Pro Tips: How To Develop a Successful Pre-Game Pitching Routine

how to Develop a Successful Pre-Game Pitching Routine

What is a Pre-Game Pitching Routine?

A “Pre-Game Pitching Routine,” can simply be defined as, “What do I need to physically and mentally do to get my body prepared to pitch?” Technically there are no right or wrong answers, but there are certainly some key components that need to be addressed to compete at your best. In this blog, I will summarize the most crucial information I have learned from professional baseball that can help translate to a better pitching performance.

If you were to question any professional baseball pitcher what their pre-game routine is, they would be able to thoroughly list everything they do from morning to game time. This comes from consistently practicing the routine and learning what works best for you. A pre-game routine is one of the biggest topics addressed to pitchers in professional baseball and should be implemented by all.

Think of a morning routine for a normal day. Wake up, brush your teeth, eat breakfast, shower, and change. Great, those are all the things needed to start the day. Most of these tasks are second nature and are done without hesitation. That is how we need to think about our pre-game pitching routine. “What has to be done to have me ready to compete?”

Every baseball pitcher will have a different pre-game routine. The routine needs to be individualized to meet your specific needs. What works for someone else, might not be best for you. A routine is not developed overnight, instead, it is slowly adapted over time from learning through experience.

A pre-game pitching routine will also be different for your specific role. Starters generally have a more structured and predictable routine than relievers because they know in advance when they will be pitching, allowing them to prepare more methodically. A reliever can still implement a similar routine if they expect to pitch that day.

In professional baseball I was transitioned from a starter to a reliever, this was challenging at first because I was so conditioned to follow an in-depth pitching routine. I learned from trial and error what needed to be accomplished before the game to feel my best. As I noted earlier you will learn through experience, this will be different for every pitcher’s situation but the key is to stick with it.

Why is a Pre-Game Pitching Routine Important?

Having a routine is crucial for pitchers for various reasons, including consistency, mental preparation, injury prevention, and time management. A consistent routine enables players to understand precisely what their body requires to perform at their best, eliminating the need to waste time on unnecessary prep work. Consistency is the hallmark of great baseball players, who can repeatedly execute their skills daily.

Structured routines also aid in mental focus, providing a sense of familiarity and comfort. A confident and relaxed player typically performs at their best. Moreover, baseball players subject their bodies to significant stress during games and practice, and a consistent routine that includes proper warm-up, stretching, and conditioning can help prevent injuries, ensuring that they remain healthy throughout the season.

A pre-game pitching routine will help you manage your time wisely. This will keep you focused on the task at hand until game time. Professional baseball pitchers can map out exactly how long their routine will take before they have to compete. This is especially important when determining what time you need to arrive at the field.

My pre-game pitching routine allowed me to feel comfortable in any game situation. I knew that I had done everything needed to feel my best and as a result, this translated directly into my pitching confidence. Your mind is very powerful, when you tell yourself you are tired or sore, chances are you will lack adrenaline or aggression. A consistent routine that is implemented correctly will have your body ready to go with no doubts or worries. Consistency, comfort, and confidence are the 3 C’s you need to live by as a baseball pitcher.

Before we dive into the components of a successful pre-game pitching routine, please remember that every player is different. This breakdown needs to be used as a reference guide and a tool for generating your routine. I do not want pitchers to feel obligated to utilize every piece of information listed. Some pitchers might find a couple of things they like, while others might find this completely useless.

That is fine by all means. You know your body better than anyone else. Listen to your body and make changes as you see fit. My goal is to share my professional knowledge of pre-game pitching routines and help baseball players learn.

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How To Develop a Successful Pre-Game Pitching Routine:

Tip #1: Start The Night Before

If there is any possibility of you pitching the next day, you need to practice healthy habits to help boost your performance. Your goal should be to recover as best as possible the night before, There are different ways to approach the night before, but here are some examples I strive for:

  • Sleep: Aim to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep for recovery and muscle repair
  • Hydrate: Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day and avoiding caffeine and alcohol
  • Fuel Up: Eat a nutritious meal that includes a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats for sustained energy during the game
  • Supplements: Consistent usage of daily supplements is great for long-term results.
  • Eat Smart: Avoid heavy or spicy foods that can cause digestive discomfort
  • Visualize: Mentally prepare by visualizing successful outcomes and reviewing scouting reports
  • Stay Relaxed: Avoid overthinking or obsessing about the game, as this can increase stress levels and impact performance.

A great investment for baseball players is a WHOOP. The WHOOP is highly used by professional baseball players because of the valuable data provided. The WHOOP is a wearable fitness tracker that provides insights into an athlete’s sleep, recovery, and performance. Using the WHOOP can help pitchers track their sleep patterns and ensure they are getting the necessary rest to optimize their physical and mental recovery.

The WHOOP can also provide valuable data on hydration levels. This is crucial for pitchers to monitor prior to their game to prevent muscle cramps and injury. The WHOOP can also monitor stress levels, which is important to manage the day before a pitching outing. Overall the WHOOP is a great tool for staying on track of your physical and mental well-being to ultimately improve your pitching performances.

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Tip #2: Pre-Game Nutrition

This is one of the most important steps in your pre-game pitching routine. Pitchers need to be smart about what they put in their bodies the day they are competing to fuel their bodies for optimal performance. Before I get to the field, I like to eat enough to feel full, but not bloated. What you decide to eat before you get to the field also depends on what time your game is, so consider that. A sub sandwich was my go-to meal in professional baseball. Here are some tips for pre-game nutrition:

  • Focus on carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and pasta.
  • Include protein from sources like lean meat, poultry, fish, beans, and nuts for muscle repair.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and electrolyte-rich fluids.
  • Avoid heavy or spicy foods that can cause digestive discomfort.
  • Take your regular daily supplements.
  • Don’t skip meals to prevent low energy levels and fatigue.
  • Plan meals and snacks to avoid last-minute scrambling.

Want to learn more about baseball nutrition? Check out my “FREE Baseball Nutrition Guide.” I explain everything I learned from professional baseball.

Tip #3: Soft Tissue Preparation

Once I arrive at the field, the first thing I like to do is soft tissue work. This is how most professional baseball players start their routine at the field regardless of position. This is a great time to relax, put some headphones in, and mentally prepare for the day ahead. I like to target my lower half and throwing arm. Pro tip: we do not want to be forceful, be under control, and be mindful of pressure. This should not hurt.

Soft tissue preparation is crucial before a bullpen because it helps to prevent injury and improves performance. By using foam rollers, massage balls, or other tools, pitchers can release muscle tension, increase blood flow, and improve flexibility. This prepares the body for the demands of throwing by allowing muscles to move more freely and reducing the risk of strains or other injuries.

Additionally, soft tissue work can improve proprioception, or the body’s awareness of its position and movement, which can enhance pitching mechanics and control. Overall, soft tissue preparation is an important aspect of a pitcher’s pre-game routine. If you want more items to help strengthen your pre-game routine, check out my recent post, “9 Best Baseball Products for Developing a Routine.”

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Tip #4: Mobility Patterns

Pitchers can perform various mobility patterns to enhance their performance and lower the risk of injuries. I look at mobility patterns as a way to activate the muscle groups that are heavily used to throw a baseball. Every baseball pitcher should have different areas of focus, but I will touch on the most common mobility patterns.

The patterns consist of exercises for hip mobility, shoulder mobility, and thoracic spine mobility. Hip mobility drills help pitchers activate their lower body. This is important for generating power and transferring force from the lower body to the upper body during the throwing motion. Shoulder mobility exercises improve the range of motion in the shoulder joint, which is necessary for a healthy throwing arm. Thoracic spine mobility exercises enable the upper back to rotate and extend better, helping pitchers achieve correct throwing mechanics and minimize stress on their shoulder and elbow joints. I recommend performing mobility work on a comfortable surface like a yoga mat.

Examples:

  • Hip Mobility: Improve hip range of motion. Hip CARs or Quadruped Hip Abductions
  • Thoracic Spine Rotation: Improve the ability of the thoracic spine to rotate and extend. Cat/Cow or Open Books
  • Shoulder Mobility: Improve range of motion in the shoulder joint. Sleeper Stretch or Wall Slides
  • Ankle Dorsiflexion: Improve ankle mobility. Ankle Circles or Calf Raises.
  • Wrist and Forearm Mobility: Improve wrist and forearm mobility. Banded Pronation/Supination.
  • Neck/Spine Mobility: Improve neck and spine mobility. Neck Circles or Spinal Flexion/Extension.

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Tip #5: Fuel Up and Relax

In professional baseball, you have a lot of time at the field. Most guys will arrive early to knock out their routine and not feel rushed. This part is completely optional, but I do highly suggest it.

At this point in your pre-game routine, you have activated your muscles and should be feeling loose. I like to take this time before dynamic stretching to eat a snack and relax. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed before you are pitching, so with plenty of time to spare before the game, this is a great opportunity to mentally prepare.

A lot of pitchers will put their headphones in and listen to music. This can help calm your nerves and let you settle in before the game. This is a great time to also go over scouting reports and take note of the hitter’s tendencies. Professional pitchers will do this to help formulate a game plan.

For eating before the game I would keep it very light. You do not want to put anything in your body that could slow you down. I personally like a classic PB&J sandwich or a protein shake. I do recommend having something in your stomach to stay energized.

Tip #6: Dynamic Stretching

In professional baseball, dynamic stretching is done right before throwing. You want your body to be as loose as possible before going through your throwing motion. Pro tip: If you are not sweating, you are not ready to throw.

Dynamic stretching involves active movements that gradually increase the range of motion and blood flow to the muscles, preparing them for the physical demands of an activity or exercise. Dynamic stretching is important before throwing as it helps to improve mobility, coordination, and overall athletic performance.

Some examples of dynamic stretches are backward lunges, RDL with reach, high knees, carioca, and shuffles. Dynamic stretches are usually performed before throwing to make sure your body is ready for higher intent. Most baseball players are familiar with dynamic stretches, but just make sure what you are doing is getting your entire body activated and ready to roll.

Tip #7: Scapula Activation

After Dynamic stretching, professional baseball players will begin their band work. I highly recommend any baseball player incorporate bands into their pre-game pitching routine.

The scapula muscles are important for throwing a baseball because they play a crucial role in shoulder and arm movement. These muscles work together to allow for the complex movements involved in throwing a baseball, including shoulder blade movement, retraction, protraction, upward rotation, and elevating the shoulder blade. Proper activation and strengthening of these muscles can help improve pitching mechanics, reduce the risk of injury, and enhance overall performance on the field.

The best way to activate these muscles is by using baseball bands.  Baseball bands are by far one of the most important items a baseball player of any age should be implementing into their routine. There are a variety of different band resistances that will make it safe to use for any ball player.

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Tip #8: Drill Work

At this point in your pre-game routine, your body is ready to begin the throwing process. This part is completely optional and does not have to be implemented by all pitchers. Professional baseball players will take this time to throw medicine balls or weighted balls before playing catch with a baseball.

Medicine Balls are a versatile training tool that can be used for a variety of exercises and movements. They are used by practically every professional baseball player and are a key component in my routine. Medicine ball throws are a great way to get the hips warmed up before throwing. You do medicine ball throws working down the mound to get comfortable with the slope. I like to think about it like this, a pitcher’s first high-intent rotation does not need to be with a baseball. 

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Weighted balls are used for performing different throwing motions that challenge your mechanics and aid in better arm action. My understanding with weighted balls is that when throwing a ball with heavier weight than a baseball, our body and arm understand the ball is heavier, so our arm works in a more efficient throwing pattern to avoid stress. This can then be blended with lower-weighted balls and regular baseballs to create a smooth throwing motion.

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Tip #9: Begin Throwing

At this point in your pre-game routine, your body is completely warmed up and ready to begin throwing a baseball. If you are the starting pitcher, go to whatever distance feels comfortable and listen to your arm. Gradually over time, you will understand what distance you need to reach to feel loose and ready to pitch. Do not let anyone tell you “specifically” how much you need to throw. Your body will be the determining factor as to what you need.

Relieving pitchers will be different. If you know there is a chance you will be throwing later in the game, do not max out your arm and waste your bullets. However, every pitcher is different so I can not tell you what you “should” do. The biggest piece of advice I have is to be smart with this throwing. Do not think about getting ready for the game at that moment. Instead, think about preparing yourself to be ready later in the game. This will come with trial and error but should be taken seriously.

Tip #10: Bullpen (Starters)

After your arm is loose from playing catch, starting pitchers will warm up in the bullpen with the catcher. This is the time for you as a pitcher to focus on your craft and get comfortable on the mound. Every pitcher needs a different amount of pitches to feel, “ready” so please take your time.

The most important detail to remember is that you are trying to time up your bullpen with the game starting. If you are home or away, this will determine what time you will actually be taking the field. Also remember, most games will have a National Anthem so you should consider that.

In professional baseball, I have seen some pitchers who will not leave the bullpen until it is their time to take the field. I have also seen pitchers who will finish early and go into the dugout to relax before taking the field. This is all preference and you need to learn what works best for you.

Tip #11. Execute

You have successfully accomplished your pre-game routine. There should be no doubt in your mind that you have done everything possible to get ready for your outing. This will give your mind a feeling of ease knowing there is no more that can be done. You are ready.

Also, if you did not have the best pre-game bullpen, do not let that affect your thoughts heading into the game. The best baseball players have short-term memory. This means that they will not dwell on the past but instead are focused on the present. No matter how great your bullpen is before the game, it will not determine the results of your performance. Your mindset is key and maintaining confidence is a must.

Trust yourself. Believe in the work you have put in. And talk positively to yourself at all times.

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