically at humeral elevation angles of 60 degrees and 90 degrees . CLINICAL RELEVANCE: This decrease in scapular upward rotation may compromise the integrity of the glenohumeral joint and place pitchers at an increased risk of developing shoulder injuries compared with position players. As such, pitchers may benefit from periscapular stretching and strengthening exercises to assist with increasing scapular upward rotation.

[check the date: cutting-edge stuff…Cosgrove would be so proud]

You know what’s pretty interesting? Resistance training is the basis for modern physical therapy – which I’m pretty sure is aimed at restoring inappropriate movement patterns like this. Do you think that a good resistance training program could strengthen lower traps and serratus anterior to help alleviate this upward rotation problem?

And, last time I checked, strength and conditioning was about more than just being the “weights coach.” We do a lot of flexibility/mobility and soft tissue work – and it just so happens that such work does wonders on pec minor, levator scapulae, rhomboids, infraspinatus/teres minor, and a host of other muscles in pitchers.

I also like to tell jokes, do magic tricks, and make shadow puppets on the wall. Am I to assume that these don’t play a remarkable role in my athletes’ success? I beg to differ. Sure, banging out a set of 20 chin-ups because one of my athletes called me out might make me look like a stupid monkey when my elbows refuse to extend for the subsequent ten minutes, but I still think what we do plays a very important role in our athletes success; otherwise, they wouldn’t keep coming back. And, for the record, my shadow puppets are damn good for building camaraderie and bolstering spirits among the Cressey Performance troops – even if I’m just a “weights coach” or whatever.

This only encompasses a few of the seemingly countless examples I can come up with at a moment’s notice. Pitchers are an at-risk population; your number one job in working with a pitcher is to keep him healthy. And, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that a guy who is healthy and super-confident over his monster legs and butt is going to throw a lot harder than a guy who is in pain and as skinny as an Olsen twin because his stubborn pitching coach said strength training doesn’t work. You’ve got to train ass to throw gas!

Just two weeks ago, I began working with a pro ball player whose velocity is down from 94 to 88 – not just because he recently wrapped up a long season (and Arizona Fall League), but also because he’s had lower back issues that have prevented him from training. In other words, he counts on strength training to keep his velocity up – and he’s going to use it to get healthy, too.

So, to answer your original question, I guess this an exception to the rule that most coaches agree on the 90% and disagree on the 10%. In this case, it’s the other way around.

Until next time, train hard and have fun – and be leery of people who say strength training isn’t important. Everyone – from endurance athletes to grandmothers – needs it!