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8 Ways To Improve Pitching Velocity And Reduce Arm Injuries

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Video Analysis – Powerful Pitching Improvement Tool

My son Ryan and I have done hundreds of video analysis and hundreds of one-on-one pitching lessons this year. And, we have learned why so many pitchers can’t maximize their velocity or performance. We’ve also figured out why so many pitchers get injured, even to the point of needing surgery.

The cause to us is quite clear: Pitching instructors and parents don’t use the valuable tool of video analysis. This is the only accurate means to assess pitching mechanics so that common mechanical faults can be recognized and then fixed.

Besides that, there are other ways to insure that pitchers continue to improve while reducing the risk of injury.

8 Common Sense Ways to Help Pitchers Improve Their Pitching Velocity While Reducing the Risk of Injuries

Feel free to add some additional ways in the comments section.

1. Learn how to videotape and recognize mechanical faults that reduce velocity, control and increase arm injury risk

2. Use a scientific based pitching arm and full body warm-up routine prior to all practice bullpens and games (do not stretch prior to pitching warm-up instead)

3. Practice pitching only from a mound or from the surface you will use in games. Don’t use flat ground (unless Little League pitch from a flat surface). Specific pitching practice has proven to the be the fastest way possible to improve, when you’re getting feedback from videotaping. Practice with flat ground pitching or long toss is non-specific practice, which sports science training principles reject for improvement  of velocity and for reducing the risk of injury.

4. Ideally pitch in one game a week and throw two practice bullpens to improve experience gained during the previous game. Throw all practice bullpens at 100% game speed levels.

5. Stop using pitching drills (or most training aids) that are counterproductive. Examples of such drills are the towel drill, kneeling drill, and balance drill. Limit these drills, as well as slow movements or hesitation. Focus instead on developing an explosive, smooth, and effortless delivery.

6. Use a science-based, post pitching arm care routine. This improves recovery time and helps restore shoulder/elbow muscle balance. This will reduce the risk of injury.

7. Use common sense pitch count limits and recovery times. This will reduce the risk of injury. However, throw enough pitches in practice bullpens to maintain the proper levels of game fitness and to generate improvement.

8. Get yearly feedback from expert instructors who use video analysis. They should also be knowledgeable on the biomechanics of pitching. This will help you understand if you are on the right track, and help avoid injury.

We repeatedly see pitchers who are waiting far too long to get expert feedback. Every Little League pitcher should have his mechanics evaluated before he gets out of Little League.

Nearly every high school and college pitcher we evaluate is losing 5-7 mph in velocity, simply because they have never had their mechanics evaluated. This is also why so many are getting injured.

Feel free to add additional pointers to help pitchers improve.

31 Responses to “8 Ways To Improve Pitching Velocity And Reduce Arm Injuries”

  1. Rob Reply

    Dear Dick Mills,

    I understand some of your philosphies, but a bit confused on not long tossing. Doesn’t long tossing help with your warmup by stretching your arm and on the off days keeping your arm fresh and strong. How do you recommend building arm strength without long tossing?

    • Dick Mills Reply

      Robert,

      Arm strength is not a factor in velocity or injury risk since it is the body that produces velocity not the arm. How would long tossing help warm-up the arm more than mound pitching? That is purely a belief perpetuated by the long toss advocates. Pitchers should do proper warm-up exercises for the arm prior to throwing along with a full body warm-up. But no static stretching.

      How far a pitcher can throw the ball has little to do with how fast he will throw it from the mound since moving downhill from one leg to the other is a skilled movement far different than crow-hopping and must have proper sequencing of movements.

      Cheers,
      Dick

      • Chris Davidson Reply

        Dick,

        Why do Major League pitchers such as Barry Zito and Justin Verlander routinely throw from the foul line all the way out to the centerfield fence on flat ground on a daily basis, particularly on days they start? I have never seen a Major League pitcher not do this.

        • Because they believe it has value. For some it is just a way to warm-up.

          Prior to long toss in the early to mid-80’s pitchers did not throw long prior to a game. It makes no sense. You can warm-up from the mound just as easily. But we have been sold a bill of goods by the long toss advocates that has no real evidence of working.

    • Donny Reply

      You seem to have some awesome information about improving your pitching strength and velocity. I am sure it could help out kids who aspire to be a great pitcher.

  2. Coach Sherman Reply

    Re: ASMI guidelines for pitchers. Your philosophy does not agree with guide line number 2. Am I correct? Thanks.

    • Dick Mills Reply

      Coach,

      I don’t believe so. In what sense would this vary from their philosophy?

      Cheers,
      Dick Mills

  3. Shane Johnson Reply

    Dick,

    What video analysis software would you recommend?

    Shane

  4. Buck Reply

    Hey,

    I think Coach is talking about recommended pitch count and number of pitches/week.

    My 10 year old and I are helped a lot by the Explosive video. I have begun filming and you’re right, can’t see a thing w/o. Thanks for the free stuff as well.

    When would you recommend a look see by ya’ll?

    Best, Buck

  5. Tyler Miller Reply

    Dear Dick Mills,

    Why do you not use drills, if they focus on certain areas of a pitchers mechanics?
    How do you teach keeping the weight back and keeping the hips perpendicular to the rubber until your foot lands?

    • Tyler,

      What type of a drill would you use to solve what mechanical problem?

      The research has proven that drills can actually be detrimental since they are not easily reinserted back into the pitching motion. So the pitcher gets very good at the drill but his mechanics do not change.

      We demonstrate all the movements and then have the pitcher try it while videotaping. Sometimes we show him in front of a full length mirror.

      To keep your weight back you have to learn how to shift your weight so the front hip leads while the nose remains over the bellybutton.

      To stay closed is simply learning how to move sideways using the back leg correctly.

  6. Paul Sanchez Reply

    Dick, good evening, I agree with most of your points and I admire your passion for the pursuit of the answer. I do however disagree with you on two points. The first is about static stretching and your commitment that this is not useful. I agree that warming up is critical, I typically did ten minutes of jogging or bike prior to competition. But i always followed up with stretching. I always felt looser and more flexible after going through this routine. Genetically we are all different and we must customize our routine to what works. I always had really tight hamstrings and if I did not stretch I would cramp up.

    Second, you discount drills and state that research has proven drills to be unsuccesfull. Can you refer me to this research. I would like to examine its epistemology.I have closely studied the art of pitching for years and played collegiate and some professional ball. Again drills were extremely helpful to me in learning key components of the wind-up. In the highlight of my career I could throw all four of my pitches with precise command and good velocity because of my using drills and repetition. I am not discounting your viewpoint, however I am challenging your stance as a fact. I do not think that there is only one way or no way. I embrace a more individualized approach where a customized plan is developed for each pitcher. The last comment I would like to make is that scientific principles, and/or study’s should not be totally relied on. For we all know that science discoveries are constantly changing and that new finding are made everyday, discounting old ones. Pitching like baseball is science but is also art, and we must marry these two elements.

    If you have the scientific evidence, can you please send me the links. Thank you for your time and consideration to my comments.

    • Chris Davidson Reply

      Dick,

      Your son Ryan was the top ranked lefty in the nation coming out of high school, anchored a staff all the way to the college World Series and was drafted in the top ten picks. All this after years and years of doing countless thousands of reps on dozens of different drills. Do you think he would have been a better pitcher if he hadn’t done all those drills? How was he able to achieve that success despite spending what must amount to entire years of his life doing nothing but drills?

      • My son Ryan’s success or failure is much more complex than that.

        Drills are not beneficial for improving high school, college or professional pitchers. They have some value only for beginners.

        I think any pitcher would be far better off learning proper mechanics and doing as few drills as possible.

  7. Dan Gazaway Reply

    Pitching Tip #8 is the best one on there. Many parents and coaches ask me if it’s too early to work with a 10 year old. They are sincere when they approach me. Heaven’s no it’s not!
    It is common sense to me that pitchers learn good technique early so they avoid pain and experience success early. Many people’s argument is teaching them too early and having them throw too much too soon will shorten their career. First of all, what career? They’re ten. You decided half of their career potential at conception. Also, you need to know how much throwing is too much throwing; get the education on that. In addition, some great instruction is better that none. You would think it would be common sense to get good instruction to get better at anything in life; why not pitching?
    Isn’t it true to become an expert at anything you must first become a student. Become a student of the game!

    • This is what the foremost world authority in motor learning says about the effectiveness of drills:

      “Even if there were such general abilities, these are, by definition, genetic and not subject to modification through practice. Therefore, attempts to modify an ability with a nonspecific drill are ineffective. A learner may acquire additional skill at the drill which is, after all, a skill itself, but this learning does not transfer to the main skill of interest.”
      Dr. Richard Schmidt, author of the book Motor Control and Learning

      In essence, anyone who has reached any level of proficiency in pitching, even youngsters at the Little League level who have learned the complete pitching motion, will not benefit doing partial practice drills. They get good at the drill but it does not improve their overall mechanics.

      To believe a high skilled pitcher could benefit from a drill is nonsensical.

      The specificity of movement patterns and control is a scientifically established principle of human exercise. There has been no wavering on this scientifically validated phenomenon over the past century.
      The training of mechanics and pitching skills and its variants has to be specific and whole.

  8. Montana Parsons Reply

    Mr. Mills,
    What would you recommend for the pre-game routine, or warm up for high school pitchers? As well as after the game?
    Thankyou.

  9. Mark Reply

    Wow, that makes a lot of sense! The relationship that long-toss has with a pitcher;s velocity is ultimately not directly related. But I still feel it can have a positive impact.

    Just the fact that you are demonstrating repetition, doesn’t that produce results?

    • Mark, focusing on repetition of the same action such as pitching off the mound could produce good results as long as there is valuable feedback such as video. However, if you are practicing wrong then obviously no amount of repetition is helpful.

      Practicing long toss is not the same as practicing pitching from a mound. The two actions are totally different in many mechanical respects. Doing long toss correctly does not transfer to doing pitching correctly. They are totally different in almost all respects.

      The only thing similar is the baseball.

  10. Mark Reply

    Right, but I was under the impression that long toss was implemented to help develop strength and conditioning instead of promoting correct pitching mechanics.

    I see what your saying but I’m having a little trouble believing that long-toss is useless and is advocated because of dogmatic tradition.

  11. Lynn Henry Reply

    What software do you use for the film analysis?

  12. Yanel Reply

    I agree with u in everything, i need to know why my front part of my shoulder near to my pectoral was hurting me? I am 29 years old,and i came back for pitching after 10 years out. What other things u recommended in this case, any advice!

    Greetings from Puerto Rico

    Sosa

  13. Brian Reply

    Do you have an example of a “scientific based pitching arm and full body warm-up routine” that you use or recommend for your students?

  14. scott Reply

    Dick,
    I go to alot of AA games with my kids, I have yet to see a starting pitcher not do long toss before the game, if long toss is terrible than why do all the big time pitchers do it?

  15. Marnie Reply

    Hi, I am a single mom. My son is 8 years old. He has pitched in C ball which is for 6-8 years old. He will be moving up to B Ball and be one of the youngest children on his team. He really wants to pitch but there are older children on his team. I really want to help him excel with the art of pitching. Any information is very much appreciated. Thanks, Marnie

  16. Eric Reply

    Coach Mills,
    I agree with you that long tossing is not even in the ballpark mechanical wise compared to pitching.. But I do believe that done properly like in this video of Wolforth’s student Trevor Bauer and other pitcher China McCarney long tossing, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaOfNPiVwwA, can increase arm strength and explosiveness, while maintaining a loose arm. I do not agree with everything in this video as my understanding of pitching increases. Couldn’t it just be that a pitcher can long toss 300′ and have a strong arm but cannot translate that to the mound b/c of mechanics? And once the player can set a solid base with his mechanics he will be throwing harder from his prior long toss?
    Thanks, Eric

    • Eric,

      You can believe what you like.

      Arm strength as it relates to velocity is a myth. It matters little how far you an throw a ball. How far can the long toss advocates throw without a crow hop. Some pitchers like Barry Zito just have good long toss mechanics but still can’t get it much past 85-87 mph.

      The only way you will improve velocity is through learning proper mound mechanics. Anything else you do is not related and will not transfer to the mound.

  17. Matt Reply

    I am firmly on board the Mills Train in nearly everything he puts out. I have not had a reason not to at this point. Let me elaborate saying this…I served some years in the US Navy and we routinely drilled in fire fighting, as a fire is the most dangerous event a ship can encounter at sea…We trained exactly the way we did if we were to be fighting an actual fire, dressing in fire fighting ensemble, using NFTI, fake out hoses, using investigators, etc. etc. Think of pitching in the same manner. Coach Mills is saying that you should train the way you will play. What if we lifted weights and ran because it would physically condition us, but never dressed in fire fighting gear? What if we never practiced hose to handle the hoses? Or worse off, what if we trained in putting on Flight Quarters gear instead? It’s still dressing out right? As Coach Mills has pointed out, only practicing how you will play in the game will truly give you results of improvement. Makes sense right? Long toss is a totally different motion, look up videos…you can’t deny it. How will long toss help throwing from a pitcher’s mound? It will do nothing but set back all advancements by throwing off mechanics. It’s pure logic. Train as you fight. If it wasn’t then the military would never run combat drills.

    • Matt,

      Exactly right. For example, I get many calls from fathers of catchers about how their sons can improve the speed of the throws to second base. They want to know if long toss works. I tell them to first of all find some video of great catchers on Youtube. Then videotape their sons and compare side-by-side. Then have your son put on all the gear including face mask and start making a lot of throws to second base while videotaping.

      Ask the average pitching coach about specificity and they have a blank stare.

      Thanks for the comment.

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