Over the years, I've pulled together a large collection of baseball pitching drills to develop high-velocity mechanics...
I call it my Pitcher's Toolbox, and I want to share it with you today.
Now I can't take all the credit for these pitching drills.
Although I've been teaching pitching for a long time, I still consult and share ideas with other pitching experts.
I believe that to become better coaches, we must continually search for new ways of communicating pitching knowledge to different pitchers.
Each time we hear a new way to explain a skill or concept—or we learn a new pitching drill or training method—we grow.
This helps us become better students of the game...
...and better teachers for our kids.
It may even be that the more we learn, the less we coach, because when we have mastered the art and science of pitching, we will know what works for nearly every pitcher we work with.
Using drills to improve pitching technique
In order to maximize the effectiveness of any baseball pitching drill, we must remember three key points:
- Pitching drills must be as specific and goal-based as possible—and they must include constant feedback.
This means, if a pitcher wants to improve fastball velocity and throw as hard as the Michael Wachas of the world, he should constantly measure his progress with a radar gun.
Or if he wants to improve a specific aspect of his pitching delivery, he should videotape and review his mechanics on a regular basis.
- Pitching drills should implement speed changes (slower and faster movements) and stimulus differences (lighter and heavier training aids) to help ingrain and enhance the specific movement patterns a pitcher is looking to improve.
Slow movements are practiced to learn or modify technique until it is usable at fast speed.
And this 1994 study and this 1995 study suggest that overload and underload training with weighted implements using can improve pitching performance.
- Pitching drills require deliberate practice.
Deliberate practice is not the same as rote repetition. Rote repetition — simply repeating a task over and over— will not by itself improve performance.
Deliberate practice involves attention, rehearsal and repetition, and leads to new knowledge or skills that can later be developed into more complex knowledge and skills.
Although other factors such as talent, intelligence and motivation certainly affect performance, practice and long-term commitment are a huge predictors of success.
In other words, to build and retain skill, continued practice is required.
Backward chaining and back shaping
One specific technique that seems to have great transfer (i.e., shortens the learning cycle and is specific to the problem) is a technique called backward chaining or back shaping.
The idea behind backward chaining drills for pitching is to start at the end and work backwards—working just past the point of the problem area or mechanical flaw, work backward through the trouble spot, isolate and solidify the movement, and then finish the remainder of the skill.
So if the mechanical fault is the pitcher's release point, the drill would start just after the release, isolating and solidifying what a pitcher is trying to feel after the release point portion of the delivery.
Drills like this have been the most beneficial addition to pitchers training programs over the last several years.
Chunking and blending
Another training tool that has proven to be effective is called chunking or blending, as described by Daniel Coyle in his book, The Talent Code.
If you don't already have a copy of the book, you can get it here.
Chunking takes big, complex tasks such as the explosive movements of the pitching delivery and chunks it up into several smaller skills or drills in a circuit-type setting so they will transfer faster to the actual skill of pitching.
So instead of keeping skill-building activities separate from the activity, the skill or drill is implemented as part of an actual bullpen or scrimmage session.
Here's an example of a three-throw circuit that chunks or blends three drills together:
- First throw—
Perform "Rocker Drill" from flat ground:
Rock back and forth working on your timing and rhythm three times and then deliver a pitch to the target. This drill is designed to work on timing and rhythm. I would do this for a player that seems to be delivering a pitch at the wrong time.
- Second throw—
Perform "Momentum throw with arm swings" from flat ground:
Stride toward the plate with your arms and legs swinging in rhythm. Deliver a powerful throw with all of your momentum going to the target. This drill is designed to work on keeping your body moving forward, being athletic and throwing hard.
- Third throw—
Pitch from mound:
Player will try to incorporate the two drills into this pitch. He will think about keeping his momentum going to the plate as well as releasing the ball at the correct time.
After doing this three throw cycle, you would do it 10 times until you reach 30 total throws.
Pitching velocity drills and techniques
Let's get to the drills in my pitcher's toolbox.
The following drills may be useful for coaches and/or pitchers as a source of reference for methods to help change or adjust various mechanical pitching faults. Each drill is designed to isolate a very specific technique within the various segments and sequences of the pitching motion.
Most of these pitching drills draw upon the work of Ron Wolforth of the Texas Baseball Ranch; former MLB pitching coach Brent Strom; Paul Nyman, formerly of Setpro, and many others—and builds upon earlier research on overload training by Dr. Coop DeRenne in the early 1990s. They're demonstrated by college pitching coach Gregg Swensen.
Here are 33 of the most effective baseball drills for pitching:
Mini-Medicine Ball Series
1. 45 degrees drill
2. Forward full drill
3. Forward square drill
4. Lawnmowers drill
5. Perpendicular drill
6. Reverse full drill
7. Reverse square drill
Connection Ball Series
Intro - Learning the steps
8. Heel clicks drill
9. Hook 'em drill (Step 1)
10. Hook 'em drill (Step 2)
11. Jump backs drill
12. Marshall torque drill
13. Rocker step drill
14. Step behind drill
15. Stroms drill
16. Turn and burn drill
17. Walking torque drill
18. Walking wind up drill
Intro - Learning the steps
19. Heel clicks drill
20. Hook 'em drill (Step 1)
21. Hook 'em drill (Step 2)
22. Jump backs drill
23. Marshall torque drill
24. Rocker step drill
25. Step behind drill
26. Stroms drill
27. Turn and burn drill
28. Walking torque drill
29. Walking windup drill
30. Pronation drill (Step 1)
31. Pronation drill (Step 2)
32. Figure 8 drill
Here's a pitching drill from Randy Sullivan of ARMory Pitching:
33. Reverse throws drill
Here's a pitching drill from Kyle Boddy of Driveline Baseball:
Get my youth pitching program
While there aren't many pitching programs that are age-appropriate and safe for kids 7-14, there is one that provides youth pitchers with effective guidelines for strength training, pitching mechanics, and how to pitch faster in baseball.
What do you think?
Now it's time to hear from you:
What's your favorite pitching velocity drill?
Are there any pitching drills that I missed?
Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this list even better.
Either way, leave a comment and let me know.