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A Pitching Workout to Tackle Adversity

Pitchers spend a lot of time doing the same thing over and over in practice, and yet don’t always seem to make progress when it comes to games. Start to change all that by using this mixed up pitching workout.

If you’re looking for a pitching workout to challenge your pitchers and get them mentally focused on improving, then check this one out!

Practice as we’re used to it in the traditional manner is called Block practice. It’s the kind where you do the same thing over and over again. We’ve all grown up practicing this way because we were all led to believe we were developing “muscle memory”. I know I was.

Turns out there’s another type of practice that more closely resembles games, and that’s called Random practice. Random practice is just like it sounds – instead of doing the same skill over and over again, you’ll do different skills in random order – much like skills happen in games.

Doing the same thing over and over again is boring, so players tend to check out mentally, leading to sloppy skills and very little long-term improvement or carry-over into games. Random practice on the other hand is super challenging, and can be frustrating since the player doesn’t get any repeats or do-overs, but they don’t get those in games, do they?

I’ve found that the repetitive nature of pitching practice leads to so many sloppy pitches. It’s not because the pitcher doesn’t want to get better, she definitely does, it’s that the way she’s going about it – Blocked practice – is working against her.

So I’ve started radically changing things up for pitchers, by making things different and challenging, forcing pitchers to really lock-in mentally on every single pitch. One way to do this is to not let your pitchers repeat a pitch. So for instance, if your pitcher is wanting to focus on her curveball, instead of throwing 50 curveballs in a row (like you’d do in a typical Blocked practice), you’d have her throw Curveball – then Pitch #2 – then another curveball – then Pitch #3 – then another curveball – then Pitch #4 – then another curveball – then Pitch #2 again – another curveball – then Pitch #3…on and on. She gets lots of work throwing her curveball – which is the pitch she identified as needing more work, and yet she’s doing it in a single-pitch effort mixing in her other pitches as well. This type of workout is much more game-like than simply throwing 50 curveballs, making the last 5 good and leaving feeling like you’ve really improved.

mix up pitching practice change distance closer regular

But the workouts that I’m the most excited about, and have really had amazing results involves changing up distance and changing up ball sizes, on every single pitch. Here’s how it goes:

Change Distance:

After warming up, the pitcher will throw 1 particular pitch she’s working on (curve, or changeup, or drop…) from 2 different distances; Close and Regular.

  • The first distance is about 20 – 25 feet closer than her regular 43’ pitching distance. The pitcher will first throw overhand to her catcher from this distance to give her the correct speed for her pitch (NOTE that many pitchers will simply want to throw their regular speed from this much closer distance. That is NOT what she needs to do!!)
  • After throwing 1 pitch from the close up distance, she moves back to the pitching rubber and throws 1 of this same pitch.
  • Then she moves up and throws 1 from the closer distance.
  • Then back to the regular distance.

This up-back-up-back forces the pitcher to make radical adjustments to her speed without sacrificing movement. That makes her move and control her hand and fingers to a much greater degree than she’s been aware of doing back at her regular distance versus just gassing her arm speed. While the closer distance might seem like it would be easier to us, it’s actually much harder and more challenging to pitchers because they aren’t used to it, so it forces them to make changes and adjustments – which is the whole point! It will force pitchers to control both their arm speed as well as their finger pressure and twist.

mix up pitching practice change ball sizes

Change Balls:

  • This ball-changing workout can be done before or after the Distance Changing workout, or on a totally different day. I like doing them both on the same day and using the same pitch for both since it’s a great way to jump-start your pitcher’s awareness of her finger pressure, twist direction and arm speed in addition to and helping her dive-in and fix whatever frustrates her.
  • For this workout your pitcher will stay at the same distance, typically the regular pitching rubber (43 for most of you), but she will rotate between using 3 different sized balls:
    • A 14-inch ball
    • A regular 12-inch ball
    • And a 7-inch Zip Ball
  • Your pitcher starts by throwing the particular pitch she’s working on (let’s say curveball) with the 14-inch softball.
  • Then she’ll throw a curveball with the standard 12-inch ball.
  • Then a curveball with the 7-inch Zip Ball
  • Then repeat the cycle with the 14-inch ball.
  • Each ball will represent a different challenge for the pitcher in regards to grip strength and pressure. Anytime the pitcher throws a pitch she doesn’t like, she must move on to the next sized ball and fix that “bad” one when she gets back to that sized ball (instead of re-throwing another pitch with that same ball. This is not a correction behavior a pitcher can do in a game so she shouldn’t rely on repeating a pitch in practice).
  • Don’t be surprised when your pitcher struggles with the 7-inch Zip Ball and the 14-inch ball. Instead of letting her focus on how “hard” it is to throw these 2 balls, help her focus on where’s she’s losing the pitch, does she need more grip pressure during the release, is her grip strength too weak at the beginning…help direct her attention toward corrective thoughts instead of frustrated thoughts.

Have your pitcher finish both workouts by throwing whatever pitch she was focusing on with the regular sized ball from the regular distance. And don’t be surprised if your pitcher is able to throw her particular pitch pretty well with all 3 sized balls, within the same practice session!

For more great Pitching Workouts, check these out:

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