By Coach Tomsen
I have played baseball for 20 years. That is over 80% of my time here on earth. I've played for a lot of different coaches with all different ideas of how the game is played.
I was a pretty talented kid. Athletic, quick, with good arm speed, but a small build. I always had a good arm for my size. At 5'11 180 lbs I was able to generate enough energy with my mechanics to get the ball up to 95 MPH off the mound. Not only was I throwing the hardest I've ever thrown, but I was doing it regularly as the closer for the Peoria Explorers in the Freedom League in Arizona.
Surely part of my abilities were a blessing, given my smaller stature for a professional pitcher. But that's not the only reason I was able to do what I do. I worked towards it. Trained for it. Learned from it. I did research and implemented new techniques into my mechanics. I changed how I worked out. I did just about everything possible to get where I wanted to go.
I found that you can build velocity, but it only took common sense to figure out that taking care of my arm properly was more important. If you can throw 95 MPH, good for you, but what happens when all of a sudden you're throwing 85 MPH a year later?
A lot of young players make the mistake of thinking they are invincible as soon as they're drafted and don't bother taking care of themselves. I know because I let it happen to me. I now weigh 200 lbs, lost mobility and throw 85 MPH. I do plan to get my velocity back up and arm and body back into shape, and with the knowledge I've gained over recent years I will be able to do it.
At this point you're probably wondering, "what is the point of this article?" Well, you should have figured that out from the title. Anyone can build velocity, but it's pointless if you don't take proper care of your arm. Pre and post routines are the most important part of a pitcher's daily routine. You up the risk of injury if the arm is not properly prepared and activated. You risk not properly recovering if you do not have a good post-throwing routine.
Think of it this way, you're arm is the car engine, and the pre/post arm care routines are the oil, transmission fluid, regular tune ups that your car needs to last longer. If you don't rake care of your car, it breaks down. The same with your arm. Now I won't go into detail of what a Pre/post routine should look like because there's this cool thing called Google that can find what you are looking for, but make sure it's from a credible source like 108 Performance Academy, Driveline Baseball, Jaeger Sports, and organizations like them.
Now when it comes to velocity, or upgrading your engine, it's a process. First you must figure out how strong and how fast your arm is and can be. Then you must analyze your mechanics to see if there is a pause or break in the kinematic sequence so that you can create positive energy more efficiently (throw hard easy). Once you've broken down the weaknesses in your body and mechanics, you can build a strength and mobility program to assist with the process.
Now, the arm is also like a car when it comes to velocity. The muscles and tendons in the front of the shoulder are your engine (arm speed), the one on the back of the shoulder are your breaks (arm strength). It is important to build both equally because your body will only allow your arm to go as fast as what your body can stop. So if you have a car with a Ferrari engine, but Honda Civic brakes, your only going to be able to go as fast as a Civic. But if you build up your breaks (muscles in back of shoulder) you unlock the ability to let your arm go faster.
"I have a strong arm but slow arm speed, how do I build arm speed?" Throwing lighter, as in with a lighter ball (regular ball is 5 oz), or with no ball at all, and give maximum effort. Train the arm and body to go faster and it will not have an issue doing it. "What if I have good arm speed but no arm strength?" The same way you would build strength in any other body part. Find a back and shoulder routine that focusses on that muscle group. Again the internet works wonders, and feel free to look at the organizations I mentioned earlier.
So if you ever feel like your velo is dropping, find a new Pre/post routine. If you want to build velocity, you must train the body to do so. Build strength, quickness, and mobility. Find the breaks in your kinematic sequence and fix them as soon as you can. But most importantly, be smart and don't give up if you don't see results right away. Its a process, trust in it.