One of the most common questions we get asked as pitching coaches is “How should my pitcher warm-up?” Assuming the pitcher has had a proper stretching and thrown overhand, the truth is, there’s no one correct warm-up routine a pitcher should force upon herself. Nor is there one specific set of drills that works best during the warm-up process. However, it is crucial for a pitcher to be MINDFUL of what she is doing during this time before a workout and a game.
Too frequently, pitchers are just casually doing their prescribed drill work and/or only focused on “getting loose.” This is a vital time to be aware of form and mechanics and requires a great deal of mental focus. It’s time to prepare your body and MIND for the task ahead. Body awareness and creating “the feel” that a pitcher wants to have when pitching are essential for her success in the circle. Pitchers (and coaches) get so caught up in doing drills that they forget to be present and feel the proper mechanics. A simple stationary or step pitch at a closer distance to warm up the upper body before moving to full pitching motion is all that is necessary.
Lisa Fernandez said she always warmed up with 20 fastballs, and finished every workout with 20 fastballs, even if she didn’t always use her fastball during games. She said it gave her a baseline to go to in case something didn’t feel right or if one of her pitches wasn’t working like it should. If the GOAT is thinking about her fastball mechanics at the beginning and end of all of her workouts, perhaps our pitchers should too! Here is a video of her speaking about the importance of Fastball mechanics.
Tips for a Mindful Warm-Up
The thoughts should be specific and focus on one aspect at a time. For example, focusing on the entire arm circle is too broad. There’s a lot that the arm does from the beginning to the end of the pitch, so narrow down the focus. Below is a checklist of things a pitcher should be mindful about during her warm-up routine. The list is by no means comprehensive, nor does the pitcher need to focus on EVERY aspect listed EVERY time she warms-up before practice/game. It’s very important to remember to only concentrate on ONE aspect at a time.
Upper Body Warm-Up Checklist
- Is my grip correct?
- Am I hiding the ball from batters?
- If doing dropback – am I keeping my knuckles forward on dropback and upswing?
- Am I reaching with a long, but loose, arm in front of my nose on upswing?
- Is my palm/ball facing catcher at circle peak?
- Can I feel my bicep by my ear?
- Am I staying relaxed in my downswing?
- Am I leading with my elbow?
- Do I feel my arm moving slow to fast throughout circle?
- Is my release point where I want it?
- Is my follow through long and relaxed?
- Am I feeling a good, fast whip?
- Is my head staying still?
- Is my glove arm being used efficiently?
- Am I in sync with pitching arm and glove arm?
- Do I feel finger pressure as I roll the ball off my fingers?
- What does my spin look like?
Tools to Aid Upper Body Warm-Up
To enhance the idea of mindfulness in the upper body, it is okay to use different sized balls (14”, 16”, zip ball, etc.) or spinners, but keep it to a simple stationary drill or step-pitch. Pitchers suddenly become more aware of what their fingers are doing when they pitch with a different type of ball. There’s no need to have a laundry list of drill work when warming-up. Just let them feel what it’s like to throw a slightly different sized ball.
Lower Body Warm-Up Checklist
- Am I getting a good drive off the mound?
- Is my stride leg getting to hip height?
- Am I leading with stride leg hip (reverse posture)?
- Do I face catcher as long as I can before landing?
- Am I getting shoulders and hips sideways?
- Do I feel myself landing toe first, then heel?
- Where am I landing in relation to power line?
- Do I land with solid front side resistance?
- Is my drag on my toe?
- Is my drag straight down power line?
- Am I driving knees together?
- Is my drag leg moving quickly?
- Am I keeping my core tight?
- Do I keep my hips at a 45° angle when I pinch knees together?
- Do I have good balance at the end of my pitch?
Tools to Aid Lower Body Warm-Up
A pitching plank or balance beam might be a good way to enhance a pitcher’s awareness in her lower body. When she is aware of an object underneath of her that she might fall off of, she very quickly becomes mindful of where her feet are going and what her posture and balance are doing. I recall seeing Jackie Traina from Alabama using a balance beam in her bullpen warm up at the WCWS several years ago. A drag box would be another option to use to enhance the pitcher’s load and drag during her warm-up.
Mindfulness Must Be Practiced
Mindfulness is something that requires mental effort and focus. Just like the physical game, it must be practiced regularly to improve in strength and stamina. Regardless of how you put it into practice, the key is getting your pitcher in tune with what she’s doing both physically and mentally, so that she can make adjustments on game day when she’s alone in that circle.
If you would like us to take a look at your pitcher’s mechanics and see what she should be mindful of in her warm-up, you can book appointments online through our contact page. Simply click on the instructor’s name to see their availability. Out of town? No problem! Check out our page for out of town students here. You can also purchase our Basic Pitching Video “Rita Lynn’s Pitching My Way” and Advanced Video “Spin It Like You Mean It” to see proper mechanics on your electronic device. They are NOW available to stream online without having to pay shipping! Visit our online store to see all of our pitching tools and products to help your pitcher get the most out of her warm-up routine. For more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and/or join our mailing list (green button below).