The Personal Trainer’s Guide to Softball Pitching

If you’re a fitness professional who trains athletes, stop for a second. You don’t need new exercises, equipment, or certifications. What you DO need is to learn how to communicate what you already have to offer on your athletes’ terms. Speak their language. If you train softball pitchers, this post is exactly what you need.

Here is a breakdown of softball pitching mechanics, translated so fitness professionals can follow along. After reading this post you should be able to 1) identify the critical mechanics and capacities of softball pitching, 2) communicate your basic understanding of these mechanics to a softball pitcher or coach and most importantly 3) relate these mechanics and capacities to the exercise selection and design of your strength and conditioning program.

I find it’s easiest to dissect windmill mechanics into four phases; however, I should acknowledge that researchers have further divided the sequence to examine forces on the pitching arm at different points throughout the motion.

Progression of the windmill pitch
Wind up –
  • Variable
  • Load/prep of the back leg to drive off rubber
Stride to Lead Foot Contact –
  • Drive off rubber with back leg, propelling the body in a straight line toward home plate
  • Pitching arm will travel from 6 o’clock to 12 o’clock (between 160-180 degrees of flexion/abduction)
  • Body turns toward third base (for a right-handed pitcher)
  • Lead leg lands with knee slightly flexed (around 30 degrees)
  • Lead foot lands internally rotated (around 30 degrees) toward the third base side
  • At lead foot contact, pitching arm will be at 12 o’clock
  • Lead arm points toward home plate

Beginning of the pitch stride

Pitcher in tracked "K" position

Delivery to release –
  • Pitching arm travels (counter clockwise) from 12 o’clock to release very close to the plane of the body
  • Elbow may be slightly flexed and elbow/wrist position will vary at release depending on the pitch thrown
  • Lower trunk will rotate (20-45 degrees) toward home plate up to point of release
  • Back leg slides (must maintain ground contract) in straight line toward lead leg
3 photos showing landing progression
Follow through –
  • Pitching arm (elbow/wrist) action is variable
  • Back leg completes its slide, with the back foot contacting the lead foot
  • Lower trunk completes its rotation, squaring off to home plate (similar to other sports)
  • Pitcher should finish “tall” into lead leg
  • Pitcher will adjust back leg in order to prepare to field a batted ball

Pitch follow-through compared to golf swing

I’ve bolded the components that I feel strength coaches should be most concerned with. Right now, you don’t need to know how many degrees per second the arm is traveling toward home plate, or the compressive forces exerted on the elbow. Take a look at the positions your pitcher must have the capacity (mobility, stability, strength, endurance) to get to, before you get caught up in the numbers.

About the author

Joe Bonyai

Joe Bonyai is a strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Fastpitch Power. Joe operates Empower Athletic Development, a speed, strength and conditioning business for competitive athletes in Westchester, NY. Joe also authors a multi-sport training blog at www.Empower-ADE.com. Feel free to connect with Joe through Facebook at www.facebook.com/JJBonyai.

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