Pitching Training Aids: Why They Work
Pitching training aids work in a few ways, depending on the one you’re looking to try. Some are geared toward target practice, but there are other aids that help with arm strength and control as well as proper usage of the lower body. These latter two aids are newer and more innovative, but they work incredibly well by combining instant feedback with muscle memory training.
We’ll break down a couple of general aids and how and why they work, as well as some of their drawbacks, if any.
These aids involve a visible target for which the player aims. This is typically associated with a netted or padded target with a taped outline, but there have been some unique developments in this area lately.
One of these newer tools is called “strike strings.” This is the only target aid that will allow you to use a catcher. The fluorescent strings are shaped into a strike zone and held taut by tying the ends to a fence, pole, or other sturdy object. (Some kits will come with ground stakes so you can use this directly over the plate.) You can also subdivide the box into 6 squares to help target specific areas.
This type of pitching aid provides instant, easy-to-see feedback. Both the pitcher and the catcher will be able to better visualize the strike zone and recognize when the target has really been hit. Unlike other target aids, this one helps get the catcher involved with actual follow-through pitching. The pitcher is also better able to train the muscle memory to get the ball into a specific corner. This is especially true if you use ground stakes to train directly over home plate.
Target practices are a great tool, but they can be misleading. Just because a person hits the target doesn’t mean they are using their bodies efficiently. They could be throwing in a way that increases the risk of injury or which limits their power. Target aids also do not give targeted assistance with the correct form. For this reason, we recommend that you use target aids in conjunction with other aids designed for proper pitching and throwing technique.
Upper Body Pitching Aid
We know how important form is for fast, targeted pitches. Proper pitching form can be hard to learn, and once an incorrect form is ingrained, it can be difficult to shake. Using throwing or pitching simulators helps train (or retrain) the proper arm path.
One type of upper body pitching aid is the Fast Arm. This aid is a specially designed rod with a weighted ball on one end that guides the arm in the proper path. The angle of the rod prevents the “under the ball” pitch, which can decrease power and can lead to injury. As the path of the pitch is ingrained in the muscle memory, the power potential is ramped up. It becomes safer, easier and more efficient to throw a top velocity strike. The way the handle is designed also allows players to train their fingers for the right grip on a curveball, fast ball or screwball.
This is just one type of upper body pitching aid. There are many out there that use the same principle. The idea is simply to ingrain the coordination pattern from start to finish.
Not all upper body aids are equal. Some can be easy to misuse, which can defeat the entire purpose of the aid. The player might end up misusing the tool and, thus, learn an incorrect technique. Make sure the tool you select is relatively fool-proof, and monitor the player’s usage to ensure the technique is working.
Lower Body Pitching Aids
The lower body is often over-looked when training pitchers, but it’s vital for optimal performance. The feet must take off at the correct angle, and the legs must bear and shift the weight in a precise way. The hips must rotate and lead for maximum power. Taking advantage of the lower body can add power without overstressing the arm.
There aren’t many aids on the market that target this area. Most coaches are left to verbalize the proper form, but the player has a hard time knowing how accurately (if at all) they’re performing.
Aids like the Power Drive, help by giving instant feedback while guiding the lower body. With this product, the pitcher stands on a plate that rests on a fulcrum. When the player leads with the hips, the plate tips forward as they raise their front leg, providing a confirming “clink” sound that lets the player know they’re distributing their weight correctly. An incorrect form will make the plate clink later, when the pitcher’s leading foot is already on the ground.
This kind of instant auditory feedback helps players self-correct. It tells them exactly when things are going well, so they can repeat this motion until it becomes a part of their muscle memory.
The only downfall with this aid is the need to transition to pitching without the tilt of the plate. Use this tool to help the pitcher get the proper form down, then throw a few pitches without it. Rotate back and forth so the pitcher gets used to throwing without the tilting plate.
Why They Work
As we’ve discussed for each of the tools above, pitching aids work mostly on muscle memory. The player is guided through the correct motions time after time, and eventually this technique will stick.
The second way these particular tools help is by giving instant feedback. The player will instantly know if they’ve done something right or wrong. This gives them the chance to stop, correct, and work toward a better pitch.
It is this combination that makes the tools effective: instant feedback that allows constant self-correction, which ultimately leads to a better, more consistent performance.
Consider using more than one aid at a time. For instance, you can use target aids with lower body aids. The more holistic your approach, the better.
Using Pitching Aids for the Whole Team
The benefits of a well-aimed, powerful throw are helpful for every player. With little to no adjustment, any of these training aids can be used for general throwing technique. This makes any pitching aid a good investment for the whole team.
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