pro·gres·sion- The act of progressing forward or onward movement. A passing successively from one member of a series to the next; succession; sequence.
When it comes to training programs, throwing programs, and throwing sessions, the one must is that they need to be designed from the ground up. What I mean by that is simple movements and basic drills are the way to begin any sort of successful routine.
I think a good warmup routine starts with something simple such as a glute bridge or a push up variation.
I believe that a good resistance training routine begins with something on two legs like a squat pattern.
The same goes for my pitching clients. I always start with some of the most simple drills, often from the ground. This lays the foundation for a smooth and successful session. Not to mention, by the time we get into the meat and potatoes where we make most of our gains, such as pitching at full speed or a drill that might require a great deal of motor control, my guys are ready to roll.
A poorly planned session would be rushed by jumping the gun into something complex too early.
Here is a look into how I progress each one of my students, regardless of skill level. Of course we base the specifics of the drills based on the individuals needs, but simplicity always comes before complexity.
FIRST – FROM THE GROUND
-This is one of my high school kids doing a one knee throw starting by holding a finish pattern. The goal here is to take the legs out of the equation, only focusing on finding a consistent release point and smooth hand break. I really like this one for kids to help calibrate how the ball is coming off the fingertips. A good analogy would be “Before I ask you to run, I want to see you walk correctly.”
SECOND – INTO THE STRIDE
– The second of part of my throwing sessions are commonly in the stride position. Notice it’s still not a complete pitching delivery. We are slowly working towards that point. Just like any good thing, a good throwing session is a building process. I’m asking my athlete here to do something slightly more difficult, but not anything quite like the demand of pitching full speed off a regulation sized mound. Here, my main goal for the student is to start bringing in some leg drive that transfers efficiently through the hips. I want my athlete to get into a position that closely resembles a full stride towards home plate. In the past, I used to teach these drills with the lead foot at a 45 degree angle, but after seeing how much better guys seem to finish on-line, and how much less they seem to fight their front side to get through their hips, I opted to completely externally rotate that lead foot for all stride drill variations. Here is Danny Baldino showing us one of them.
THIRD- MEAT AND POTATOES
There are a few things graven in stone that must happen before we get to this point in a throwing session.
1.) My pitcher must feel ready to throw at full effort. He has warmed up adequately from both a dynamic warmup and a “ground-up” throwing progression.
2.) My pitcher has shown sufficient improvement on weaknesses at both the ground and stride stages of our throwing program.
3.) My pitcher has thrown all of his pitches and has a decent command of all of them. His fastball is always the number one priority.
So my student is loose, has challenged himself in various drills from the ground to standing, and knows where the ball is going. It’s time for the fun stuff. Early on in a pitcher’s offseason, I definitely won’t have them throwing off a mound, as arm strength needs to get to a point that warrants us to do so. What can we do instead? Take your students weakness and find a drill or cue for him to work on as he throws a light bullpen session from a flat ground area, not off a mound. Danny has a tendency to rush his delivery to home plate, so I use a simple crossover drill with his front foot crossed over top of his back foot to challenge him and force him to engage and stay on that backside from the get-go. Here is a demonstration.
After I feel like we have made some solid improvement in the areas of weakness, our throwing session will end for the day. There is no question that even if you have something well thought out on paper to execute, each of your throws will surely have a direction, an intent, and a purpose. Notice I like to set up cones. I use them to make sure my pitcher is lined up not sometimes, but every single time. To me if you don’t take care of that, it’s a careless throw, especially for a younger pitcher who doesn’t have good awareness yet.
When embarking on a game of catch, teaching a pitching lesson, warming up to pitch, or even going through a detailed throwing program, start slowly, preferably from one or two knees, then move into something more athletic like a stride drill that promotes proper transfer of power and works in an efficient direction. Finally, get into your most demanding drill or bullpen session. From my experience as a player and instructor, this is how to consistently make quick progress day-to-day while throwing.
Did you find anything here helpful? Let us know in the comments section.