Ways for Youth Pitchers to Increase Pitch Velocity
A youth pitcher should be always looking for ways to increase velocity, but it should be done under the guidance of good coaching and instruction geared around the pitcher increasing their throwing efficiency. Chasing higher velocity isn't the end-all-be-all, but when a youth pitcher naturally builds a better delivery they will in turn gain velocity. Yes, strength has something to do with it, but gaining separation and rotational efficiency does even more to build sustainable, effortless velocity. Throughout baseball history and even today, pitchers with higher velocity are revered, but faster is only better when it's sustainable and controllable. That being said, here are some ways that youth pitchers can naturally increase their pitching velocity.
1. Increase throwing efficiency. The one and only Dr. Tom House (Founder of Mustard and longtime Pitching Coach and Thought Leader) said, "If a young pitcher’s genetic predisposition to throw on time is off and he’s too slow, his front side will start to fly open and he’ll start to throw before his front foot gets down. So, the number one priority is to get the timing correct first. It’s OK to be quicker than one second, but it’s not OK to be slower. Because while the throwing motion is natural, throwing off a mound is not, so the pitching delivery must be as biomechanically efficient as possible. And the easiest way to ensure your biomechanical efficiency is to perfect your timing and stride." Velocity comes from going fast and being on time and many youth pitchers try and "collect their mechanics" as they slowly go through their leg kick, drive, and delivery. The biggest issue with going slow is that it tends to break down (not enhance) mechanics. Youth pitchers should focus on the "GFF" principle: Go Forward Fast! This was also coined by Dr. Tom House as he has studied "throwers" and the throwing motion his entire life and this principle doesn't just pass the eye test (it's backed up by sports science). Basically, for youth pitchers, the key component to adding velocity is efficiency (velocity doesn't just come solely with added strength).
2. Get the whole body engaged (not just the throwing arm). It's often said that velocity for pitchers comes from their lower body (not necessarily the upper body). Utilizing lower body strength and creating separation in a long stride length naturally adds velocity to a pitcher's fastball. Believe it or not, professional pitchers that have dialed in their lower body mechanics can easily throw heat because their legs act as the catapult and the arm is there to stay on time with the lower body and release the ball. In addition to a youth pitcher utilizing their lower half, as YouthPitching.com says, “Good glove arm action helps proper shoulder alignment, trunk arching and flexion, and good trunk rotation—all of which generate arm speed and ball velocity.” When you actively firm up the glove (front) side the arm you are inadvertently developing muscles to help support sustainable, higher pitching velocity. This allows you to maintain the velocity versus just throwing it once and never being able to do it again plus when the front (glove) arm falls flat all of the power that was created (through pitching separation) also falls off and goes unused. Pitching with a firm front side will help stabilize the power source and the natural throwing result will be higher velocity. DREAM Team Sports Center has a great arm care class and routines to help with creating more functional lower body strength, arm strength, and glove side arm strength for youth pitchers.
3. Chart your pitching progress. Pitching mechanics (when not repeated in bullpens or pitching practice) are bound to eventually break down for youth pitchers which will lead to lost pitching velocity. Youth pitchers have to effectively have your pitches tracked and charted (using a radar) to see what mechanical tweaks help them naturally gain more velocity. Pitchers that don't know what's working for them to be more efficient in their delivery will regress into old habits or even worse slow down their delivery due to overthinking (and the end result is lost velocity in either case). A youth pitcher that has a pitching chart when throwing 15-20 pitch bullpens can track what they did in their last bullpen to gain velocity and build off of that repeatable delivery. Generally speaking, "it's better to assess than guess" as stated by Rapsodo (one of the foremost leaders on the sports science side of hitting or throwing a baseball) and charting your pitching progress through a program such as Rapsodo will help pitchers build velocity naturally. DREAM Team Sports Center offers pitching courses (4-week courses with progressive and hands-on learning) using Rapsodo and proper instruction to help pitchers grow their game and develop a better delivery.