The off-season is a great time for pitchers to gain size, strength, and power. The combination of intentionally focused work on the mound, intelligent training in the weight room, and recovering properly will benefit the pitcher by enhancing their performance.
Selecting the correct weight room exercises is critical to help improve strength and power that correlates to throwing harder.
In this article, I will be going over the 7 best exercises for pitchers in the off-season, a message from a pro, and more!
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Table of Contents
- Exercises For Pitchers
- Balancing Throwing and Lifting
- A Message From A Pro
- More Links and Info
Exercises For Pitchers
1. Trap Bar Deadlift
The trap bar deadlift is by far one of my favorite exercises for pitchers to gain total body strength. This compound movement provides all of the strength benefits of deadlifting with little to no risk.
The hip hinge, leg drive, core stiffness, grip, and upper body engagement check all the right boxes for pitchers. Increased force development will help pitchers drive off the mound and throw harder.
2. Rear Foot Elevated Split Squat
Single-leg training is obviously critical to pitching. Driving off the mound with one leg and planting hard on the front leg are important considerations when selecting exercises for the off-season.
The rear foot elevated split squat benefits this single-leg training idea. This movement trains single-leg strength, core and upper body stability, grip strength if you choose to hold dumbbells at each side, sport-specific shin angles, and mobility.
3. Feet Elevated Inverted Rows (From Rings or TRX)
One of my favorite upper body pulling movements, the feet elevated inverted row from rings or TRX straps is a great option for pitchers. By elevating the feet, you are challenging your core to stay rigid and straight from your head to your toes, which engages the body to work as one unit. The inverted row strengthens the posterior chain (upper back, rear delts, rotator cuff muscles, lats).
A full range of motion is critical here.
The reason I prefer rings and TRX straps are because this allows pitchers to row with a varying grip.
I like to queue pitchers to start with a knuckles-up grip (pronated) and as you row, rotate your grip so that your thumbs are toward the ceiling. This is the opposite motion we see in throwing, thus building our posterior chain to be resilient to injury and increase performance.
4. Single-Arm Dumbbell Bench Press
My favorite horizontal pressing movement for pitchers is the single-arm dumbbell bench press. This is a great movement that can be trained and you can increase weight and reps over time. This pressing challenges cross-body tension since one hand is empty while the other presses.
The single-arm variation is great for pitchers who need to focus on one arm being the prime mover at a time. This exercise will strengthen the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core.
5. 1-Arm Dumbbell Row
The 1-arm dumbbell row is a fantastic compound rowing variation for pitchers. This movement is great for implementing, pauses, and eccentric tempos to really challenge the posterior chain movers.
With one arm rowing and the other hand on the bench, you will have to stabilize the core, lower back, and non-moving shoulder. This is a fantastic exercise to get strong in during the off-season.
6. Single-Leg Overhead Med Ball Stomp
One of my favorite overhead slamming variations, the single-leg overhead med ball stomp is sport-specific for pitchers.
Take a med ball and have a very similar approach that you would have in your delivery on the mound. The idea is to open the hips, rotate with the med ball overhead, brace hard on that front leg, and drive the med ball into the ground as hard as you can.
This is a great sport-specific movement for pitchers to train. I like doing these movements early in the lifting session when the body is fresh. The idea is to be explosive so take pride in breaking some med balls here!
7. Med Ball Shot Put (For Distance)
The med ball shot put is probably my favorite med ball movement for pitchers. The idea is to utilize the stretch-shortening cycle, open the hips, and “put” the ball as far as you can. You are not throwing the ball and there should be no stress in the shoulder here.
Keep track of each attempt and be competitive!
Balancing Throwing and Lifting
One of the biggest lessons I learned working with pitchers was balance. Especially with pitchers who threw 80-100 pitches in a game.
It is very important to balance throwing, lifting, and life. Balancing these things will improve your performance, your quality of life, and avoid overuse injuries.
Throw First – “Keep The Main Thing, The Main Thing”
I am a big believer in throwing first. The most important thing you are doing is throwing on the mound. Get your work in on the mound/throwing program first, THEN do your lower body plyos, sprints, and weight training.
This allows you to focus on throwing with the freshest legs and upper body possible. I know some pitchers don’t mind lifting before throwing, but I have found most pitchers like to throw first.
Lower Half Strength, Hip-Shoulder Mobility, Med Ball Work
Lower body strength is extremely important to throwing hard. Creating force and pushing off the mound and stabilizing the front leg is critical. Hip-shoulder separation is also critical.
Never sacrifice your flexibility or mobility for more weight in the weight room.
Your ability to separate the hip and shoulder to create that torque is what allows those pitches to snap. Med ball work is a game changer. Keep your med ball work explosive and as fast as possible so that it correlates to the mound.
3 Pulls To 1 Push
I also want to take the time here to reiterate a 3:1 pull-to-push ratio. When developing your program, count your pulls and your pushes and try to stay in this range. This ratio is associated with healthier shoulders, elbows, and wrists.
Pitchers already spend so much time working on their front side. It is important to build back that posterior chain and avoid overuse injuries. This is not cookie-cutter. Some pitchers don’t need 3 to 1.
But if you start to notice a nagging bicep or a sore elbow, it is important to analyze every aspect of your training.
A Message From A Pro
“The weight room was a great place for me to gain strength. I loved the dumbbell bench press. I always loved how my arm felt, it was good for my range of motion, and pure pressing strength. I also loved split squats. I felt these helped my glutes and front leg strength so that I could throw as hard as possible.”
- Elon University
- Perfect Game, National Player of the Week, Conference Player of the Week (2-21-2017)
- Detroit Tigers Organization 2019-2021
More Links and Info
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