Most baseball and softball players are interested in improving their arm strength. The majority of the athletes I train want to know how they can make their arm stronger and what exercises they can do to make their arm go faster.

For example, I taught a throwing class to a few high school baseball and softball players a couple of years ago. On the first day of velocity reading with a radar gun one particular softball player topped out at 41 mph. She was a sophomore in high school and had played softball her entire life. I noticed she was not using her body properly and was mainly relying on her arm for power. I went over the motion with her, introduced some drills that allowed her to feel her body as a whole versus relying solely on her arm strength. After only a few days, she topped out at 48 mph, a 7 mph gain in only 3 sessions! After 8 weeks of class, 17 total sessions, her final velocity was 53 mph, a 12 mph gain! She was now using her body efficiently, taking stress off her arm, and could not wait to show off to her teammates and coaches. She continued to focus on her body as a whole and is now playing college softball.

Remember: Throwing starts from the ground and moves up. This article will focus on how we can produce more power during our throw simply by harnessing the power of rotation. I'll also discuss a few ways to help improve this motion.

An easy way to remember how speed is created is:

Fast feet create fast hips.

Fast hips create fast shoulders.

Fast shoulders create a fast arm.

A fast arm creates a fast ball.

Catchers, pitchers, infielders, and outfielders are all after the same thing - improved arm strength. Infielders and outfielders have a slight advantage starting their velocity. Moving your feet quickly speeds up the entire process. Catchers must have a quick turn with a positive movement towards their target. A pitcher cannot run and get a crow hop or a shuffle like an infielder or outfielder, but they can focus on the speed and tempo of the leg lift to front foot strike.

Baseball Mechanics Front Leg Lift and Strike

There are many technicalities and specific movements involved in throwing, but I want to focus on two key movements: hip and shoulder rotation and how they can improve velocity.


Baseball Mechanics Hip Rotation

The front side, hip and shoulders, should stay closed off to the target. As you are gaining positive movement towards your target, you will open up your foot and hip just before front foot strike. Flexibility and strength in the hips is an essential element in getting your body in a good position to throw harder. It is also a key element in preventing injuries. Just before the front foot strikes the ground, the closed foot and hip should powerfully open towards the target. This is a very late action. The belt buckle and front toe are now facing your target, the catcher. Remember, the faster the foot is going, the faster the hips will pop open. Shoulders are still closed at this time. This movement is producing torque on your torso.


Baseball Mechanics Shoulder Rotation

After front foot strike, it is time for the shoulders. As the shoulders are rotating, the arm will follow. Keep plenty of flexion in your elbow. The elbow should be at about shoulder height. Do not let the elbow get too high. You want to release the ball as late as possible. This late release is not caused by what you do with your arm, but by how you rotate your shoulders. By rotating your trunk and shoulders, you are enabling your body to achieve a complete rotation.

From the stretch, a right handed pitcher's chest starts out facing the third base bag. When you finish the throw, your chest should be facing the first base bag. Your arm should never lock out at the release point. Keep it bent throughout the entire throw. The fingers and wrist will pronate at release. This is where your thumb is turning down. Continue letting the arm move freely throughout the motion around the point where your elbow is in front of your abdominal region. It is very important that you do not let your arm bounce back up. This could eventually cause some serious damage to your labrum or the small muscles in the rotator cuff. Once your arm is at a complete finish, in front of your abdominals, allow the bigger muscles in your back to put on the brakes to slow the arm down.

For example, I just started working with a 6 year old on basic throwing mechanics. Without getting into too much detail, I tell him to rotate his shoulders to complete rotation. I try not to get too much more detailed than that, unless I really have to. When he finishes a throw I make him freeze. If his chest is facing me, I know that he has used mostly his arm. I know that if his right shoulder is facing me, that he has had a complete rotation of the upper body. Most of the time it is obvious by the speed of the ball coming my way as to whether he got to his finish or not. If I want him to throw harder, I tell him to turn his shoulders aggressively. Focusing on complete rotation is not only important for younger players but it is also beneficial for higher level athletes.


The hips need to be flexible and strong. For an athlete who wants to reach elite velocities, strength and flexibility are a necessity. After completing a dynamic warm up, there are a few yoga poses that I like to perform before throwing.

  • Warrior 2 Pose*
  • Reverse Warrior Pose
  • Lizard Pose
  • Pigeon Pose

**I do not hold the poses for longer than 3 seconds.

**Warrior 2 is great for pitching. If you get into your pitching delivery, get to the leg lift, and while moving in a positive direction towards your target, try moving into Warrior 2 just before front foot strike. This will help you train the hips to open completely while keeping the shoulders closed.


One drill that is excellent for improving shoulder rotation is a wrong foot reverse throw (Pivot Pickoff Throw) with a 2 pound plyo ball. This drill trains your body to reach complete rotation, improves pronation of the arm, and also does a great job of loosening up the arm prior to throwing.

Baseball Mechanics Pivot Pickoff Throw Baseball Mechanics Pivot Pickoff Throw

You will be throwing into a net or a block wall.

  • Stand 180 degrees from where you would normally throw. For example, if you are a right-handed thrower, reverse your feet as if you were going to throw at the wall like a left-hander. Hold the plyo ball in your right hand.
  • With your right foot planted, pivot on the left foot and rotate the upper body into a right-handed throw into the wall.
  • While keeping plenty of bend in the elbow, rotate the shoulders powerfully, releasing the ball into the wall. Continue the rotation of your shoulders until they reach complete rotation.

Some people shy away from throwing a 2 pound ball as hard as they can but don't let this deter you! Because the ball is heavier, your body and mind put you in safer throwing position compared to throwing something light like a tennis ball or golf ball. Consider the throwing injuries of a baseball pitcher versus a football quarterback. Because the football is heavier, your body keeps your arm more connected to the body. The lighter the object, the more at risk you are of having a disconnection with the arm and body, leading to an arm injury.

Although there are many details involved in throwing mechanics, proper hip and shoulder rotation can amp up your power quickly. By focusing on these movements and improving them with proper drills and stretches, you will see almost immediate results in your velocity.

About the Author: Patrick Jernigan played baseball at Enterprise State Junior College, University of North Alabama, and Valdosta State University. He played four years of independent professional baseball and was a high school varsity assistant coach for three years. Jernigan has a real passion for baseball, especially the catching position. He has a catching instructional DVD, The Simplicity of Catching. His goal is to teach others that the concepts of the catching position are easy to understand, although the execution takes lots of hard work and practice. For more information, visit:

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