19 Best Exercises For Baseball Pitchers

Learn pitching-specific exercises to increase strength, speed and power

By Steven Ellis, former pro pitcher

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ATTENTION PARENTS: 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. Click here to learn more about my youth pitching program.

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Pitching exercises article

Let's talk about pitching exercises...

Have you ever asked yourself these questions:

What are the best pitching exercises to increase throwing arm strength? Should pitchers do more rotator cuff exercises or leg exercises to pitch faster? Are there any exercises that pitchers should avoid?

In this article, you'll learn the best baseball exercises for pitchers to increase velocity and throw harder.

But first, let's review this...

Here's what we know about throwing harder:

  1. To boost velocity, you have to throw.

    Bullpen throwing sessions, long toss routines and flat ground technique are all essential for improving pitching performance.

  2. To boost velocity, you have to throw mechanically correct.

    Finding a mechanical fault is the easy part. Knowing the cause and effect is the key to long-term success.

  3. To boost velocity, you have to develop a combination of strength, speed, power, mobility, stability and flexibility.

    A focus on functional training that utilizes pitcher-specific exercises to improve these qualities will give you an edge.

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Should pitchers lift weights?

Just a short time ago, most baseball coaches thought strength training exercises would cause pitchers to become muscle-bound and lose flexibility.

But a 2008 study now shows a strong correlation between muscular strength, body mass (which increases as a result of gaining muscle and eating 500 extra calories per day to gain 1-2 lbs per week) and pitch velocity.

When pitchers lift weights, their muscles get stronger so they can produce more force. When pitchers learn to express this force quickly through training, they improve their power.

Power, therefore, is best described as strong movements performed with speed.

The formula looks like this:

Power = speed x strength

With proper mobility in certain joints, stability in others, and flexibility that allows for a full range of motion—the pitcher now has a launching pad for this power that directly translates to a better fastball.

A great fastball starts with strong legs

Ask a casual baseball fan how to throw harder and he'll probably say, "Strengthen your arm."

That's only partially right.

This 2013 study and this 2011 study among many others suggest pitchers generate most of their power from their lower body, using the hips, glutes, quads and hamstrings to transfer force from the ground through the torso and to the arm.

Pitchers who are able to throw the fastest develop the largest ground reaction forces, suggesting that a pitch depends on energy generation from the legs.– 2011 Aug;25(8):2127-32.

  • The forward linear movement of the lower body being initiated with the hips/butt is a crucial move if a pitcher wants to develop elite velocity. The faster a pitcher moves down the mound with proper timing of all actions, the faster he will throw.

This is why pitchers should focus most of their time on those full-body exercises that build up the lower body—and not just those arm strengthening exercises that develop the throwing arm, scaps, shoulder or rotator cuff.

The youth pitching exercises and routines included here are some that I've found to be effective.

This is by no means an exhaustive list; however, for pitchers who are looking for new baseball exercises, the following will be helpful.

Even pitchers who already have an effective strength and conditioning program, such as the TUFFCUFF Jr pitching guide which I strongly recommend, will find valuable exercises that can be incorporated into their routine.

Here are 19 exercises to help you throw harder this season:

1 & 2. Push-ups and Push-ups with Swiss ball

Push-ups exercise for pitchers

Push-ups are the best total upper body strength exercise for building chest and core strength all at once.

Be sure to do the following:

  • Have the hands shoulder-level and just wider than shoulder-width.
  • Contract the glute muscles to help keep the body level and help core contraction.
  • When doing push-ups, go down to a count of "2" and then raise to a count of "1".

Variations of this pitching exercise include:

Swiss ball push-ups imagePush-ups with a Swiss ball exercise for pitchers

3. Basketball cuff dribble

90° Cuff Dribble image90°/90° cuff dribble with a basketball exercise for pitchers

One of the most important positions during the throw/pitch is getting the throwing shoulder into correct position just prior to arm acceleration and ball release.

High velocity pitchers display maximum arm external rotation (known as MER or the "forearm layback" position) of 180° or more.

It looks like this:

Maximum external rotation image

You can train this movement by standing 6 inches from a wall with a basketball or a 3-lb medicine ball.

Be sure to do the following:

  • Stand facing 6 inches from wall.
  • Bring active elbow to shoulder height 90° with arm bent at 90°.
  • Dribble ball against wall as fast as possible maintaining 90°/90°. Do not catch the ball. It's a tap, tap, tap, tap, tap, tap...
  • 30 dribbles counts as one set.

4. Plyometric 3-lb med ball exercises

Traditionally, the Thrower’s 10, Jobes, J-Bands, elastic tubing, and T’s, Y’s and I’s are commonly used arm care programs to strengthen and condition the throwing arm.

All of these training programs emphasize the development of the shoulder muscles to throw more efficiently to realize greater results.

In a 2007 study, it was discovered that athletes who strengthen their upper body and improve their eccentric strength will realize a 2 mph average increase in the speed of their fastballs after 8 weeks of training compared to those who used traditional strength training programs (0.27 mph increase in the control group).

The six exercises below, known as the Ballistic Six, performed in a ballistic (quick) manner using a reverse throwing type of motion to elicit powerful stretch reflexes, can help improve arm speed.

Ballistic six exercises for pitchers imageThe Ballistic Six. (a–b) Latex tubing external rotation. (c–d) Latex tubing 90/90 external rotation. (e–f) Overhead soccer throw using a 6-lb medicine ball. (g–i) 90/90 external rotation side-throw using a 2-lb medicine ball. (j–l) Deceleration baseball throw using a 2–lb medicine ball. (m–o) Baseball throw using a 2-lb medicine ball.

5. Plyometric 10-lb med ball exercises

A 2008 study showed rotational medicine ball exercises and med ball throws using a 10-lb medicine ball significantly improved performance.

Here's a great example of a medicine ball exercise for pitchers that can be performed without a partner:

Recoiled rollover stomps exercise for pitchers

Variations of this pitching exercise include:

Step-behind rotational med ball shotput exercise for pitchers

6 & 7. Lunges and 1-leg lunge extensions

Lunge exercise for pitchers imageWalking DB lunge exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Take large step
  • Back knee drops to ground-down not forward-shin of front leg should be straight up and down… knee never goes in front of toes
  • Reach DB’s down to the ground, touching the ground at the same time as your knee
  • Back should be at about 45 degree angle… Should stay that angle while coming up
  • Step into next rep without stopping

Variations of this pitching exercise include:

Plate walk exercise for pitchers imagePlate walk exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Hold weight straight out in front of you
  • Take lunge step
  • Twist with your arms going over your front leg… shoulders should be turned 90 degrees
  • Step into next step, twisting while going down into lunge position

8 & 9. Jump rope and 1-lb weighted jump rope

A 2011 study found 3 minutes using a 1-lb weighted jumping rope (done in three 1-minute sets per day) for 12 weeks can increase rotator cuff external rotation strength by 55%.

This is important for pitchers because this 2010 study found external rotation weakness to increase arm injury risk.

10. Front drop back lunge

Front drop back lunge exercise for pitchers imageFront drop back lunge exercise for pitchers

The gluteal muscles should be warmed-up prior to knee and hip extension while maintaining an upright trunk posture.

Be sure to do the following:

  • Hold a dumbbell or medicine ball under your chin for resistance.
  • Drop your foot back on a 45 degree angle until an approximated 90 degree lunge is achieved with a slightly arched lower back.
  • Finish the movement with your feet aligned at shoulder width.

11. Medicine ball lateral swing hop

Medicine ball lateral swing hop exercise for pitchers imageMedicine ball lateral swing hop exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Place a medicine ball about the loaded, drive hip.
  • While in a modified lunge position with the drive leg, the stride leg is placed behind as a counterbalance.
  • The athlete should perform 3 – 4 sets of 4 – 6 continuous swing hops.
  • The medicine ball and lateral push-off should occur simultaneously and follow the same direction.
  • A soft landing should be employed by the stride foot, dropping the drive foot back at 45 degrees.
  • The landing will then reverse the roles of the lower extremities and direction of the medicine ball swing.

12. Lateral ground hop

Lateral ground hop exercise for pitchers imageLateral ground hop exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • The athlete will begin in a kneeling position with opposite knee and hand orientation (contralateral hand and knee).
  • The athlete will generate powerful hip extension, abduction and knee extension in propelling the body in a lateral direction.
  • The athlete should emphasize landing softly and train on a soft surface to reduce compression stress about lower extremity joints (2).
  • The athlete should perform 4 – 5 sets of 3 – 4 jumps to start.

13. Mini line hops

Mini line hops exercise for pitchers imageMini line hops exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • The athlete will have a slightly bent support knee for mini hops while maintaining hip flexion with the opposite leg.
  • The athlete then performs 15 – 20 side-to-side hops for 3 – 4 sets.
  • The hop exercises can be performed in place, or while moving in a forward direction.
  • The emphasis is on minimizing jump height in combination with rapid landing and side-to-side redirection.

14. Elevated front split squat

Elevated front split squat exercise for pitchers imageElevated front split squat exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • The athlete will hold a medicine ball or dumbbell under their chin.
  • With the hind foot elevated higher than the lead foot, the athlete will drop into a deep lunge at greater than 90 degrees (approximated 100 – 110 degrees) hip flexion and then extend in place.
  • This position improves gluteal and rectus femoris stretching for the stride leg, while promoting drive-leg groin flexibility.

15. Plyometric lunge ground hop

Plyometric lunge ground hop exercise for pitchers imagePlyometric lunge ground hop exercise for pitchers

Like the lateral ground hop, the plyometric lunge ground hop promotes explosive lower body contraction from a static, pre-stretched position.

This exercise differs from the lateral ground hop as it emphasizes greater hip and knee flexion/extension rather than a combination of hip abduction, hip extension and knee extension.

An elevated landing will reduce compression stress about the lower extremities.

13. Single leg dead lift

Single leg dead lift exercise for pitchers imageSingle leg barbell dead lift exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • The athlete will set the rack safety guards to allow for slight knee flexion of the lead knee and place the bar at approximately mid-shin height.
  • In maintaining a flat back with an extended unsupported leg, the athlete will extend upward by relying on hip extension of the ground-supported leg until achievement of an upright position.
  • It is important that the weight is appropriate to ensure utilization of hip extension in raising the weight rather than back extension and scapular retraction.

Single leg dumbbell dead lift exercise for pitchers imageSingle leg dumbbell dead lift exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Squat down touching DB’s on the ground… keep heels on ground.

16. Single leg medicine ball chest toss

Single leg medicine ball chest toss exercise for pitchers imageSingle leg medicine ball chest toss exercise for pitchers

Athletes should only initiate this activity after hamstrings flexibility and eccentric training has occurred to reduce any risk of strain injury to the hamstrings.

Be sure to do the following:

  • The athlete will begin with the hip flexion of the unsupported leg and slight knee flexion of the supported leg.
  • In a powerful, coordinated effort, the athlete will flex at the trunk and extend at the hip and knee of the unsupported leg and deliver a forceful chest pass.
  • The athlete should do no more than 4 – 6 repetitions per leg for 3 – 4 sets on each leg.
  • Due to the ballistic nature of this exercise, rapid loading is experienced by the hamstrings.

17. Single leg cable row

Single leg cable row exercise for pitchers imageSingle leg cable row exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Using a low cable machine, stand on one leg, grab attachment with opposite hand.
  • Torso should be leaned slightly forward. 
  • Pull hand into your hip.
  • Let arm back out with your shoulder stretching forward.
  • Repeat

18 & 19. Planks and side planks

Planks exercise for pitchers imagePlanks exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Get on forearms and toes. 
  • Back should be flat or slightly above flat.
  • You should NOT feel this in your lower back. If you do, you probably need to get higher.
  • Keep breathing and try to relax. You should feel it in your abs.
  • Hold as long as you can keep your hips up. When hips go down, the set is over.

Side planks exercise for pitchers imageSide planks exercise for pitchers

Be sure to do the following:

  • Get on one of your forearms and your same side foot. 
  • Place other foot on top of the bottom foot.
  • Raise your hips slightly above straight.
  • Should feel in your bottom side.
  • Hold as long as you can until hips start to drop.

Additional shoulder and arm exercises for baseball pitchers

All throwing athletes, not just pitchers, need a strong and healthy rotator cuff. If for some reason, one or more of the rotator cuff muscles can’t help stabilize the shoulder; most major motions of the shoulder become impossible. An unstable shoulder can lead to impingement, tendonitis, bursitis, tears, joint wear, and pain.

Remember, the rotator cuff consists of four small muscles that run from the shoulder blade (scapula) to the top of the upper arm (humerous).

As a group, they stabilize the upper arm in the shoulder socket and allow it its range of motion.

To maintain a healthy shoulder, you can do "Jobes exercises," named after the late Dr. Frank Jobe, who authored a pamphlet in 1982 called Shoulder and Arm Exercises for Baseball Players. It essentially became the first arm care program for MLB pitchers, and 40 years later these exercises are still widely used in the big leagues.

Be sure to do the following:

  • You can do Jobe-type exercises for the muscles of the rotator cuff 3-4 times per week year round.
  • Do the exercises listed below with dumbbells.
  • High schoolers should start with 3 pounds, graduating to 5 pounds.
  • Start with sets of 10 and move to sets of 20.

Jobes pitching exercises imageJobes pitching exercises imageJobes pitching exercises imageJobes pitching exercises for the rotator cuff


Get my youth pitching program

Youth pitching program

If your son is a pitcher, you're going to love this guide...

While there aren't many pitching workouts that are age-appropriate and safe for kids 7-14, there is one that provides youth pitchers with a daily routine to improve mechanics, increase functional strength and keep their throwing arm healthy.

If you believe good mechanics, good physical fitness and a good throwing regimen are crucial to your son's arm health, velocity and success, click here to learn more about my youth pitching program.

Learn more

What do you think?

Now it's time to hear from you:

Are there any pitching exercises 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.

READ THIS NEXT: 17 Workout Tips Every Youth Pitcher Should Know

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