One of the things I tend to emphasize with my pitchers is the need for good tempo on the mound. And most of the time when I talk to them about tempo, I’m referring to their mechanics – the need to get athletic, get in a good rhythm, and move their bodies powerfully towards home plate. But the idea of having good tempo carries over to other areas of pitching that have nothing to do with mechanics.

Well… I guess I can’t really say that. One of the things I believe strongly in is the idea that everything affects everything. You have a problem with your legs, it affects your arm. You start overanalyzing and thinking too much, it affects your ability to throw strikes. Take too long between pitches, and you can lose your flow and get out of sync with your mechanics. But I digress…

The point is, when it comes to good tempo on the mound, I’m not just talking about mechanics. But before we go further, we should ask ourselves:

What exactly is tempo, anyway?

Here’s a simple definition from Wikipedia:

“In musical terminology, tempo (Italian for time, plural: tempi) is the speed or pace of a given piece. Tempo is a crucial element of most musical compositions, as it can affect the mood and difficulty of a piece.”

So put simply, tempo is about speed and pace. Just as the tempo of a musical piece can affect the mood of the music, your tempo as a pitcher will affect your mood in a game – your focus, your intensity, and your rhythm in your delivery.

[h4]Here are just some of the ways Good Tempo matters for a pitcher:[/h4] [h5]Tempo in your delivery:[/h5] One of the big issues I see with pitchers who’ve been taught to have “good pitching mechanics” is a tendency to move too slowly in their deliveries. They obsess about getting to key positions in the pitching motion.

When they miss with a pitch, they jump to the conclusion that it must be their mechanics. Then on the next pitch, they slow things down in an effort to control their mechanics. All this does is disrupt the natural flow of momentum, killing velocity and actually hurting their control.

See, when you move too slowly and deliberately, not only do you lose momentum and power, you make it tougher to pitch with good timing in your delivery. The pitching delivery is a dynamic, ballistic chain of movements involving your entire body – from the height of your leg lift to ball release takes less than a second. So good timing is absolutely critical for an efficient delivery.

So when a pitcher’s struggling with their control, rather than have them start thinking too much about their mechanics, you’re better off giving a simple suggestion like:

“Good tempo right here.”

This will help them get in a good rhythm, and before you know it, they’re back on track. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this work.

Better tempo also helps produce more powerful mechanics. For more on this, read this article: Pitching Mechanics: Better Tempo Increases Torque

Or watch this video to see better tempo in action:

[h5]Tempo with your breathing:[/h5] In the heat of competition it can be tough to control your breathing. Your adrenaline gets pumping, your heart rate picks up, and your breathing gets shallow. But it’s important as a pitcher, to pay attention when this is happening. When your breath gets shallow, it adds to your stress and can cause you to tense up on the mound. This works against you as a pitcher in a number of ways.

When you tense up, you make it harder to stay fluid with your delivery, causing you to lose power and control with your pitches. You tend to fall into panic mode with your thoughts, affecting your approach and your confidence.

So when this happens in a game, when the pace of things start to speed up and you feel them getting out of control, focus on one thing you can always control:

Your own breath!

Take a deep, relaxing breath and say to yourself something soothing like “relax.” Maintaining good pace with your breathing can help you stay focused on the task at hand, and free your body up to execute the pitch with precision and power.

[h5]Tempo between pitches[/h5] Okay, so if good tempo is important when you’re on the mound, it’s equally important when you’re off the mound. What you do between pitches, your approach, will dictate the quality of your next pitch. Take too long between pitches, and you’ll have a tough time ever getting in a good rhythm out there.

You’ll also infuriate your fielders, who don’t like to stand around forever while you try to get your mind right. Every once in a while, a good walk around the mound is called for, but save this for times when you really need it. You don’t want to turn into a human rain delay out there.

Just take a look at guys like Greg Maddux and Mark Buehrle. Neither hard throwers, but both efficient with their pitches and quick to get the ball back and get on the rubber.

  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here’s a fun tidbit from the website sabr.org:

In an era when games typically take upwards of three hours…

“During his time in Atlanta, Maddux pitched in at least one game every season that ended in 2:16 or less, and on August 20, 1995, he beat the St. Louis Cardinals 1–0 in an hour and 50 minutes.”

Work fast, throw strikes, change speeds. Simple but effective.

So when it comes to good tempo on the mound, it’s not all about mechanics. It’s also about your approach between pitches. It’s about good tempo and pace with your breathing. It’s about nearly everything you do during the course of a game. Learn to control your tempo, with your approach and with your mechanics, and you’re one step closer to pitching mastery.
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[h5]Click below for a Complete System of Drills for developing
a Powerful, Dynamic Pitching Delivery[/h5] BP-Blueprint-Package-2

I’ve recently heard from a number of baseball dads around the country concerned about elbow and forearm soreness their sons have been having while pitching. They all basically want to know same things:

[circle_list] [list_item]Is this normal and what could be causing it?[/list_item] [list_item]Could fixing his mechanics help?[/list_item] [list_item]Should he change the way he’s training?[/list_item] [list_item]Are there forearm exercises he should be doing?[/list_item] [/circle_list]

Just based on this sample of emails, I’m pretty sure there are a lot more young pitchers and concerned parents out there who aren’t sure where to turn for advice. So I thought it could help to address these concerns here with today’s post.

[h5]First, we need to ask what causes most arm injuries in young pitchers?[/h5]

Dr. James Andrews knows more about the alarming increase in the youth pitching injuries than just about anyone else. Here’s an interview he did the other day on the MLB Network.

According to Dr. Andrews, the top reasons for youth pitching injuries are:

1. Year-round baseball: According to one study, young pitchers who play baseball 8 months a year or more are 500% more likely to get injured. I don’t believe you have to go so far as to never pick up a ball for 4 months out of the year, but if you’re actually pitching more than 8 months a year… well, it’s not rocket science, people. Every pitcher should take some time off from pitching at the end of the season to give their arm a chance to recover.

2. Young kids training like professionals: Just about every pitcher I ever played with, in college and the pros, played more than one sport growing up. Is pitching year round really helping kids, or just increasing the risk of injury, burnout and limiting their overall athletic development? Just food for thought…

3. Attending too many showcases when the arm is not in shape: This is a huge problem in today’s youth baseball scene. Overuse during the season is one thing, but an even bigger factor is loading the joints with the stresses of max-effort pitching when guys are out of season. At least in season they’ve been throwing consistently and their arm and body should be in good pitching shape.

4. Trying to light up the radar gun: Now personally, I’m not against using a radar gun, but you have to be smart about it. As a training tool, it can be great for giving you instant feedback, making sure you’re training at a good intensity level, etc. But if your whole goal is to light it up and see how hard you can throw from day one, you’re asking for trouble. Pitching at max effort is incredibly stressful on the joints. You absolutely must be conditioned and in shape to handle this load before you break out the gun and go all out.

So to answer the question, why does my son have forearm soreness, here is my response. It’s impossible to know without seeing him in person and knowing his full history and background. But one thing I can just about guarantee…

It’s not just one thing! It’s more than likely a number of factors including:

[circle_list] [list_item]Mechanics (use Video Motion Analysis – if you’re not assessing, you’re guessing)[/list_item] [list_item]Overuse[/list_item] [list_item]Too much too soon[/list_item] [list_item]Lack of proper warm-up[/list_item] [list_item]Lack of proper conditioning (being under-prepared to handle the stresses of pitching[/list_item] [/circle_list]

Whatever the root cause, it’s important to be aware of the difference between soreness and injury. If a pitcher is grimacing every time he makes a pitch, take the ball away and get him in to see a good sports doctor immediately. If it’s just soreness and the discomfort is temporary, rest and a good strength program can do the trick – but it may still make senses to consult with a Dr. or Physical Therapist. Soreness can be a warning sign, your body telling you something isn’t right.

And as far as exercises, there’s a complex of forearm exercises I usually recommend. These are all exercises I did myself and that tons of top-level pitchers do as part of their rehab or pre-hab. They’re all easy to do and can be done anywhere using a band, dumbbell, hammer, or baseball bat.

Hammer-Circuit

Exercises geared towards grip strength can also go a long way towards protecting and building joint integrity in the elbow. A solid routine that takes into account mobility as well as shoulder and scapular stability should also be part of your regular arm care work.

Lastly, for your arm care to be effective, you have to be CONSISTENT with it. For a powerful (but Super-Simple) Arm Care program you can do anywhere without a lot of fancy equipment, click here (it’s Free!):

EZ Arm Care Program For Pitchers

Bottom line: Dealing with soreness is an unfortunate part of pitching, but pitching in pain is completely different. Be aware of the signs and the top causes of arm injuries. Use video, get assessed, train smart, and prepare your body to pitch before you let it loose on the mound!

 

Looking to keep your arm Healthy this season? Having a good arm care program (and STICKING with it) is a must.

Go Here to Grab Your EZ Arm Care Program (It's Free!)

 

In my last post, Pitching Principle #2: Momentum, I talked about the power of momentum and how you can use it to your advantage. And one of the great things about pitching is you get to create your own momentum. You’re the one with the ball, after all.

But to do this, you need to start by taking action. So as a follow-up, I wanted to give you some simple steps to help you get started.

[h3]5 Steps for Creating Your Own Momentum:[/h3]  
[h4]1. Train early weight shift:[/h4] To create good momentum in your pitching delivery, you need to get your body moving towards home plate. Here’s a good drill for training early weight shift:

To start, find a net or wall to stand next to, and practice your motion with or without a ball. When done correctly, your throwing hand shouldn’t come close to hitting the net.

[h4]2. Incorporate long toss and step behinds into your throwing program:[/h4] To really get the feel for throwing with good momentum, it can help to free yourself from the confines of the pitching delivery. When doing these, just focus on maintaining your driveline and getting your body moving towards your target.

[h4]3. Train & work with other motivated people:[/h4] Even the most dedicated player is going to have days when he doesn’t feel like training. This is when having a group or team of equally motivated, dedicated players can make a big difference. You’ll pick each other up and give each other a good kick in the rear when you need to.

Then there’s the added benefit you get from friendly competition. Some days, you may think you’re working hard, but then seeing how hard the other guy’s getting after it, you’ll find a way to take it up a notch. The right training partners will help you keep moving, progressing, building momentum. I can’t understate how powerful this can be.

[h4]4. Remember that YOU are in control:[/h4] It’s important to remember that, as a pitcher, you are the one in control. Nothing happens until you throw the ball. Your mindset, your mental approach, will dictate how you pitch. You want to project confidence on the mound, a sense of being in command, that you’re focused on attacking the strike zone.

Get ahead and work fast. When you attack the strike zone and work fast, you put the hitter back on his heels, on the defensive. Take a page out of Mark Buehrle’s playbook.

Take a step back and reset when things are going against you. When things start speeding up and you sense things slipping away, you need to stop and disrupt that negative momentum. Step off the mound, relax and get some perspective. Remember you are the one in control. Keep it simple and focus your attention where it needs to be: your next pitch.

[h4]5. Take action and be consistent:[/h4] Set motivating goals and review them daily. Challenge yourself to do this over the next 30 days. Write down your goals and every day (preferably first thing in the morning and before you go to bed) review your goals. It can help to have them posted somewhere you’ll see them often (next to your bathroom mirror, for example). If you repeat this for 30 days, it will become a habit, something you just do as part of your normal routine.

Commit to taking the necessary steps to move towards your goals. Ask yourself what you can do today to make you a better pitcher. Maybe it’s time in the gym, maybe it’s your bullpen and developing command of your pitches, maybe it’s visualization practice. Whatever it is, make it clear, achievable and commit to taking action today.

Build on your successes. When you accomplish your short term goals, keep raising the bar higher, set your sights on the next steps you need to take near-term. Acknowledge and feel good about your accomplishment, but don’t rest and let yourself lose momentum.

[h4]Bonus Step:[/h4] Whenever you feel yourself losing momentum, watch this video.

Say what you want about Ray Lewis, the man can motivate!
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