Off-Season Training for Pitchers: Part II

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5 Steps for Maximizing Your Off-Season Pitching Workouts

In my last article on off-season pitching workouts I talked about how your off-season training can make or break your pitching career. Today as a follow up, I’m going to lay out 5 simple steps for maximizing your off-season pitching workouts.
But first, I again want to stress… Give your arm a rest!

Youth pitchers who throw year-round are at much greater risk of arm injury. I’ll again reference the 2006 study that found:

“Adolescent throwers who pitched more than eight months per year were five times more likely to be injured compared to those who pitched less.”
-Olsen SJ, Fleisig GS, Dun S, Loftice J, Andrews JR. “Risk factors for shoulder and elbow injuries in adolescent baseball pitchers” – Am J Sports Med. 2006

Playing another sport or working to improve your overall strength and agility will make you a better athlete, a better pitcher, and reduce the injury risk associated with what’s known as pattern overload.

Ok, so with the understanding that you need to first take a break from throwing, here are 5 Simple Steps for Maximizing Your Off-Season Pitching Workouts:

Step 1: Get Assessed (or Know Where You’re Starting from)


“If you’re not assessing, you’re guessing.”

This is a quote I heard at the recent Cressey Performance Seminar. It’s a popular phrase in the fitness industry, but it can just as easily be applied to your pitching workouts. If you aren’t familiar with Eric Cressey, his website is an invaluable resource for baseball strength and conditioning content.

Here are three easy ways to accurately assess your current situation:

Video Motion Analysis: Get video of yourself pitching and have it analyzed by a knowledgeable coach. If you can get side-by-side analysis vs. a pro, even better. Seeing the difference between what you are doing and what elite pitchers do in their pitching deliveries can be an eye opening experience. With today’s technology there’s really no excuse for not using motion analysis – most phones nowadays will take quality video.

Strength & Mobility Screen: Sometimes inefficiencies in your pitching delivery can be fixed by simply learning new movement patterns. But other times (often) the cause has more to do with strength and mobility deficiencies. A good strength and mobility screen can help uncover areas that may be holding you back. Addressing these limitations will make a big difference in helping you maximize performance while reducing the risk of injury. If you don’t have access to a good baseball strength coach like Josh Heenan, I’d recommend checking out the Assess & Correct program.

Objectively Evaluate Your Season: Take an honest look at your past season. If you kept charts of your games, you can make this process more precise, looking at things like % of first or 2nd pitch strikes, % strikes on off-speed pitches. Did you struggle with command of your off-speed pitches or have a tough time putting guys away? In short, what did you do well, and what could you do better.

Step 2: List Your Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses

Give this one some real thought, think back to your successes and failures on the mound. What do you do well, what could you do better. Is your velocity a strength, your control a weakness (or vice versa)? Do you have a good fastball, but lack command of your changeup? What about your breaking ball? How well do you control the running game and field your position. Do you pitch as well with runners on base as you do from the windup?

The idea here is to brainstorm a little, get it all on paper. Come up with 2 lists: Strength and Weaknesses. This, along with the Step 1 (Getting Assessed), will give you a good starting point for creating meaningful goals for your off-season training. Then you can get to work on enhancing your strengths and minimizing your weaknesses.

Step 3: Write Down Your Goals – There’s Power in Putting Them on Paper!

Come up with two sets of goals, short-term and long-term.

Short-Term Goals (3-6 months): These are your goals for this off-season. Use the results from Steps 1 and 2 to help you come up with focused goals to help you maximize your winter workouts. Maybe your goals are to improve mobility, strength and velocity. Maybe you want to develop a good changeup or a better curveball. Maybe you want to get more comfortable pitching from the stretch. Wanting to “make the team” is fine too, but just make sure you include some specifics that focus on doing the things necessary to make that happen.

Long-Term Goals (1, 3, 5, 10 years): Have fun with this one. You can put things down like “throw 90 MPH by my senior year” or “play pro ball.” Big, aggressive goals and dreams are great motivators. Write them down, make affirmations out of them (“I will play pro baseball”), pin them up somewhere you can see them every day. Your long term goals and dreams are your fuel for staying committed and putting in all of the hard work.

Step 4: Develop a Plan for Achieving Your Goals

Once you have your goals on paper, the next step is coming up with a solid plan for achieving those goals. How many days a week do you need to train, lift, throw? What specific exercises and drills will help you make the necessary improvements? This is where working together with a good pitching coach and/or strength trainer can make a difference. If you don’t have access to either in your area, send me an email and I will be happy to help in any way I can: Phil@BetterPitching.com

Step 5: Stick to The Plan!

Whatever plan you come up with, it does no good if it just sits there on paper. Too often people start something with good intentions only to lose momentum or focus or both. I like the plans I’ve come up with for my pitchers, but there are plenty of other coaches out there who can come up with a good plan, too.

What you want to avoid is second guessing, where you try something for a bit, then try something else, then find another approach that looks interesting… this gets you nowhere. Persistence and consistency, those are the final ingredients for reaching your goals.

So if you’ve followed Steps 1 through 4, don’t overlook Step 5: Stick to The Plan!

This isn’t the only formula for creating a good off-season training program, but my goal is just to simplify the process and give you easy to follow steps that can really make a big difference for you this off-season.

 
And if you’re looking for a Complete System of Drills for maximizing your training this off-season, don’t forget to check out the Ballistic Pitching Blueprint!

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