I have a confession to make - I have become a bit of a softball pitching performance geek in the past year. I used to get really into speed training with my athletes but that has gotten to be fairly routine for me. I can teach a kid to run better/faster without too much thought or trouble. However, there is something oddly fascinating to me about training softball pitchers. Perhaps it is the unusual throwing motion involved or the heavy workloads they endure in order to master their craft or their often kooky personalities. Realistically, it's probably a combination of all three. Simply put, training a softball pitcher (as with a baseball pitcher) requires a lot more thought and effort on the part of a trainer and is infinitely more interesting and challenging. There is so much you can do to help and also hurt a softball pitcher's performance.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of information out there on the special training needs of softball pitchers. Believe me - I have looked. This article series will feature my philosophy on training pitchers that I have developed through a quite a bit of research and the practical observations/experiences that I have made training some of the top high school pitchers in the Chattanooga/North Georgia area as well as countless younger pitchers in my training business. My primary goal is to help improve the general state of performance training for softball pitchers going forward. Enjoy!
...think that Olympic lifts are the ultimate training tool for developing explosive strength and power in pitchers. They can have their place in a well designed and properly supervised training program. However, I can't think of any of the pitchers that I deal with that have programs that satisfy these two critical criteria. I don't have a problem with Olympic lifts at all but rather the high school coaches who continue to have their pitchers perform these lifts with poor technique and/or supervision. It is simply a question risk vs. reward to me.
Ever seen a kid snap a bone in their wrist while catching a clean? I have.
Ever had to help fix a kid that blew their shoulder up doing snatches incorrectly? I have.
Ever seen a kid strain their erectors (low back) doing jerks incorrectly? I have.
If you consider these examples (and there are others reasons that I shy away from Olympics lifts for pitchers that I will deal with in future posts), it isn't hard to see why picking different exercises for pitchers might be a good idea. One bad rep on any of these lifts could shelve a pitcher for a month or two or permanently alter their career.What high school or select softball team can afford that? I know many who can't because they win based on the performance (and ultimately the health) of their pitcher, who is often their stud and main weapon. I have often pondered the risk vs. reward idea when it comes to the Olympic lifts in my programs for pitchers and I haven't been able to justify them in over 5 years. Bottom line - unless you can teach and supervise them correctly, you should probably omit them from your training program altogether.
Here is a list of viable substitutions for Olympic lifts that I have used successfully in many of my training programs for pitchers. They should be fairly easy to implement into the average high school weight program.
Bodyweight Jumps of all types - done correctly they have a huge training effect!
Box Jumps w/ Bodyweight, Box Jumps w/ Belts &Vests
DB Squat Jumps & Lunge Jumps
Maximal & Repetitive Hurdle Jumps
Jump Shrugs (a hang clean w/o the "catch")
Full Disclosure - I used to compete in Olympic weightlifting and have been certified by the USAW to teach the lifts so I have some good perspective on this issue.