Do you think you can’t really achieve high-level college and professional baseball because you lack the genetic gift of throwing 90 MPH in high school? Think again. You’ll enjoy the story of Ben Heller.
Ben was a right-handed pitcher at small-town Whitewater (WI) High School. By his own admission, he was considered the #3 pitcher on his high school team going into his junior year. His fastball velocity was 82-84 mph – good, but not great if you aspire to play high-level collegiate and professional baseball.
*Side note: Ben and I are the same age. Ben tried out for and didn’t make the summer travel baseball team I played for in high school, which only won four games that entire summer. He now plays for the New York Yankees and has thrown 100 mph.
To make an extremely long story short, Ben started getting after it in the weight room because he knew that what he lacked in genetic gift, he’d have to make up with unwavering GRIT and an unshakable WORK ETHIC. The 82-84 mph was soon 87-89 MPH by the end of his senior year, and 92-94 mph by the end of his college career, when he was drafted by the Cleveland Indians and played his first season of professional baseball. This is when his velocity started to “plateau.” A normal strength and conditioning program wouldn’t cut it anymore.
One week after his first professional baseball season finished, Ben and I got together and I started writing his strength and conditioning programs remotely – he trained from a distance at his home in Arizona while I formulated his programs in Milwaukee. We focused on things baseball players need most: hip and thoracic spine (upper back) mobility, rotator cuff strength, and single-leg stability, to name a few. In all, we spent six months training with the mindset of reducing his injury risk and improving his 92-94 mph fastball.
I received this text the following spring training:
Just a few years removed from being an average high school pitcher, Ben’s spent the 2015 season mowing down batters with a fastball that ranged from 95-98 MPH and occasionally reached 100 MPH. Here are several of the most important things Ben was focusing on throughout his training with me:
Thoracic spine (upper back) mobility: Side-lying Windmill
Your thoracic spine is an essential area to be mobile if you’re a baseball player. More T-spine extension leads to more scapular posterior tilt, which leads to more external rotation at the glenohumeral joint. In other words, more upper back mobility means your arm will rotate or “lay back” further, allowing you to throw harder.
Rotator cuff strength: Kneeling Shoulder External Rotation w/ Band
Here’s something everyone does, but few do correctly. In my opinion, 99% of baseball players are actually doing more harm than good with “band work.” If you aren’t feeling a significant burn in the back of your shoulder, you aren’t doing them correctly and are teaching your arm an inefficient movement!
Single-leg strength and stability: Goblet Bulgarian Split Squat
How many legs are you on when you’re going through the process of throwing a baseball from any position or sprinting towards a base, one or two? Answer: one. How often have you trained on one leg at a time? Most likely not enough! I really believe that if you did Bulgarian Split Squats for a workout and nothing else, you’d be better off than 99% of baseball players out there. I don’t like the term “velocity exercise,” but if there is such a thing, this is it.
I honestly believe that there are many more potential “Ben Hellers” out there – athletes who have an incredible work ethic but are held back because of lack of guidance and training regimen that addresses their baseball needs.
How many high schoolers throw in the low 80s or need to improve their 60-yard dashes but have aspirations and dreams of college and professional baseball – even when no one else thinks they can do it? If you think you have grit and a relentless work ethic, I believe in you.
The first step is combining your motivation with the right path, which is why I’m so excited to tell you about the project our BRX team has been working on, which is ALMOST ready.
For the time being, I want to remind you to check out our completely free BRX Baseball-specific Workout, which you can access by clicking on the link below: