21 Best Off-Season Workouts For Pitchers

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Nothing beats watching Justin Verlander pitch.

The guy's been at the top of his game for years, and there's good reason for that.

Justin Verlander fastball
Image source: Bless You Boys

Here's something I found interesting...

Justin Verlander off-season workout image
Did you know that Justin Verlander went into his freshman year of college as a skinny guy throwing 93 mph?

Obviously, that's not bad at all.

The kid was still an absolute stud.

But by following an off-season strength and conditioning program his freshman year in college, he added 30 pounds of lean muscle mass to his frame and says it was almost entirely in his legs.

The result?

He managed to go from 93 mph to 97 mph that year in college alone.

In the big leagues, Verlander's fastball has touched 100+ mph early in his career, and he still consistently sits in the mid-to upper 90s mph even now—definitely impressive!

In this article, you'll learn how pitchers can increase velocity and improve their strength and conditioning during the off-season.

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Pitchers are made in the off-season

A few weeks ago I get this email from the parent of a 14 year old pitcher...

The email said:

Coach Ellis – If pitchers are made during the off-season, what workouts should pitchers do to improve their pitching skills, their velocity, and their strength and conditioning?

Have you ever wondered the same thing?

Most of us want to know what workouts are most effective and produce the best results—especially as we approach the fall and winter seasons. And this is exactly what I'm going to share with you in this article:

Annual workout plan for pitchers

Pitching workout chart
Image source: pitchersworkshop.com

Pitching training is not just about developing proper mechanics using video analysis and good mental process building.

It's also planned and centered on modern training principles, such a periodization and sport-specificity.

Overall, a baseball pitcher's workouts are designed to produce desired training effects that include:

  • increasing pitching velocity
  • improving velocity endurance or "late-inning stamina"
  • reducing the risk of injury

In a proper training approach, micro-cycles comprised of incrementally increasing workloads combine to form macro-cycles with specific physical and skill development objectives.

The year's work follows a plan with various elements of workouts being expanded or reduced according to the goals and objectives that belong in that phase.

The workout chart above shows a periodized annual training plan for pitchers.

Training plans should vary depending on the stage of athletic development a player is in.

Youth pitchers at a young age have dramatically different training needs than youth pitchers at older ages. Adult pitchers who have previously established levels of expertise, have specific training needs as well.

Each athlete also has specific individual needs.

Off-season weight training to increase velocity

Avg MLB fastball speed image
Image source: Hardball Times

Here's something to consider:

Did you know that in the past decade, the average MLB fastball speed has increased 1.9 MPH, going from 89.9 MPH in 2004 to 91.8 MPH in 2014?

That's the biggest 10-year gain in pitching velocity in the history of baseball.

During this same time period, stigmas against weight training to improve pitching performance have largely vanished.

In fact, studies now show that proper weight training can greatly improve pitcher performance, as long as the pitching workout program focuses on improving flexibility and prioritizes strengthening a few key areas.

As you plan your off-season conditioning program and develop a planned schedule of your workouts, keep these workout suggestions in mind.

Here are the key areas that pitchers should focus on during their off-season strength training and weight room workouts:

Pitchers leg workouts

The goal for a pitcher is to develop his legs and glutes in order to increase the leg drive necessary to generate velocity.

The following lower-body exercises should form the basis of any leg workouts as the player looks to maximize lower body power:

  1. Squats

    Pitchers workout Squat exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  2. Lunges

    Pitchers workout Lunge exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  3. Deadlift

    Pitchers workout Deadlift exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  4. Single-Leg Deadlift

    Pitchers workout Single-Leg Deadlift exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  5. Plate Walk

    Pitchers workout Plate Walk exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  6. Sumo

    Pitchers workout Sumo exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

Pitchers core workouts

An often emphasized, and generally confused, element of athletic training is core training.

For pitchers, core training should not focus on doing hundreds of sit-ups so that your six-pack emerges.

Rather, engaging the core for pitching training involves doing anti-rotation exercises in order to strengthen the midsection. Cable anti-rotation presses, medicine ball throws and planks should be used for a pitcher's core work.

  1. Plank

    Pitchers workout Plank exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  2. Side Plank

    Pitchers workout Side Plank exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

The reason planks are great at strengthening a pitcher's core is that rather than twisting or crunching, these exercises require the athlete to concentrate on keeping the abs tight and immobile as they encounter resistance which helps a pitcher maintain posture.

Pitchers arm workouts

The rotator cuff and shoulder accelerate and decelerate the throwing arm, and it's no surprise that if you want a healthy arm, arm exercises are a must.

The following pitching arm exercises should form the basis of any upper-body workouts as the player looks to maximize arm speed, arm strength and arm stamina:

  1. Six Packs

  2. Standing Manuals

  3. High Outside Pull & Lift

  4. Front Raise

  5. Lateral Arm Raise

  6. Reverse Pulls

  7. Throwing Motion w/ Resistance

  8. Reverse Flies

Pitchers upper back and scap workouts

Beyond the shoulder strengthening exercises described above that every pitcher should be doing, upper body training for a pitcher should focus on pulling motions that strengthen the upper back and scap, which is the area between the shoulder blades.

These exercises, such as bent over rows and pull-ups, can be done with an emphasis on squeezing the shoulder blades together, back and down.

  1. Bent Over Row

    Pitchers workout Bent Over Row exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  2. Bent Over Fly

    Pitchers workout Bent Over Fly exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

Strengthening the upper back through rows will cause the muscles necessary to decelerate the arm to become stronger.

  1. Cable Row

    Pitchers workout Cable Row exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  2. Single Leg Cable Row

    Pitchers workout Single Leg Cable Row exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

  3. Dumbbell Row

    Pitchers workout Dumbbell Row exercise image
    Image source: baseball-pitching-tips.com

As a result of building strength through rows, the pitcher's body will allow the arm to reach faster speeds as it is more capable of safely decelerating after release.

Remember, faster arm speed means faster pitching velocity.

5 off-season weight training principles for pitchers

Don't run long distance

  • Do run sprints instead. Pitching a baseball places an explosive, intense demand on your central nervous system. Thus, you need to train in a similar manner.

    The perfect type of training stimulus for this is sprints—not long distance endurance running, which over time teaches your body to become slow.

Don't do static stretches

  • Do active dynamic stretches instead. You want your muscles to have a stretch reflex, like a rubber band supplying stored energy when stimulated. Static stretching reduces the ability to be powerful by diminishing your stretch reflex response.

Don't do the leg press machine

  • Do deadlifts instead. Leg press machines are not nearly as effective as the deadlift, which is awesome.

    The deadlift, when done correctly, works your entire body. This alone should be enough reason to do them.

    Specifically, the deadlift engages your hamstrings, glutes, erectors, rhomboids and posterior shoulder muscles—all top priority for pitchers.

    In order to continually throw a baseball at high speed, pitchers need a tremendously strong lower body. This helps them develop the necessary torque in their hips needed for the pitching motion.

    Once their lower body develops this power, a stable core helps transfer it up and into their arm for the throw. Strong and stable posterior muscles protect a pitcher from injury.

Don't do barbell bench presses

  • Do body weight push-ups instead. Push-ups are a great closed-chain exercise. To complete the entire movement, your entire body must remain stable. Barbell bench presses lock the shoulders in a susceptible position. This is a good enough reason to leave them out of your training program. Push-ups are a much safer option for working these joints and muscles.

Don't do overhead presses

  • Do horizontal rowing exercises instead. For a pitcher, a weak and unstable scapula is like launching a cannon out of a canoe. It won't work.

    Upper-body stability problems are tyrants among pitchers, but this is exactly what you risk when you perform a technically sound Overhead Press.

    Instead, you should perform rowing exercises. They help to strengthen the decelerator muscles you use when throwing.

By applying these pitching exercises to your workout routines, you'll make significant improvements this off-season.

Learn more about my workout programs for pitchers

Youth pitching program

One of the big misconceptions in baseball is that playing the game keeps you in shape to pitch. I wish that was true. It's not.

To get to the next level, preparation is everything. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching.

If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my conditioning and throwing programs for baseball pitchers of all ages.

Learn more

What do you think?

Now it's time to hear from you:

Are there any pitcher's off-season workout tips that I missed?

Or maybe you have an idea of how I can make this article even better.

Either way, leave a comment and let me know.


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