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Weight Workout for Pitchers

Dec 19, 2008
First time post.

My 12 year old DD's travel team will be starting winter workouts in a couple of weeks. They will be every week, 3 hours each workout. In addition to the pitchers and catchers working out together, there will be a weight workout routine. I do not know what this routine is yet.

My DD uses the Finch Windmill and lifts a 1lb. working her shoulder. She does this 5 days a week, in addition to pitching practice and jump rope. This has been very effective.

DD's pitching instuctor says pitchers are not supposed to workout with heavy weights at all, only light weights. Says pitchers need to continue developing long, strong, fast twitch muscles. Is this indeed true? Should we avoid heavy weights? How much is too much? How do I handle telling the coaches my DD won't be lifting heavy weights?

I appreciate any input.


Softball fan
Feb 28, 2008
Montreal, Canada
Training and Conditioning for Softball Pitching

Here we go again :) Myths are like overuse injuries, they don't go away!

Just for the record - Finch Windmill is good device to use to supplement any skills or weight training.

The heavy weight things is just a myth that will just not die. Softball and baseball are very conservative sports - things takes a lot of time to change and knowledge (and false information like training myths) are passed down from coaches to players who become coaches and passed it down again.

Anyway, there is no truth in that. At 12 y-o, she can lift heavier weights. The rule of thumb is always to have proper technique. Lifting heavier weights is required to get stronger.

The idea that somehow this still stunt the growth or make it big bulky muscle is just false. A muscle cannot "be long" like what we hear in commercial. Long and lean muscles - it's just hyped marketing words that appeals to women who don't want to look like Anorld!

You know what? They can't either because they don't have the muscle building hormone to do so. Those who look like female version of arnold know good pharmacists.

Trust me - I have worked with Olympic Pitchers and some of the top athletes in the world and lifting heavy was never a problems. I have designed programs for over a thousand athletes over the last 10 years, and roughly 40% of them were pitchers! Never had a problem.

You actually need to make the lifting challenging enough for the body to respond positively to get stronger.

Would you lift a broomstick to get stronger? Of course not. You get the point.

May 25, 2008
Pickerington Ohio
Mark, I have heard that unless you work with weights at least three times a week you are wasting your time. If there is extended periods of rest between workouts with weights there are no gains. Is this true?
Sep 18, 2008

Do you have any recommendations on particular type of weight lifting a 12U pitcher can use? In other words curls, bench press etc.

Also thanks for the daily email tips. I've got my whole team receiving them. They are very helpful.

Aug 6, 2008
Marc, I would add that as with anything, consider what goals you want to achieve, and the athlete you are working with. It's a given that the earlier a kid starts training, the further ahead of their peers they will be - to a point. There are many considerations, some of which are:

"Sport-specific" lifting and conditioning. For instance, my DD used a 5 gallon can filled with white rice (I'm sure you know of this) for hand/forearm strenghtening when she was young. This would seem to be a waste of time for a soccer player.

Age appropriate weight and reps. Should a 12 yr. old be trying to max a squat? I don't think so. I'm just a parent, but I have an elementary understanding of the "destroy, rest, rebuild" cycle for muscle building. Hormones play a distinct role, and for boys, when the testosterone kicks in some of the best gains can be made. Before that, light weight, PROPER form, and reasonably high reps. For females? You would have to answer that, Marc. All I know is that my DD didn't lift "in earnest" until she was a sophomore in high school. As a college junior, she now holds the record for leg press on her softball team. Softball pitchers = legs, legs & more legs. No bulk in the shoulder area. Everything should be strong to some degree for stamina and injury prevention. Time spent on waist down for softball pitchers will pay much higher dividends than upper body lifts. She is an animal now with the weights, but we were VERY conservative when she was 12 - 14. I think the time spent on general conditioning (just being in shape) and pitching technique helped her reach her college goal more than focusing on strength building.

Marc, if I understand you correctly, I think we agree about the "overuse injury" myth? My DD used to pitch 3 (sometimes 4!) games a day in the summer - in 90 degree heat! She NEVER had ANY shoulder or elbow pain. At 16, when she started throwing more movement pitches, she had forearm muscle soreness, nothing more. She pitched a 17 inning game in high school! Softball pitching is NOT baseball pitching. It's all about conditioning, proper mechanics, and of course genetics. Not every kid will be a work-horse. But my DD can't sprint a 2.4 to first either. Each kid is built differently. Therein lies the answer to the "overuse" myth.

Age-appropriate monitoring. I cannot stress this enough. I would not let EITHER of my kids start lifting at their high school (at age 14) before I was comfortable that they themselves knew EXACTLY how to perform the lifts, how much weight they should be using, and the reps. Unless you have a certified trainer, you're taking a huge injury risk. Is it worth it? All we had were volunteer assistant coaches whom I did not trust - in other words, they were clueless.

If Marc would have been the staff trainer at the high school where my kids went, things would have been much different. I would have felt very comfortable "turning my kids loose" with him because of his knowledge and qualifications.


Super Moderator
Staff member
May 26, 2008
Dallas, Texas
Does your DD ice her shoulder/arm after she pitches? If so, then why does she ice if there has been no damage to her body?

The idea that softball pitching is somehow exempt from the physiological rules that apply to all other physical activities is silly. Pitchers use a set of muscles to throw a ball. If you use those muscles too much, there will be injury.

The golf swing motion is very similar to that of a softball pitcher, and pro golfers do develop injuries from over-use. And, unlike pitchers, golfers rarely swing as hard as possible.
Aug 6, 2008
Considering most women are pretty much done with the game by age 22 or so, how long do you wait before these "overuse" problems appear? I know of a 32 year old gal (ex-DI pitcher) who's now raising a family that can still "bring it". I don't know of any lingering effects from her days as a pitcher.

However, I work with a couple guys that played football in high school. Yep - bad knees. My brother is 55 years old, and still has lingering elbow and shoulder pain from baseball pitching 35 years ago. Medical journals are full of research that shows why and how from those sports. Show me scientific evidence of the "overuse" phenomenon in softball pitchers, and how it applies across the board to every female athlete.

"Bulky shoulders" are not necessarily "strong and powerful" shoulders. Body make up and type (genetics) are a huge determining factor. Finch doesn't appear to have "bulky" shoulders or arms, but I'm certain she's very well conditioned and strong. Fernandez has a different body type than Finch, and "appears" more bulky. Both are obviously at the top of women's fastpitch. But I don't believe for a minute that developing bulky shoulders had anything to do with their success.
Jul 17, 2008
Troy, Illinois

As you know, this is a hot topic on another site as well. My response on another site and now here is that while lifting isn't a problem its muce more complicated. When you ask a 12 year old to start a program, they should be evaluated first by a trainer and given the clearance by a physician. Do you agree? Also, they need to be given instruction in proper lifting technique. I'm certified in Bigger Faster Stronger. We have incorporated it into both the high school and middle school physical ed programs. The middle school staff spends the first week(s) doing nothing but teaching technique. IMHO, that is necessary to lifting at an early age. Your thoughts?
Nov 6, 2008
Injury Studies

"Show me scientific evidence of the "overuse" phenomenon in softball pitchers, and how it applies across the board to every female athlete"

My experience in teaching pitching is that there are legitimate concerns over the overuse issue. My daughter pitched through college without significant injury, but others I have seen do suffer from overuse injuries. You could argue that the injury risk is only to the unenlightened who do not utilize textbook technique, but the studies say otherwise. I cringe when I see my students being pitched way too much by their daddy ball coaches who are chasing one more trophy.

Here are a few of the studies out there:

Two studies of Olympic pitchers:

1. http://www.la84foundation.org/OlympicInformationCenter/OlympicReview/1999/OREXXVI25/OREXXVI25zk.pdf

Quote from this study:
“A distraction force, equal to that encountered in baseball pitching, was found to occur at the instant of ball release for the Olympic softball pitchers”

2. Kinematics and Kinetics of Elite Windmill Softball Pitching
Werner et al. Am J Sports Med.2005; 0: 0363546505281796v1

Other Studies:

1. Pain and overuse injuries to the upper extremity in the adolescent female windmill fastpitch softball player.(SOUTH CAROLINA JUNIOR ACADEMY OF SCIENCE ABSTRACTS) Bulletin of the South Carolina Academy of Science
January 1, 2005 by Ross Ashley

2. The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research(August 2004)APT Online - Female Collegiate Windmill Pitchers: Influences to Injury Incidence
(Study conducted by Ball State University)
Quote from this study:
“Pitchers are at a risk for injury, with 72.8% of surveyed pitchers being injured during the 2001–02 year”

Other's on this forum are much more qualified than I am in this area and may know of additional data out there.

Aug 6, 2008
Steve -
Of the two articles you referenced, the following quote from the Sports Science Newsletter is probably the most significant. I applaud the ASA and ISF organizations for getting behind such a worthwhile effort. Unfortunately, I don't know how much influence the IOC will be since softball seems to have fallen from their graces. Here's hoping that's only temporary.

For the first time in its history, the international
softball community appears
to have an interest in the science
behind the sport. The Amateur Softball
Association and the ISF have
expressed their concern for “replacing
long-standing myths with scientific
fact to educate athletes, coaches,
etc.“. It is hoped that this interest will
continue to grow and that additional
studies will be undertaken. Thanks to
the support of the IOC, a scientific
basis has been established. As the
sport moves toward only its second
Olympic season, softball has the
potential to join the list of other sports
(i.e. athletics, gymnastics, swimming
and diving, etc.) with rich scientific

Good Stuff!

On the other hand, the APT article is very vague, almost like an advertisement in a trade magazine. Alarming was the statement that "...training program information were not statistically significant (p < 0.05) in relation to injury." So, was the conditioning program to physically prepare the pitchers adequate for strength building and injury prevention? And, unlike the other article, there was no mention of a study of the pitching mechanics of the injured pitchers, their physical condition, prior history, etc.

Studies cost lots of money, but as more college softball players enter the PT and medical field, interest may spike in detailed pitching studies - like it has for female knee injuries.

P.S. 2,000 pitches at 70+ mph? That's absolutely insane!!! Now THAT'S overuse!!

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