Rethinking how to Train


I was reading today that when Craig Kimbrel broke his foot at 18, he went to long toss 300 feet from his knees which resulted in a better pattern in his upper body. The number 75-80% of velocity comes from hip-shoulder separation gets tossed around quite a bit. It has got me thinking the role of the lower body is to simply carry the mass from point A to B as efficiently (timely) as possible and then stabilize at landing. The lower body is really just a base for the upper body to rotate around.

Yet, there’s this huge emphasis put on compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, cleans. Not saying they should be ignored completely, but what does deadlifting 3 times a kid’s bodyweight versus 1.5 times do for a kid’s velocity? Wouldn’t something like lateral bounds (jumping) be more beneficial to both mechanics and velocity?

I would think more emphasis should be placed with training movements like speed, agility, motor skills, coordination and jumping. That would seem be more beneficial than putting the main emphasis on lifting the heaviest thing you can. Obviously, some form of stability needs to be present in the delivery, especially 1-legged stability. But really, how much strength is truly needed for this stability?

How much emphasis do you think should be put on compound/heavy lifts vs. movement training?


Deadlifts are one of the best ways to develop power in the kinetic chain (feet, ankles, calfs, hamstrings, butt ect). It certainly is not a must for a guy to dead 500 lbs to throw hard, but, what is really bein developed is explosive power. Same for the squat. What makes pitching a challenge, like most rotational, explosive activities is it takes strength and mobility, balance ect.
Throwing and arm care (in my humble opinion) should always come first in terms of “training”. Pitching from a mound an explosive activity, something like Longtoss is more endurance. Think of a distance runner and a sprinter. There is a reason sprinters (or people looking to improve jumping) lift heavy. It not only aids in power development but also helps teach the body to move explosively.
The rotational part of training (to me) starts with the hips. Training the hips to seperate and rotate like a golfer or tennis player would serve most pretty well (no pun intended). The lower body mechanics of a swing, throw, golf swing ect are very similar in terms of the hips. But, I am probably getting a little out if my depth.
So, to me, the benefits of liftin heavy are stability, explosiveness, body coordination and of course strength. It’s about finding balance in a program because a guy could literally work 8 hours a day.


Great topic. Yes, I totally agree but would also argue single leg dead lifts are better than deadlifts from a sport specificity standpoint. And lunges, particularly side lunges, are better than squats. My point being this: pitching really is a transfer of momentum from leg to leg. Skater lunges while holding a med ball are outstanding. That lunge movement is the pitching movement. That’s what we should be spending time training.


Just to be clear, I’m in no way saying to take deadlifts, squats, lifts to that nature out of any pitcher’s program. I’m just wondering how much/heavy of a deadlift can translate to velocity? Does deadlifting 3x compared to 2x BW = higher velocity?

The stability and endurance purposes are obvious. And I think there’s definitely reason to compound lift. But making it the emphasis to increase your compound lifts to 3 or 4 times BW seems unnecessary.

I’m making the case that the emphasis should be placed on quick-twitch, elastic energy, ATP through sprinting, plyos, bounds, med ball work.


My brother for example.

14 years old, 6’2", 185 pounds, long legs, trunk, and arms. Getting himself down the mound and stabilizing his landing isn’t a diffciult task. His problem is the time it takes to get from point A to B. The speed of movement; tempo.

Just his mass alone produces a certain amount of velocity. Would taking a 185-pound kid from 2x his BW to 3x in a deadlift = greater velocity? Or would improving his ATP/quick-twitch muslces? Where should the emphasis be?


Wpukd Usually start with start dead lift and progress to singe leg.
Heidens are great. Never done them with extra resistance or weight…I don’t know why that never occurred to me!!


Yeah, I gotcha.
I don’t think there is a direct corrilation (2x vs 3x=velocity increase) as, like all of this stuff, it will vary person to person.
If it was as clear as a 500lb dead = 90 mph it would be easy.
I think more upper body work would benefit a lot of guys. It’s part if the reason I like heavy bag work…
To quote Oasis, "…all the roads we have to walk are winding and all the lights along the way are blinding…"
It can be frustrating.


It’s a great question.
A guy can be big and be weak (I’m not saying brother is, just speaking generally) it is something my son struggles with. He is tall-ish at 6’ 2" but struggles to add mass and strength. Other things, like external rotation, he has always had. A friend of his is a very stocky, strong 190lbs at 5’ 9".
But the friend has very limited shoulder mobility. So, they are running into different challenges.
Your brother would probably benefit from training to move quickly while taking on strength more gradually. However at 14 it can be a tough age coordination wise. Growth spurts can turn the cart over so to speak.


It’s not just the lower body that is a base for the upper body. Each link in the kinetic chain becomes a base for subsequent links in the chain.

Does that perspective change your thought on training?


That’s very true. But with bigger kids I usually find their mobility issues are bigger than strength ones.

I’m seriously pondering how much strength it takes to efficiently move the lower body. I know speed and power work together but how much power does it actually take to fall down the mound? For stabilization, I definitely see where a deadlift would be beneficial.

I think anyone that can throw 80+ miles an hour has some standard strength. Would increasing their strength through compound lifts be more constructive than improving quick-twitch/ATP/speed of movement exercises? I don’t know. That’s where my argument lies.


As a kinetic chain of movements the lower body’s role is to move the mass down the mound as efficiently as possible and stabilize a landing for the trunk to deliver the arm around.

I see the time it takes to get from the peak of the leg lift to landing as the most important role of the lower body. How much strength does it take to stride efficiently? Does doubling or tripling your strength in compound movements = faster stride speed, which in turn = greater velocity? At what point does being just strong plateau? When does speed of movement (quick-twitch), and rotational core and pelvis speed/strength take over?


I’m not sure either.
As someone who is not a professional trainer I am left to read and do the best on my own. I agree that guys don’t need to lift huge to throw hard. You are obviously seeing something in your brother that makes you think he needs more focus in the areas of fast twitch, mobility ect. I would trust your instinct.
Roger brings up a good point as well. The whole mechanism that is the kinetic chain would need to trained. How to implement is the tough part, to me anyway. Anyone can come up with a list of exercises. Implementation in the name of being efficient and effective is trickier.
One thing I do believe is that if a program calls for long durations of exercises the results diminish. So, for example, running sprint after sprint after sprint will exhaust that system pretty quickly. Running a couple of sprints and then allowing a fairly long “recharge” period is more effective. Three sprints with a five minute rest as opposed to running sprints until you’re ready to throw up. For building power and not size fewer reps at higher weight is more effective (and explosive) than doing a typical 3 sets of 10 or 5 or 6 sets. My understanding of how the CNS is activated and reacts to exercise is rudimentary to say the least. But there is a lot to consider.
What sorts of things is your brother workin on for fast twitch/power?


I’m not necessarily saying my brother, he was really just an example because he is big for his age. I’m speaking for pitchers in general.

I think when a pitcher hits 80 mph it’s time to get more aggressive and efficient in every aspect to make the next jumps. I just have a hard time thinking if you for example were to have a HS senior that’s touching let’s say 88 mph. Do you go tell him to deadlift more or front squat more? I don’t know what that “strength” really does as far as improving velocity. He already has at least standard if not a little more above standard strength. At that point I think you look for a movement pattern or two that could be more effective and/or ATP/quick-twitch (being more explosive).

I think kid’s that are naturally weak or have serious coordination issues need emphasis on those compound lifts. But at a certain point, does a kid throwing 90 mph really need emphasis on those lifts? I believe at that point they could double their deadlift max and it not do anything. I think it could actually stall them out.


As for my brother though, he’s a bigger kid. He has some of the coordination issues that you bring up mainly being because of the constant changing of size; weight and height. It’s hard to consistently move the body the same way when everything else is constantly changing.

What I think he needs is a very balanced program with a little more emphasis on those quick-twitch movements. His tempo on the mound could really improve. Things like box jumps, lateral bounds, med ball throws, sprints, agility work could really help him.


Yeah, I think I would agree with what you are saying.
To use your example, if a kid is throwing 88 due to good mechanical pattern and natural characteristics that lend themselves to hard throwers but he is 6’ and 150 lbs and is weak in the weight room there may very well be benefit in lifting, just not in terms of body composition, weight and maybe an uptick in velo, but in recovery as well.
I am still learning of course. The med ball exercises were a good example. I initially was using heavier med balls thinking about building strength. Once I finally got it that it is a power/speed exercise I lightened the weight up.
Box jumps, lateral bounds, lateral bounds with resistance, med ball throws, sprints, agility work are all great for building explosive athletes. I still really like the heavy bag. Throwing a proper punch is very explosive. It involves firing the hip first and upper body rotation around a first front leg. The movements are different enough that, in terms of the arms, it probably has limited direct carry over. But I really like it when used in a rotation with say med ball stuff or sprinting.
I think your brother is going to get to 200lbs pretty easily on his own, naturally. I think your approach of balance is key. He, like everyone, needs strength, mobility and explosiveness.
Some exercises that are very good that I think tend to be forgotten about (just basing this on what I have seen where I live) are back raises, ham-glute raises, raised russian twist (off of the ground) and our old friend med ball work. Some of those in particular ham-glute raises and a raised russian twist are complex movement that can be tough to execute. I have found working into those movements in steps is the best way.
I know Eric Cressey said if he could only give his baseball guys four exercises they would be the deadlift, lateral bounds, med ball rotational throw…and I can’t remember the fourth. But, in those three you are seeing the balance you are talking about.


I also think the approach you are suggesting sounds appropriate. I’m no expert in this area but I’d also make sure to include exercises to strengthen decellerators.

Funny, whenever I read discussions on strength work for pitchers, Randy Johnson comes to mind and I, too, wonder how much (or how little?) strength pitchers really need. Johnson certainly wasn’t muscular.


I guess what I’m saying is if the kid is 17-18 years old, throwing 88, I really doubt he’s weak. His strength would have to be at least standard. I think balance is key for advanced pitchers.

I think kids that are trying to go from say 70 to 80 or 80 to 90, the more important heavy compound lift emphasis is. Obviously each kids needs are different, but that’s what I’ve found to be most common.


That’s exactly my point Roger. How much strength is really needed? Is the difference really being a balanced athlete with qualities of mobility, stability, and quick-twitch?

I think pro guys lift with the mind that being in the weight room will build endurance and keep them healthy. That plays a role as well. But so much of that is simply maintenance. They’re not actually getting stronger they’re just not getting weaker.


Maybe? But we really don’t know for sure. There’s no literature to say definitively one way or another.

What we can infer from the law of diminishing returns (as it relates to exercise) is that the velocity improvements you saw going from a 1xBW to a 2xBW deadlift will be disproportionately larger than the velocity improvements you can expect to see going from a 2xBW to a 3xBW deadlift.

That’s when, as coaches or athletes, we have to consider risk-reward scenarios. In the case of the deadlift, I think the risks heavily outweigh the rewards the stronger you get.


That makes complete sense. A 1xBW deadlift is weak, where maybe 2x is more standard. That being said your velocity improvements will less and less dramatic as you increase to 3,4,5x if you choose to go that far.

I think finding standard strength compound lifts is just fine. I think where pitchers separate themselves is in speed of movement athleticism. Sprints, plyos, med ball work… Movements that work ATP, quick-twitch muscles/elastic energy.

And in the case of my brother being a bigger (6’2”, 190, turns 15 in a week), his priority (or where his biggest improvements will be found) will be on the far right of this spectrum: