Master the Pitching Towel Drill: Improve Mechanics & Reduce Injury Risks

Pat Bloom

pitching towel drill

Are you looking to enhance your pitching mechanics and increase your velocity? The pitching towel drill might be just what you need.

This simple yet effective training method allows you to practice the full range of motion required for powerful and precise throws, all while minimizing the risk of muscle strain or injury.

Ideal for pitchers of all ages and skill levels, towel drills help you build functional strength and improve your control on the mound.

By incorporating this drill into your regular training routine, you’ll not only boost your pitching performance but also safeguard your arm health for the long run.

Ready to take your game to the next level? Let’s dive into why the pitching towel drill should be a staple in your training arsenal.

What Is the Pitching Towel Drill?

The Pitching Towel Drill is a training exercise designed to improve a pitcher’s mechanics and control.

The Purpose and Origin of the Drill

The pitching towel drill focuses on honing the full range of motion required for effective pitching. It originated from the need to practice pitching mechanics without the constant wear on the arm that actual pitching causes.

Pioneered by Tom House, this drill provides a low-impact training method to help pitchers develop the strength and accuracy needed for game situations.

The primary aim is to allow pitchers to engage in repeated, high-quality practice that builds muscle memory and enhances fine motor skills.

Common Misconceptions

When it comes to the Towel Drill in pitching, there are a few common misconceptions that are important to address:

Towel Weight Equals Arm Strength

Some may mistakenly believe that the weight of the towel used in the drill directly correlates with increasing arm strength.

However, the primary purpose of the towel is to enhance mechanics and control, not to build strength through resistance. The drill focuses on proper technique and muscle engagement rather than sheer strength development.

Immediate Improvement in Velocity

While the Towel Drill can contribute to better pitching mechanics and control, it doesn’t guarantee an immediate increase in pitching velocity.

Velocity is influenced by various factors including strength, flexibility, and overall pitching mechanics. While improved mechanics can eventually lead to better velocity, it’s not an instant fix.

Exclusive Solution for Pitching Issues

While the Towel Drill is valuable, it’s not the sole solution for all pitching problems. It’s one tool among many that coaches and pitchers use to develop and refine mechanics.

Other drills, strength training, and flexibility exercises are also crucial components of a comprehensive pitching development program.

One Size Fits All

Different pitchers may benefit from variations of the Towel Drill or different drills altogether based on their specific mechanics and areas of improvement.

It’s important for coaches to tailor training programs to address individual needs rather than applying a one-size-fits-all approach.

Substitute for Throwing

The Towel Drill is not a substitute for throwing actual pitches. While it can be used to refine mechanics and reduce the strain of repetitive throwing, pitchers still need to throw regularly to build arm strength, endurance, and to practice pitching in game-like conditions.

How the Towel Drill Improves Pitching Mechanics

The Towel Drill is an effective method for improving pitching mechanics due to several key reasons:

Enhancing Arm Speed and Motion

The towel drill enhances arm speed and motion by simulating the pitching action without using a ball, reducing the risk of injury.

As you focus on hitting a target with a towel, you practice the full range of arm motion needed for pitching. This repeated action helps improve the speed and efficiency of your arm movements.

The drill uses a normal or weighted baseball to train both accelerator and decelerator muscles, increasing your ability to throw faster pitches. Improved arm speed also aids in creating a more explosive delivery, crucial for effective pitching.

Building Muscle Memory and Consistency

By repeating the same motion, the towel drill helps build muscle memory, ensuring consistency in your pitching mechanics.

Accurate muscle memory leads to better control and improved pitch location during games. Consistent practice helps develop a more stable and repeatable pitching motion.

As you progress with the towel drill, the repetitions solidify the correct mechanics in your muscle memory. This consistency translates to fewer mistakes and a higher level of performance on the mound.

Step-by-Step Guide to Performing the Towel Drill

To perform the Towel Drill effectively, start by gathering a standard-sized hand towel or folding a smaller towel in half.

Required Equipment

You’ll need a few items to perform the towel drill effectively:

  • Towel: A standard hand towel works best.
  • Flat Ground: Choose a consistent, level surface.
  • Target: This can be a partner holding an object or a fixed mark on a wall.
  • Measuring Tape: To set up the correct target distance.
  • Set Up Your Target: Use the stride plus five approach. Take your normal pitching stride and add five heel-to-toe steps. This distance ensures you mimic a real pitching motion. Place the target at eye height to replicate game-like conditions accurately.
  • Grip and Stance: Hold the towel tightly in your throwing hand. Assume your regular pitching stance, ensuring balance and proper posture.
  • Trial Throws: Perform your pitching motion with the towel. Focus on hitting the target. Each throw should demonstrate good extension, balance, and posture.
  • Correction: Adjust your form if you consistently miss the target. Ensure you maintain correct mechanics throughout the drill.

Placing the Towel and Starting the Drill

Fold the towel and position it snugly under your throwing arm’s armpit. Grip both ends of the towel firmly with your hand to keep it securely in place throughout the drill.

Stand on the pitching mound or in a stance that mimics your typical pitching setup. Visualize a target to aim for, whether it’s a catcher’s mitt or a designated spot on a wall or fence.

The placement of the towel under your arm is crucial as it will help emphasize proper arm mechanics and control during the pitching motion.

Executing the Pitching Motion

Initiate your pitching motion as you would in a game, starting with either a wind-up or a stretch position, depending on your preference and pitching style.

As you move through the wind-up or stretch, maintain tension on the towel under your armpit. This tension encourages you to keep your arm in the correct position and helps reinforce muscle memory for a consistent arm slot and trajectory toward your target.

Focus on a smooth and controlled release of the towel at the point where you would normally release a pitch. This phase of the drill emphasizes accuracy and control, ensuring that your delivery remains fluid and precise.

Emphasizing Follow-Through

After releasing the towel, concentrate on completing a balanced follow-through. A proper follow-through not only enhances pitching mechanics but also reduces strain on your arm and shoulder.

Extend your throwing arm fully towards your target and allow your body to naturally rotate as you would during an actual pitch.

This step reinforces good habits and ensures that you maintain proper form throughout the entire pitching motion.

Repeating and Focusing on Form

Repeat the Towel Drill multiple times, focusing on consistency and quality of movement rather than speed. Each repetition provides an opportunity to refine your mechanics and identify any areas that may need improvement.

Pay attention to how your body feels during each phase of the drill, noting any tension or discomfort that could indicate areas needing adjustment.

The feedback provided by the towel allows you to make immediate corrections and reinforces proper form, leading to more effective pitching mechanics over time.

Exploring Variations and Adjustments

To tailor the Towel Drill to your specific needs, consider experimenting with different variations. For example, you can place the towel under your back shoulder or under your non-throwing arm to target different aspects of your pitching mechanics.

These variations help address specific challenges, such as maintaining balance or improving arm extension during the follow-through.

Adjustments in towel placement can also simulate different pitching scenarios, allowing you to practice various pitches and delivery angles effectively.

Cooling Down and Reflecting

After completing your Towel Drill session, take time to cool down properly. Incorporate static stretches that focus on your arms, shoulders, and core muscles to promote flexibility and prevent stiffness.

Reflect on your performance during the drill, considering areas where you made progress and aspects that may still require attention.

Use this reflection to inform your future training sessions and refine your approach to improving pitching mechanics.

Integration Into Regular Training

Integrate the Towel Drill into your regular pitching practice routine to reinforce proper mechanics consistently over time.

Incorporate it into your warm-up or as a dedicated segment within your practice sessions to ensure regular improvement.

By practicing the Towel Drill regularly, you’ll develop muscle memory for correct pitching mechanics, leading to improved control, accuracy, and overall performance on the mound.

Additionally, using the Towel Drill can help you identify and correct common pitching errors such as poor timing and balance issues. For best results, combine this drill with video analysis to monitor your progress.

Pros and Cons of the Towel Drill

Advantages for Pitchers

The towel drill provides several notable advantages for pitchers seeking to refine their mechanics and enhance performance.

Improves Mechanics

By emphasizing proper arm motion and follow-through, the towel drill helps pitchers develop consistent mechanics crucial for effective pitching.

Enhances Arm Speed and Strength

Repeated practice of the towel drill builds arm speed and strength, which contribute to higher velocity pitches. This drill simulates intense, game-like situations, making pitchers game-ready.

Develops Muscle Memory

The repetitive nature of the towel drill aids in creating strong muscle memory. This ensures that pitchers can reliably reproduce correct mechanics during games.

Reduces Injury Risk

Using a towel instead of a baseball places less strain on the arm, reducing injury risk while still providing quality practice. This is particularly beneficial for younger pitchers or those recovering from an injury.

Versatile Practice

Pitchers can practice the towel drill almost anywhere without needing a catcher or mound. This makes it a flexible and accessible training tool for various settings.

Potential Limitations and Criticisms

Despite its benefits, the towel drill does have some limitations and criticisms that pitchers should consider.

Lack of Realism

The towel drill does not perfectly replicate the feel of pitching a real baseball. This can lead to the development of two separate sets of mechanics: one for the drill and one for actual games.

Ineffective for Control Training

Practicing at lower speeds or without the actual weight of a baseball can hinder the development of control and accuracy. For pitchers focusing on ball control, this drill might be less effective.

Overemphasis on Arm Motion

Overuse of the towel drill can lead to an overemphasis on arm motion, potentially causing pitchers to focus less on other critical aspects like hip and trunk rotation. These are vital for generating power and velocity.

Requires Proper Instruction

If not taught or executed correctly, the towel drill can reinforce bad habits. Incorrect practice can lead to poor mechanics, which may ultimately reduce velocity and control.

Limited Feedback

The lack of immediate feedback compared to throwing a real ball at a target makes it harder to gauge performance and make necessary adjustments.

Alternative Drills and Exercises

Complementary Practices for Pitchers

Pitchers benefit from a variety of drills to improve their skills. Besides the towel drill, incorporating other exercises can enhance overall pitching performance. Each drill targets specific aspects of pitching mechanics, strength, and control.

Bullpen Sessions

Bullpen sessions simulate game situations, allowing pitchers to work on their pitching mechanics in a game-like environment. Conduct these sessions regularly to refine your skills, improve command, and build endurance.

Long Toss

Long toss exercises help in strengthening arm muscles and improving throwing mechanics. By gradually increasing the distance of your throws, you can enhance your arm strength and velocity. Start with shorter throws and incrementally increase the distance up to 120-180 feet.

Weighted Ball Exercises

Weighted ball exercises focus on increasing arm speed and strength. Use balls that are slightly heavier than a standard baseball to perform throwing drills. These exercises condition the arm muscles, leading to increased velocity and better performance.

Plyometric Drills

Plyometric drills enhance explosive strength and overall athleticism. Incorporate drills such as box jumps, medicine ball throws, and clap push-ups to improve your lower body strength and core stability, essential for powerful pitching.

Band Resistance Workouts

Band resistance workouts target specific muscle groups used in pitching. Use resistance bands to perform exercises like internal and external rotations, shoulder presses, and scapular retractions. These workouts improve muscle endurance and reduce injury risk.

Frequently Asked Questions

How does the towel drill help pitchers?

The towel drill helps pitchers by improving balance, mechanics, and arm speed. When done correctly, the pitcher should snap the towel through the middle of a partner’s glove, indicating proper form.

What are the limitations of the towel drill?

While the towel drill refines mechanics and enhances arm speed, it may not fully replicate the feel of throwing a baseball.

What are some alternative pitching drills?

Alternatives to the towel drill include bullpen sessions, long toss, weighted ball exercises, plyometric drills, and band resistance workouts.

How does long toss benefit pitchers?

Long toss helps pitchers build arm strength and endurance. By throwing over greater distances, pitchers can improve their throwing velocity and arm health, making it an effective exercise to incorporate into regular training routines.

What is the purpose of weighted ball exercises?

Weighted ball exercises aim to increase arm strength and improve throwing mechanics.


The pitching towel drill is a valuable tool in your training arsenal, offering a unique way to refine your mechanics and boost arm speed while minimizing injury risks.

However, it shouldn’t be your only focus. Incorporating a variety of drills like bullpen sessions, long toss, and weighted ball exercises can provide a more comprehensive approach to improving your pitching.

Plyometric drills and band resistance workouts also contribute to enhancing your strength and control on the mound.

By integrating these diverse practices into your routine, you’ll be well-equipped to elevate your performance and achieve your pitching goals.

It’s crucial to regularly assess your progress and make adjustments as needed. Additionally, seeking feedback from coaches or peers can provide insights that further refine your techniques.

Consistency and dedication in your practice regimen are key to long-term success. Remember, a well-rounded training program not only sharpens your physical abilities but also builds the confidence essential for peak performance during games.

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Pat Bloom

I lead Washington University in St. Louis' baseball team, emphasizing skill development, strategic play, and sportsmanship. Our rigorous training and competitive spirit cultivate discipline and teamwork, preparing athletes for success both in baseball and academics. We embody the determination and sportsmanship that define our university's athletics. LinkedIn

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