Jun 23, 2017
Special Delivery
Zach Dechant

The development of baseball pitchers poses interesting questions. Should they follow the same program as the rest of the team? Should they do upper body exercises with weights? Should they even be in the weightroom at all during the season?

Here at Texas Christian University, we firmly believe that pitchers aren’t made of glass. They are athletes, and we treat them as such. The act of pitching is an explosive total-body movement, and there is nothing slow about it. Thus, our overarching goal in training pitchers is to make them fast, powerful, and explosive–so that’s how we train.

A big part of our program is helping them develop what we call the athletic position. This is just what it sounds like–teaching the athlete to be in a proper position for movement. Hips should be pushed back with the knees bent, and the chest out over knees, almost like a middle linebacker set for a play.

While it may not be a common position for pitchers on the mound, we teach it to every athlete in every sport as it is fundamental to most athletic movements. Nearly every movement that is taught in the weightroom and on the field stems from the athletic position. We put a high priority on this training and review the athletic position over and over again throughout the year.

Once the athletes understand the position, we move into deceleration training where we teach our pitchers body control and the ability to slow down and stop in a controlled manner. Most baseball fans can recall a pitcher blowing an easy bunt play because he slipped or couldn’t gather himself in time to make an accurate throw. This happens all too often because pitchers are not taught to accelerate, get their body under control, and decelerate while fielding a ball.

We teach them using cone and line drills. Our main drill is a five-yard out and back and 10-yard out and back shuttle. In addition to the typical sprints and backpedals, we also use a lot of lateral movements such as shuffles. Each line can be used to teach deceleration or quickness. Our main goal is for the players to know how to stop and control their bodies using the athletic position.

After spending some time perfecting the athletic position and the movements involved in deceleration training, the final six weeks of the fall are spent on sport specific movements. Our specific movement training involves non-programmed, reactive agility work. Essentially, we are trying to duplicate the movement patterns that a pitcher will face in fielding.

For example, a pitcher will go through his throwing motion while facing a wall located about 20 feet away. As he completes this motion, a player standing behind the pitcher will throw a tennis ball to a random spot against the wall. The pitcher must immediately react and field the ball. We start with our pitchers fielding the ball and going through the motion of a throw to first base, then progress to calling out a base as the pitcher fields the ball, which forces them to adjust and throw to the correct base.

Rotational training is another major aspect of our off-season. It’s a part of every training session the athletes complete through all 15 weeks. We spend the first three weeks teaching general rotational movement patterns utilizing hip and thoracic spine rotation. From there, we move to strength development in the transverse plane. And the final six weeks of the fall we begin to implement power development in our rotational movements in the form of medicine ball work like throws and slams. We start off doing these in a speed-strength complex, super-setting throws with a strength movement, and eventually progress to nothing but med ball throws.

Zach Dechant, CSCS, SCCC, USAW, is an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Texas Christian University, where he oversees athlete performance for the baseball team and assists with football.

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