The game of baseball has changed a lot through the years for both pitchers and hitters. Professional pitchers today are much harder throwers than the majority of pitchers who came before them. In fact, the average speed of a four-seam fastball today is 94 miles per hour in the major leagues. 10 years ago, the average velocity was 89 miles per hour.
Professional pitchers are also striking hitters out at a very high rate compared to years past. In April 2021, there were almost 1,100 more strikeouts than hits, which was the largest gap in any month in major league history. To give you an idea of the jump in strikeouts per nine innings, in 1948 the average was 3.7Ks per nine innings compared to 8.1Ks per nine innings in 2016.
That’s not to say that hitters are being completely overmatched. They just seem to have more of an all or nothing approach when they’re at the plate. The number of home runs hit per game have risen dramatically since the 1940s. In 1948, there were .63 home runs hit per game compared to the 2016 season in which there were 1.16 home runs hit per game.
As you can see, the game of baseball has evolved over time to become much more about power and less about finesse. So, here are some ways that you can take your game to the next level and become a more powerful baseball player.
Strengthen Your Legs
You want to speed up your fastball like the pros? Start from the ground up. Pitchers generate a lot of power from their lower bodies, using their hips, glutes, quads, and hamstrings to transfer force from the ground through their torsos and to their arms. Block Deadlifts and Bulgarian Split Squats are two exercises that you can do to strengthen your lower body. And over time, these exercises will give you the strength and power that you need to start throwing harder and faster.
Block Deadlifts: In addition to building lower-body strength, deadlifts also require a strong core to protect your lower back, as well as mobile hips and hamstrings to get you into a proper stance. If you think about your pitching mechanics, you’ll see that these are the exact muscles that you’re using whenever you’re on the mound.
To do block deadlifts, which are just like deadlifts from the floor, but the weight plates are elevated on wooden blocks, elevate the bar so it sits somewhere between your mid-shin and just below your knees in starting position. Set your feet about shoulder-width apart and stand with your shins pressed against the bar. Without bending your knees, push your hips back until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Then bend your knees until you can grab the bar with your hands just outside your legs. Engage your core, squeeze your shoulders back, and pull your chest up, while taking a big breath of air. Drive your heels into the floor and straighten your legs to get the bar moving. Keep your chest up and the bar against your legs the whole time. Push your hips into the bar and squeeze your glutes to lock out the weight. Return the bar to the blocks by pushing your hips back and lowering the bar under control.
Bulgarian Split Squats: As a pitcher, you need strong quads to create a firm foundation when your stride leg lands. Having strong quads will allow you to drive toward home plate and fire off your heater. Bulgarian Split Squats (also known as Dumbbell Split Squats Rear Foot Elevated) will add strength to your lower body, especially your quads, glutes, and hamstrings.
To do Bulgarian Split Squats, stand in front of a bench with your back facing the bench and your arms at your sides, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Lift your right leg and place it behind you on the bench, while keeping your left leg straight. Squat down and lower your body until your back knee is just over the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Raise back up and then repeat for 10 reps. Then switch legs. Complete three sets of 10 reps.
Increase Your Shoulder Mobility and Flexibility
As any pitcher knows, in order to have prolonged success you need to take care of your arm. That’s why it’s important to increase your shoulder mobility and flexibility. The 90/90 Stretch with Arm Sweep exercise will do just that, and also stretch out your middle and upper back, as well as your torso.
To do the 90/90 Stretch with Arm Sweep, lie down on your back with your left knee bent and your right leg crossed over the top of your left leg. Then roll to your left side (your bent knee side), while bringing your right knee toward the ground. Use a towel or pad for cushion between your knee and the ground. Place your right arm parallel to your leg, and rotate your chest and top arm out, putting your arm straight up over your head. Then bring your arm out and down the right side of your body in a sweeping motion toward your butt. Repeat the sweeping motion from your head to your butt with your arm for eight reps. Then switch and do this exercise with your opposite arms and legs. Complete three sets of 8 reps.
Develop Bat Speed and More Rotational Force
Since pitchers have been getting their reps in off the field, which has translated to them throwing straight heat on the mound, hitters have to step up their game and be ready to drive those fastballs out of the park. Two of the most important skills for any baseball player, and especially hitters, are hand-eye coordination and power development. Medicine Ball Rotational Throws and the Barbell Home Run Press are two hitting exercises that will lead to greater arm strength and more hitting power.
Medicine Ball Rotational Throws: The purpose of Medicine Ball Rotational Throws is to generate as much force as possible, while going through the full motion of a baseball swing using a medicine ball. This exercise will help you develop bat speed and more rotational force during your swing thanks to the quick and powerful motion that’s involved.