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5 Tips to Increase a Pitcher's Speed

By: Cindy Bristow

Anybody want their pitcher to get faster? Are you sure exactly how to make it happen? Discover 5 Tips that will immediately increase your pitchers speed.



Fastpitch Softball pitching tips for increasing speed

Every pitcher on the planet wants to get faster but if you ask them how to do it you'll get a million different answers. Learn exactly what adds to speed and what takes it away, and how to help your pitchers get faster.

OK, Pop Quiz: What's the ONE thing a pitcher must do to throw faster? That means, it can be the only thing she does and she'll throw faster. Here's a list of some of the answers you'll get when you ask this question:

  • More Snap
  • More Hips
  • Bigger Stride
  • Get Faster
  • Move Your Arm Faster

Since pitching faster is something every pitcher wants to do you'd think they would ALL know exactly how to do it, but judging from these answers it doesn't appear that way at all.

So let's make this easier and ask the same question another way. Ask your pitcher to throw overhand really slow. Then ask her to throw overhand as fast as she can. You can try it right now - you stand up and throw slow without a ball. First throw your imaginary ball overhand - but throw real slow. Then take that same imaginary ball and throw it as fast as you can. When you're finished ask yourself, "What's the one thing you did to throw faster overhand?" Most pitchers will immediately say "I moved my hand faster here" - showing you their hand at the release point. Is that what you felt, or said? If so then you're EXACTLY RIGHT! For any player, pitcher or otherwise to throw a ball faster they must move their hand faster as they release the ball! Not move it faster when they start since that won't help your throw. The increase in speed must happen at the release point. It makes perfect sense overhand and yet underhand we have grown to expect more underhand.

Now I realize this is far too simple of an explanation for most people to handle when it comes to pitching. For some reason we can accept it for our overhand throw but we really, really struggle to accept it for pitching. This has always amazed me since I believe we need to try and make pitching as simple as possible in order to better help our pitchers understand and ultimately perfect it. We have this crazy urge to over-complicate pitching when we really don't need to.

Fastpitch Softball pitching tips for increasing speed

Here's what I mean - when I say that to increase a pitcher's speed the most important thing they must do is increase the speed of their hand at the release point, people will then say things like, "well what about the stride?", "what about the follow through?", what about the snap?". None of these same questions will be asked when throwing overhand and yet, ALL of these things do happen when throwing overhand and pitching! We snap when pitching and throwing overhand, we take a stride when pitching and throwing overhand and we follow through when pitching and throwing overhand. And in fact, all of these elements increase as we throw faster in both motions, and yet we only micro-analyze the pitching motion&.why is that?

We've learned the pitching motion part-by-part instead of trusting our athletic self because we falsely believe that pitching is some kind of extraterrestrial skill that's far too complicated for mere mortals to understand, while we all know how to throw overhand and besides, what's so hard about that?! When I learn a skill part-by-part then I never really see what all the parts are going together to build, instead I stay too focused on the parts. Pitching is a whole motion that has its parts, but those parts only fit together to make the whole - not the other way around. Anyway that's another article, but for now understand this: pitching underhand and throwing overhand are more identical than they are different. Pictures 1, 2 & 3 show a pitcher on the left and an overhand thrower on the right - notice how very similar both motions are.

So, with all of that said, let's look at a list of 5 things that can really help increase a pitchers speed:

  1. Legs Start & Hand Finishes - While the hand must move faster as the ball is released in order for the pitch to go faster, the hand isn't the only body part that can help make that happen. Other body parts are what I call "helpers" which means, they aren't the "main" thing that needs to happen but they help the main thing happen. The legs are definitely big time helpers.

    A pitcher should start her pitch powerfully with her legs by blasting herself forward toward where her stride will land. This is the same thing a player does from centerfield when throwing the ball home. When throwing overhand, we'd all would agree that the longer (or faster) the throw the longer the stride. This is because the feet help move our bodies forward in order to transfer that forward momentum to our forward throw. The feet start this whole forward motion.

    Same thing happens in pitching - a pitcher's stride starts her momentum forward and forward is definitely where she's pitching. Even though the pitchers stride is the most dominant at the beginning it doesn't mean the pitcher's hands aren't moving at all, of course they are. They just aren't moving powerfully in the beginning of the motion, that happens later on when the legs have finished doing their thing then the hand takes over. So the feet start the pitch and then once the stride foot lands the hand starts to dominate and take over. While the feet/lower body are still moving forward it's much less powerfully than at the beginning - I'll explain this more in #2.

  2. Don't Get Stuck in the Middle - There are 2 places that are important to a pitcher; the rubber which is where they start their pitch, and their landing spot which is where they release their pitch. The part in between I call the Middle, and it's where a pitcher definitely doesn't want to get stuck. How could a pitcher get stuck here you ask. The most common way is by falling backwards after they stride which is usually caused by over striding or else bending their back and leaning backwards as they release the ball. Pitchers that end up in the middle area lose a ton of speed since at the moment they need all their power behind the ball pushing forward they're going backwards.

    If you have a pitcher that falls backwards at the end of their pitch and looks like she should throw faster than she does then here's a simple drill to help her:

    • Ask her to slowly pitch the ball
    • As she releases the ball have her bring her back foot forward to her stride foot so her back knee touches her front knee.
    • She should end up with her body upright and her weight balanced on her stride foot, with her back leg bent and her back knee touching her front knee.
    • I'm not suggesting she pitch this way all the time. This is just a drill to help her keep her body moving forward toward her stride foot as her hand comes forward to release the ball.

    This simple back knee forward drill helps a pitcher continue to transfer her weight forward onto her stride foot, which helps her then transfer her power forward onto the ball.

  3. The End Matters Most - Too many pitchers that want to throw fast simply start fast - with their hands - which ends up being a mess at the release point. Just like throwing overhand, ending fast doesn't mean you want to start fast. In fact, if a pitcher starts their hands too fast they can't maintain this speed long enough to also finish fast. So keep the end in mind - if you're trying to make your hand move the fastest when you let go of the ball, then remember you release at the end of your motion so make sure your hand moves fastest at the end. The end of everything matters the most: the end of the at-bat, the end of the game, the end of the tournament, the end of the season. Ends matter so make the end of your motion matter!
  4. Move Where it Matters - This goes hand-in-hand with #3 - be fast when it matters. We just said that needs to be at the end which is the release point, but then something else happens after release. Coaches call it the Follow Through, which I've learned isn't a good descriptor for players. We need to break pitching down into 3 simple parts:
    • Part 1 - Before Release
    • Part 2 - Release
    • Part 3 - After Release

    It's the After Release (or Follow Through) that pitchers can lose some speed in by simply slowing down drastically or else immediately stopping their hand after they release the ball. While pitchers usually aren't trying to slow down on purpose they do this crazy thing by thinking they need to finish UP!!! UP?!? The catcher is forward, the batter is forward the strike zone and umpire are forward and yet pitchers will finish with their hand and their power going UP - and then wonder why most of their pitches are high.

    The Big culprit is this insane notion that pitchers must finish with their palm up and their hand almost in front of their face. Try this and feel your entire motion go up - so of course your ball will go up. But what's also important to note is that this causes an extreme loss of speed since the pitcher's hand doesn't stay behind the ball pushing forward (fast and powerful) but instead goes below the ball moving up.

    Move your power in a direction that matters - in pitching that direction is forward! Especially on the fastball when you're simply trying to throw the ball forward as fast as you can with as much control as possible. For those of you that have UP finishers a big reason is the pitcher's elbow stays attached to their side as they release so they pivot their hand from the elbow - creating too big of an angle change up. So have them work on the following 2 drills to fix this problem:

    • Basketball Pitch
    • Distance Pitching
  5. Keep the Parts in Order - This simply means when it's time to move the hand the hand must be the priority so don't move the legs too much. Take golf for a minute. The reason most of us slice the ball onto an opposing fairway is we move our parts out of order. As we're bringing the clubhead down toward the ball, instead of letting our hands be the focus we suddenly think we're Tiger Woods and blast our hips forward - right body part, wrong time - causing our clubhead to be slow and never close to the ball and boom - there's our slice. We simply got our parts out of order.

    This happens with pitchers as well. When they should be blasting their legs at the beginning of the pitch they'll pump their arms like they're about to take off. And then when it's time to let the hand take over and blast the ball forward they'll snap their hips sideways causing the hand to slow down even more and the ball to go sideways.

    Keep your parts in order and remember that pitching is simply adding your parts together in a forward motion with power. Don't let any one part get too out of control, and certainly not out of order, and you'll be much better off and pitch much faster!

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Filed under: All,Pitching,Practice — Tags: , , , , , , — Cindy Bristow @ 2:17 pm

7 Comments »

  1. I honestly can’t see where and how you are supposed to “make the hand go faster”. I think while your understanding of the basic mechanics is correct, you are missing the biomechanics of pitching here. You won’t likely make the hand faster by simply trying to make the hand faster (unless you are dealing with a pitcher who isn’t trying to generate good speed through her arm circle)–the wrist flexors simply aren’t strong enough to make that much of a difference. Studies have consistently shown that the legs are where most power is generated in the pitching motion, and that energy is passed “up the kinetic chain” (through the hips and torso), and then into the arm itself (first the shoulder, then the elbow extension, and finally the wrist snap). If you generate more leg drive, and you do so efficiently, that extra energy gets passed up the kinetic chain, eventually leading to more rotaional velocity at the shoulder (even though the shoulder itself is not contributing more force–that has come from the legs); then the elbow extension is “faster” (again, even though the triceps are not themselves “firing harder”), and finally the wrist snap is “faster” (yes, even though the wrist flexors are not contributing any more energy). So the simple version is…get more leg drive (and do so efficiently, maintaining proper mechanics) and that will MAKE your hand go faster at release. I think it is better to stress generating more leg drive if you are trying to get more velocity, while also stressing proper mechanics throughout. That includes a good wrist snap at release.
    One other point, you are making the mistake of assuming that what happens after release can affect velocity. Obviously, the arm motion after release can have no effect on the ball whatsoever. What might happen is that a pitcher might slow down the arm prior to release for one of any number of reasons. While some young pitchers might make the mistake of releasing the ball on a slight upward trajectory, they couldn’t possibly be doing so enough that it would result in a noticeable drop in velocity (unless they are throwing the ball way over the catcher’s head). The difference in the trajectory for a high pitch as opposed to a knee-high strike simply isn’t enough to cause a noticeable drop in velocity (which could only come from either having a slightly greater distance to travel from release point to the strike zone or from having to “fight gravity” on it’s upward trajectory).

    Comment by Carl Thomas — March 7, 2014 @ 11:10 am

  2. Carl, thanks for your comments but it sounds like you haven’t dealt much with actual pitchers, but have instead, focused on the science of pitching. Nothing wrong with that at all. But, coaching and teaching involves the ability to take what “technically happens” and help the player make it actually happen. I can appreciate your point about the body is a kinetic chain and the power/speed starts at the base of that chain – the legs – and flows up the chain ending in the hands. And based on that it would make sense to assume that simply by making the legs faster that the pitcher will then make her hand and the pitch faster. But, if you’ve ever dealt with young pitchers who simply try to make their legs faster then you’d know what an out of balance train-wreck this concept becomes.

    Also – your comments about the follow through again show you’ve dealt more with pitching science than with pitchers. I do appreciate your input and comments, and strongly believe that all coaches should know the science behind whatever they’re asking their players to do. But I also know that good coaches take complicated concepts and turn them into simple and easily achievable actions for their athletes. Being smart is one thing, but having to prove you’re smart is simply trying too hard.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — March 12, 2014 @ 11:24 am

  3. Hi Cindy,
    I completely agree with your philosophy on making what you’re trying to teach to athletes easily understandable. They tend to overthink things enough without starting complicated. I have a daughter who is a pitcher and has unbelievable work ethic but is starting to become frustrated with what has become an obvious problem.
    From day 1 I’ve had her work on being accurate and able to hit locations, which she it’s very good at. However, we’re having a definite velocity issue. She wants to do what many young pitchers do which is what I call pinching. She leans over and tried to throw really hard. We all know that actually has the opposite effect and reduces velocity. I’d really like to know what you suggest to convey 2 critical points to her that I believe would correct the velocity issue.
    First of course is to get her upright at delivery. I’ve tried saying stand tall, shoulders back, don’t bend, etc etc. None of which seems to be getting through. The second it’s trying to make her understand the arm motion and snap. By understand im mean that a pitcher doesn’t get more speed by pushing the ball through as from more a whipping action that comes from a chain of events. That the arm should be loss not tense and flexed. I played golf professionally and tried using the sequence of hitting a golfball and how all the actions create a reaction of faster clubhead speed which creates more spin and distance. Please help!

    Sincerely,
    Mike Gibbins

    Comment by Mike Gibbins — April 15, 2014 @ 4:02 am

  4. Mike, as you know from golf, you can’t separate accuracy from velocity, and yet we do it when we teach pitching. What happens when we do is that the pitcher learns to be “careful” in order to be accurate, and then feels like they’re learning a completely new and scary way to pitch in order to be fast. Since their initial efforts to increase velocity are wild, they associate speed with a lack of control, instead of learning how to control their speed. Big difference! The reason your daughter is leaning forward when she’s trying to throw faster is because it’s hard for her to feel her hand at full speed (VERY common for kids), so she’s forward the thing she can feel – which is her chin or her head. I know that your sequence example makes perfect sense to you, and technically it is what happens. But to a kid, they have either no clue what you’re talking about, or their young body (even if she’s 16) can’t follow those instructions from her brain. Doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to, or isn’t trying to, it means her body parts can’t do anything with those words. Try telling her that her body’s job is to stay balanced – to keep it from wiping out. To do that, we keep our head over our feet and our posture upright almost all day long. So when we pitch, we need to try to do that too. So, instead of throwing your chin forward when you let go of the ball, try throwing your fingers forward…see what happens then. You’ve got to make sure to tell her that when she’s learning to throw faster she can’t care where the ball goes – just whether it goes faster. Good luck!

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — April 16, 2014 @ 9:38 am

  5. I coach a HS JV team. Always trying to develop pitchers and most have never done it. No real feeder program so it can be frustrating. I try a variety of drills and have now resorted to everyone throwing just to see what I have. How much is too much? I want them to throw daily to improve technique/accuracy. Is that too much? I see many local standouts pitch every game for their school. Thank you.
    Tom

    Comment by Tom — May 10, 2014 @ 9:20 am

  6. Hey Tom, The idea of everyone pitch so you can see what you have is a good one. Just make sure whoever you pick likes to practice since that’s the key more than who seems to have more natural talent. “Natural talent” that won’t practice ends up far worse than minimum talent that works hard. As long as their arms aren’t sore, or they aren’t mentally drained, they should practice at least 5 times a week. That doesn’t mean it has to be an hour each practice. 20 minutes of really good practice is far better than either an hour of mindless practice or zero practice. Until the skill actually sticks in their body, they’ve got to practice in order to get it there.

    Comment by Cindy Bristow — May 13, 2014 @ 10:37 am

  7. I been pitching male Modified Fast Softball for over 40 years. Successful and never had arm problems. One the most important factor not indicated here is the shape of the pitcher body. I gain alot weight over my years and my middle is larger. When I was younger all the above make perfect sense. Younger my embow would hurt with all the motion indicate that is not nature to the body I have which was smaller. As I age the flow into a much slower starting and use more snap forwards. With this everyone knows me in the league as a pitch penny in the cup. Total control and command and not to strike out people. If I walk 2 people in a year it alot. All my pitchers had a dip or movement at the end. Becasue I know what the hitter up wants to do so I counter measure. Speed may be important with this lesson. But hitter are better today. But I almostr always have two strikes on any hitter after two pitches.I slow down and pause and slowly I start with ball in glove and then my hand come up and in take the ball and as I go forward put pressure on the ball or the drip I want to use and spread my fingers release it in a forward legal adjusted movement for the speed on the ball I want. Either 45 to 65 MPR. It come in straight as an arrow or my nasty curve, but at the last second, hitter shake they head what was that. Speed is good but also make the ball come in as an arrow and over the wall. It not hard to pattern yourself by adjusting to your body and get into a flow. I could pitch endless all day and not get wore down.I am 64 now and no one question me as a pitcher. The kids can’t hit me.

    Comment by Robert Bodnar — July 23, 2014 @ 9:26 am

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