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Increase the Speed of Your FASTBALL

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by  Gerald Warner, Softball Pitching Instructor
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We feel that the list below is the best compilation of recommendations and potential practices for a pitcher who wants to increase the speed of her fastball.   However, all 20 of these techniques and drills will vary in success from one pitcher to the next.  All girls have strengths…and limitations…based on genetics, physical characteristics, mental attitude and personality, and
athletic ability.

It also needs to be stated here that increased pitching speed will not be a cure-all.  Speed alone will not overwhelm or control good hitters.  Well-developed additional pitches are mandatory.  We have seen pitchers in high school and college with a comparatively slow 53 or 55 mph fastball, but with an excellent change-up, drop ball, rise, screw, or curve ball that makes them very successful.


Here are some of the drills, refinements, and modifications that we encourage a
pitcher to use to increase her pitching speed.   Typically, almost any experienced pitcher can see a measurably faster fastball by utilizing one or more of these methods

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1.     Commitment and effort – Somewhere during their young career, most pitchers have heard a coach or a parent say “Just throw strikes”, and unfortunately that statement continues to echo for a long time.  Accuracy for some pitchers has taken precedence, deserved or not, over giving an all-out effort.  Many pitchers can increase speed when they truly commit to using good pitching mechanics...and throwing hard.   Be aggressive.  Think "Explode!".   You have to EXPLODE off the pitching rubber!

2.   Improve your pre-pitching warm-up
– Even experienced pitchers feel they can speed through their running and stretching regimen so they can get right to throwing.  Unfortunately, most do limited arm and leg stretches, and perhaps most importantly, bypass good loosening up of the midsection.  The trunk (tummy and back) is the key to a fast close and speed increase.  Do opposite leg toe touches, opposite leg touches on crunches and sitting hamstring stretches.

- When thing start going wrong, step back and concentrate.  Relax your jaw, neck muscles, and upper back.  Being too tight makes you throw slower and lose control.  A loose pitching arm allow for a better whipping action and faster pitch.

   Always practice good fundamentals -  
The process of getting speed out of your pitch starts with:
(1) a good full body lean (not bending at the waist) to (2) get a good push off, and a
(3) long powerful stride.  (4) Open your body fully during the rotation.  Then,
(5) “close” hard by bringing your shoulders back so you are (6) tall and upright (not bending at the waist OR leaning to the side) at the release of the ball.   At the release point,  (7)  keep your arm straight (not bent at the elbow) , and (8) for more power and control, keep the fingers behind the ball.

EXPERIENCED PITCHERS - There is an additional article on this website that might be beneficial to you.

Click here to go to For Increased Speed and Accuracy - "Finish" the Pitch

Here are some of these procedures in greater detail:

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5.    Develop a strong push off - The push off the pitching rubber by your throwing-side leg can set in motion a critical sequence of events that creates a faster pitch.  As you start your windup, you transfer weight from your rear leg to your drive (or push-off) leg.  A strong push against the front edge of the rubber drives your stride leg faster and farther, resulting in a more complete sideways twist (or "opening") of your body at the middle part of your arm rotation.  A full 90-degree opening forces you to more quickly torque your trunk "closed"... and a quick closing means your shoulders close before your lower body, creating a strong arm whip (see below) and likely a good wrist snap (see #7).

To assist in getting a strong push off, use a "body lean" weight transfer.  As you start your you start the forward rotation of your arm...let your entire body (no bending at the waist) lean or fall forward to transfer weight solidly to your push off leg.  This leaning concept increases weight on the drive foot, making you to push off the rubber with greater force.

6.  Step on the "Power Line" - Although some pitchers have been taught to "sidestep" to complete the rotation of the trunk (closing), you likely will gain speed by focusing all of your effort straight ahead.  The Power Line is an invisible line between the center of the pitching rubber and the rear point of home plate.  When your stride foot lands with the toe touching against the Power Line, you will likely improve your chances to increase speed as well as control.

7.    Arm whip – Here is where we feel most pitchers have the greatest opportunity to improve their pitching speed...and it is also most often not mentioned.  You can achieve a faster fastball by speeding up the arm speed during the final downswing before the release.  This intentional “whipping” of the arm through the final one-third of the rotation will create a faster closing of the shoulder while the arm is still in its downward movement, creating a faster movement of the arm (and subsequently the ball) just before the release point, resulting in a much faster pitch.


8.     Come up tall at the release
 – We have seen many pitchers,
particularly those without formal training, lose much of their
potential speed by bending at the waist when they release the ball. 
Stay tall, and snap your shoulders back when you deliver the pitch.

Kylee (shown in the picture on the right) demonstrates good form at the release of the pitch...upper body is nearly straight, no bending at the waist, and her stride leg is pushing back to get maximum resistance for the arm whip.

9.     Fingers behind the ball – This is such a fundamental recommendation that it seems it doesn’t deserve mention here.  However, even some experienced pitchers were taught to release the ball by rolling their fingers up the outside.  Others use a "twist release" somewhat similar to the release of a screwball.   A typical 3-finger fastball grip and release forces a faster pitch by having the fingers “driving” the ball through with power and speed.  If the fingers are on the side of the ball at the release point, speed will decrease.

10.   Improve your wrist snap - (This step is NOT recommended for beginning pitchers or even those with 1 or 2 years of experience.   Concentrating on an intentional wrist snap can adversely affect control, and even speed when attempted by younger, less experienced pitchers).   A fast forward snap of the wrist as the ball is being released , if done in conjunction with the arm whip (#5 above), can increase pitching speed 3 to 5 miles per hour.  To make it easier to create a good forward snap at the release point, make it a practice to keep your wrist bent backward slightly during the final downswing of your arm.   Precisely at the release point, consciously whip your wrist forward to help accelerate the ball.  (Again, this is recommended only for older, experienced pitchers)


11.   Distance pitching – This is the most effective drill to increase your speed and control.   AFTER you are well warmed-up, step back one step (two or three feet) after each pitch, throwing from a longer distance each time.  Work your way back until you can barely make the throw to the catcher.  Then start back forward, throwing from a step closer each time.  When back on the rubber, throw 15 to 20 consecutive full-speed fastballs.  Do this distance-pitching drill regularly…during every practice, and especially before a game.  BE CAREFUL!   Pitching from a longer distance, especially if done with the overweighted ball (see below), can lead to injury.
12.     Weighted ball – For strength and speed training, we often recommend that a pitcher throw 15-20 pitches with an overweighted ball each practice session.  IMPORTANT:  Improper warm-up, over-use, or lack of caution when using a weighted ball, can cause injuries.  BE CAREFUL!
You can buy regulation-size 12" (circumference) softballs that weigh up to 12 ounces (twice the weight of a regulation 6¼+ ounce softball) .  Typically our pitchers use a 9, 10, or 11 ounce ball for strength development.  Otherwise, you can create your own 8 ounce weighted ball by adding 1½ to 2 ounces of 1½”-long finishing nails into the seams between the stitches. Pound them into the ball along the seams every 2 to 3 stitches and counter-sink each nail. (You might want to also dip each nail in a small dab of glue first to help stop them from partially coming back out).   
          UNDERweighted ball – Softballs that weigh less than the standard ball are used for speed training.  Practice good pitching mechanics and fundamentals using a 4 or 5 ounce ball, then move to an overweighted 8 or 9 ounce ball before moving back to the regulation softball.

13.     Increase your leg speed with "Run-up / Walk-through" pitching – The speed of your stride leg can determine the speed of your pitching. We usually recommend that our pitchers use a 2-step approach by starting 5 or 6 feet behind the rubber.  Step first with your left foot.  The 2nd step lands on the front edge of the rubber where you start your rotation and delivery.  After releasing the ball, continue "walking through the pitch" 1 or 2 steps toward the catcher.  Eventually you can increase the speed of your approach by running to the pitching rubber.  The faster you drive your stride foot forward, the faster you will pitch. This is especially beneficial when throwing your warm-up pitches at the start of a new half-inning.

14.     Bungee and harness exercises – For a more explosive push off, you can practice with a waist or full-body harness connected from your back to a solid post or fence by a long bungee cord.  Stretch it to a firm position, then use your normal pitching wind-up and release to pitch with resistance coming from the bungee.
           You can also purchase (or make) a bungee with a ball on the end.  Use it in a similar fashion to build pitching arm/shoulder strength and speed.

15.     Rapid-sequence pitching drills – Sometimes we call these "speed drills" which we do at the end of a practice session to build both strength and stamina.   (Incidentally, you need a cooperative catcher to make these drills work). 
           The object is to throw 15 full speed pitches WITHOUT winding up, as rapidly as possible.  As soon as the catcher catches one, she rapidly returns the ball to the pitcher who is already on the rubber, ready to start her delivery again.  It is best to use two the catcher can already have one in her throwing hand when she catches a pitch.  If done rapidly, 15 pitches and throwbacks will take 45 seconds to 1 minute.
           Rest for 1 minute.   Then do 15 rapid-sequence pitches again.
           Do at least 4 drills of 15 pitches each.   Go at it until you are exhausted, then... 
                do it one more time!

16.     One Knee drill – This drill is used for increasing upper body strength and arm speed:  Facing the catcher, kneel on your pitching-side knee with the other knee bent at 90 degrees and facing forward.  Keep your body up straight.  Throw at least 30 full speed fastballs while on one knee.  This exercise can also help with speed development during a game…without a catcher (but have someone help retrieve balls) from 4 or 5 feet away, practice throwing rapidly against a fence.
17.     The 9 O’clock One-Step drill – This drill is designed to assist in “closing” and using the lower body:  Face 3rd base (for a right-hander) start by holding the ball straight up in the air, and glove hand pointing toward the catcher.  Throw hard, and follow through, ending up in the ready position.  

18.     Trunk (midsection) Stretching and Exercises - Your belly and back muscles force the torqing (closing) of the hip to help drive the ball through at the release.  Many pitchers can show a definite increase in speed by emphasizing trunk and cross-leg stretches prior to a game.
19.     Wrist-Snap Exercises – A consistently good wrist snap at the release point of your pitch can add to your speed.  Do lots of wrist exercises when warming-up…every time!
      a)  From 12 to 15 feet, throw to a catcher:  Pitching arm straight down at your side, throw only by snapping your wrist.
     b)  Sitting:  Raise your left knee slightly.  Push your right hand under the knee.  Throw the ball straight up…throwing it higher and with more accuracy each time.  Do 50 or more of these each time.
     c)  Before practice, before a game, or between innings, loosen your wrist. Keep it moving up and down.

20.     Throw at an old piece of carpet or tarp – More than any other, this exercise has consistently added more speed for most pitchers who practice it.  Since we are in an area where outdoor pitching practice isn't always practical, we encourage pitchers to find a heavy tarp or carpet remnant at least 6 feet wide and 10 feet long, hang it from a joist in the basement or a rafter in the garage, then just wail the ball at it with all of your might.  Don't worry about control, just throw hard.  Use your full wind-up and good pitching mechanics, but throw each pitch as hard as you can...without worrying about accuracy.  There's no one to call balls and strikes, just think that each pitch needs to be a little harder than the last.
          Read more about this by clicking here: An Off-Season Drill to Increase Speed


The list above can be downloaded and printed from Microsoft Word


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If you have questions or need more information
E-mail us,  or call Pitching Instructor Gerald Warner in Colorado at (720) 200-4575


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