high school student training for youth pitching
Youth pitching development requires intentional strength training that supports essential arm care.

We’ve all got our biases of what works and what doesn’t with baseball players, especially in regard to weight training, arm care, and velocity training. I have been a National Pitching Association certified pitching coach for a little over two years, and have plenty of success stories to share with both athletes and parents. When I started my journey in high school coaching, I was given the freedom to focus on my specialties with our team. Thanks to this, our throwers gained an average of 6 MPH of velocity, with zero injuries. You read that right—ZERO injuries.  There was some soreness of course, but with the protocols I’ve learned from National Pitching, we were able to modify our training for the soreness without having to completely rest an athlete. 

Strength Training Modifications for Rotational Athletes

Our first modification was how we train in the weight room. You can hop on any social media outlet, search up strength training for baseball players, and see influencer after influencer insisting that high school athletes should be doing major muscle power lifts like power cleans, back squats, bench press, dead lifts, and the list goes on. Those are great movements if you’re a linear athlete that needs to push people and equipment around on a consistent basis.  The problem is that rotational athletes don’t work that way.  Yes, there is a linear component, but most of the oomph a pitcher, thrower, or hitter gets is from the rotational piece in their delivery of either a ball or piece of equipment that strikes the ball.  

We decided that we were going to focus on smaller muscles with light weight, high reps using cross specific movements, still do some power moves with no heavier than body weight on a bar, and follow up by a dynamic movement such as a box jump or squat jump. Core was a huge focus as we would always finish off the workout with 5 to 10 minutes of continuous core work. 

These are all tenets of the National Pitching program. We worked on making sure we hit the back side of our bodies as intently as the front side. Tom likes to say, “You can’t speed up what you can’t slow down.”  In other words, if you have a Ferrari motor in the front(accelerators), but Camry brakes in the back (decelerators), your chance of injury increases substantially. So our foundation has to be training all of the right muscles properly. Plus, high school kids between 14 and 18 are still growing, so to repeatedly lift heavy weights at that age is a recipe for disaster.  Most of the injuries I’ve seen in a weight room in high school were due to using weights that were much too heavy.  Of course poor form was involved as well in many instances, but light weights will allow you to survive the poor form long enough for a strength coach who is a stickler on good form to spot the problem and correct it for proper, safe technique.

Prioritizing Arm Care Throughout Training

The next thing we did was focus on mechanics with incorporated arm care. We trained using the first 5 blocks from the National Pitching manual or membership videos almost exclusively. We completely outlawed any throwing unless our athletes were properly warmed up, and it took a few strict discussions to get our point across. One of the worst things a thrower can do is get out there and just start throwing.  Unfortunately, most don’t know better because this is what many of us did in the past, and “we turned out just fine.” However, once they go through our warmup blocks, then begin to throw, they quickly understand how they had truly never been warmed up and ready to throw.  

All throwers were required to go through video analysis of their throwing motion. Using the sequencing model from National Pitching allowed us to find the weak sequencing in each of our athletes. Some needed to be sped up, some needed to have better balance or posture, and all worked to get better at hip/shoulder separation and having a stable front side. Within the workouts using block 4, and 5 each athlete was able to work on their weak movement. On top of better mechanics seen from using block 4, their arm care began to improve greatly. 

At first many of them had backside shoulder soreness from all the holds, but within a couple weeks those were gone. Before any throwing out, I would ask them to give me a rate on the freshness of their arm. If it was low, then there was no letting go of the ball that day.  If it was high, then we would work on mechanics from flat ground while throwing the baseball. Whether they were releasing the ball or not did not hinder their growth.  

Using Velo Program Measurements

After about six weeks of arm care and mechanics work we tested each of the guys using the ArmCare.com dynamometer to check the level of their arm health. We had some strong scores which allowed us to push forward with the National Pitching velocity ball program. For those that did not meet my minimum requirements they were able to begin the workout program, but had to start with holds only until they could get their arm care score up to where it should be. 

If there were any imbalances in the shoulder on the arm care score I could also adjust the velo program to meet the needs of that athlete. Each athlete had their own program to follow under supervision. Velo gains can be finicky, and imbalances and/or functional strength deficiencies can hinder gain and raise the potential for injury. The first couple weeks we checked velos, and some went up a little and some even were down from our initial testing. However, we really preach PROCESS at National Pitching, so when athletes hung their heads because of a poor velo reading, it was a good opportunity to remind them that process is the key value, not results.  

You may be wondering at this point if we totally ditched the protocols that allowed us to be healthy enough to handle a velocity program. Not at all! Each athlete was given a workout plan to follow in addition to the velocity plan of workouts. After four more weeks using our velo protocols of hold and throws with very specific weights on our NPA weighted balls, it was time to see what improvements we had made as a team.  Here were the results:

6-week Team Velo Program 

  • Average Velo Gain – 5.7 MPH 
  • Top Velo Gains – 11 MPH (Outfielder) 10 MPH (QB/Pitcher) 9 MPH (Catcher) 
  • 15 Players Gained 5+ MPH 
  • From 3 80+ Throwers to 11 80+ Throwers, 1 90+ Thrower (started 83)

As you can see from the results, we had some very substantial gains in the velo department. That was made possible by better weight training and better mechanics-focused workouts that also incorporated arm care.  

Youth Pitching – Safe and Effective Thrower Development

Arm care, velo, and mechanics are not mutually exclusive pieces of the puzzle for throwers.  Each can be hit on in every workout through our program at National Pitching. When athletes follow our program, they don’t go through the pain and soreness that some believe are just a part of being a thrower. Because of this, I now have 32 young athletes that know arm pain isn’t a way of life for a baseball player. I encourage you to take the time to find a National Pitching coach in your area to help your team or young athlete realize these types of gains.   

Powered By MemberPress WooCommerce Plus Integration