Pitching in Baseball

Pitching with the Entire Body
Most people think of shoulder and arm strength when they
think of pitchers, yet there is more to it than that.  50% of pitching velocity comes from the legs
and trunk.  In addition to the shoulder being
a vital part of the throwing motion, the legs and core are just as, or more,
important.  The legs are the part of the
body that initiates the throwing motion. 
Also the core is the bridge for the energy created in the legs to be
transferred to the shoulder, arm and hand. 
Focusing on the entire body can increase performance and reduce
When speaking with George Jensen, pitcher for the St. Paul
Saints and instructor at Hit Dawg Academy, he expressed that leg strength is
essential for having optimal stride length, while still staying “on top” of the
ball.  Jensen stated, “I saw the largest
gains in velocity when I was working on lower body strengthening.”  He went on to say that hitting the weights in
college, especially squatting type exercises, were the most beneficial.  Jensen discussed with me that he used to be a
short strider and mainly relied on his arm while pitching (a common cause of
injuries).  After increasing his leg
strength he was able to stride further and get closer to an optimal stride
length, which is about 80-90% of the athlete’s height.  It was no coincidence that in his years at
college, where he focused on strengthening, the Tampa Bay Rays drafted him in
I spoke with another pitcher, Chris Odegaard, a former draft
pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009. 
He states that energy created in the legs can be completely irrelevant
if the core is not strong enough to transfer the energy to the throwing
shoulder.  Chris said that they focused
on core work in college, however, when he got to the minors for the
Diamondback, he said they took it to another level.  Odegaard said that the Diamondbacks
emphasized how important it was to have a balanced and strong core to maximize
energy transfer.
Injuries can also occur when the entire body is not involved
in the pitching motion.  As far as
delivering the ball, it is very common for pitchers that are lacking leg
strength to take a shorter stride as George Jensen discussed above.  This creates added stress to the shoulder and
elbow to make up for the lack of energy that should have been created by the
legs and trunk.  On the other side of the
delivery is the follow through.  This is
another crucial phase in throwing that can lead to injuries as well.  Properly following through to the plate
allows the larger muscles of the legs and trunk to assist in slowing the arm
down after delivery.  The rotator cuff of
the shoulder and structures within the elbow are, once again, put under
additional stress if the legs and core are too weak or improperly used.
Working on shoulder strength is great as a pitcher, however,
it is not the only body part used while throwing.  Build strong legs and a balanced core, which
will help prevent injury and improve your skills.  
Good luck this season!