One of the first things to be learned about pitching is perfecting your mechanics. Starting with your very first movement of the delivery, every aspect of the pitching motion must feel comfortable. However, one of the downsides about learning to pitch is that throwing takes a toll on your throwing arm. So how can you save your throwing arm and still get the pitching mechanics down? The solution for a lot of pitchers is a drill known as the towel drill.
One of the first questions you may be asking yourself is if the towel drill good for pitchers. The towel drill is good for pitchers because it allows pitchers to focus on the mechanics of the delivery without having to worry about putting a strain on their shoulders and elbows. The towel drill allows pitchers to fine-tune their natural pitching motion.
The towel drill is a great drill for aspiring pitchers to practice their delivery and there are some fun variations to the drill to help those aspiring pitchers succeed.
How To Perform the Towel Drill
The Towel Drill Starts With a Towel
To begin, you’ll need a towel that is roughly a foot long. Don’t fret too much over the towel – even a small dish towel will do the trick.
Wrap the Towel Around Your Fingers
Once you have the towel, wrap it around your fingers so the towel is both comfortable and in a place where it will stay in your hand while going through your pitching motion. Most pitchers will wrap the towel around their four fingers while using their thumb to secure the towel.
Take Your Starting Pitching Position
Now that the towel is securely in your hand, it’s time to take your starting position.
There are a few variations of how to perform this drill, but the simplest way to begin is by taking your starting position from the windup and pitching from flat ground. Once you’re comfortable pitching from the flat ground you can use the towel drill from a standard pitcher’s mound.
Begin Your Pitching Motion While Holding the Towel
You’re now ready to begin your delivery! With the towel in your hand, begin going through your normal delivery of a pitch.
Remember, the primary reason for this drill is to focus on mechanics so make sure you are analyzing every aspect of your delivery. Did you step too far at the beginning of your delivery? Maybe your leg kick didn’t feel like it is as high as it should be? Or maybe your stride seemed too short and you need to focus more on achieving a larger stride?
Be honest with yourself when analyzing your pitching mechanics. Even better, get your phone out and take a video of yourself performing a few repetitions of this drill. Sometimes it just helps to be able to see yourself performing your mechanics.
Follow Through Your Pitching Motion With the Towel
Don’t forget the follow-though! The follow-through is arguably one of the most important aspects of pitching and it can help pitchers add speed to their fastball.
The great thing about the towel drill is that you can hear the whip of the towel so you’re also getting some auditory feedback from your mechanics. The more you can hear the towel whip the better your follow-through was performed.
Remember Your Release Point and Whip the Towel
One more piece of this drill to consider is where you are imaging your release point is at. Take note of where your normal release point is at during a normal pitch and make sure you begin the whip of the towel at the same position your release point is at. Getting the whip in-line with the release point will help you with muscle memory for when you are pitching with a real ball.
Repeat the Towel Drill To Improve Your Mechanics
And that’s it! You now have the knowledge to perform the basics of the towel drill while also understanding the purpose and intent behind the drill.
Keep practicing with the towel until you start to feel comfortable with your pitching motion. If you’re looking for how many repetitions to perform, try doing at least 20-30 repetitions of the towel drill each time you practice. 20-30 repetitions during each practice will help with the muscle memory of how to correctly perform your pitching motion.
Check out the video below for a great example of how former major league relief pitcher George Kontos used the towel drill to warm up.
The Towel Drill is a Good Total-Body Mechanics Drill
When performing this drill it’s important to keep in mind that the towel drill is designed as a total body mechanics drill. This drill will force the player to focus on all part of their pitching motion while other drills will focus on specific aspects of the pitching motion.
This drill allows pitchers to practice their technique without worrying about the location of their pitch or if they are putting too much wear and tear on their arm.
During normal bullpen sessions, the pitcher needs to focus on mechanics as well as where the location of the pitch ends up. This can be tough if the only thing a pitcher is trying to focus on is their form. As most pitchers know, the more your form is off in a game the more your pitches are off. So get better at your pitching form and save your arm by utilizing the towel drill!
Variations of the Towel Drill
What we’ve covered so far are the basics around the towel drill. Once you’ve understood both the intent of the drill as well as the basics of the towel drill you can try out some of these different variations.
Place an Object in Front of You and Hit It With the Towel
If you’re wanting to focus on the distance of your stride or on your whipping motion from your follow-through, then placing a bucket or some other object in front of your stride can help.
Get a bucket of balls, a chair, or some other target that is about two to four feet off of the ground and place it about a foot in front of where you normally stride. The point of placing this object roughly a foot in front of your stride is that this object now gives you a target to hit.
If you’re wanting to focus on the whipping motion of your arm, you can now get more immediate feedback by hearing the sound of the towel hitting the object in front of you. The more sound you hear the better your whipping motion was performed. Having the object in front of you also incentivizes you to perform the follow-through to a greater extent.
If you’re wanting to focus on the length of your stride then placing an object about a foot in front of you is a great place to start.
When focusing on the length of your stride, you’ll want to increase the length of your stride so your towel can make contact with the object in front of you. The further away the object is from you, the more you need to focus on the length of your stride so you can make contact with the towel.
Check out this example below from XtraInningBaseball.
Place an Object Where Your Release Point Should Be
Some pitchers will want to make sure they’re accurately hitting their release point while performing this drill. If this is the case for you, try getting an object that is more in-line with where your release point is at and make sure you hit that object with the towel.
You could use the back of a larger chair, an L-screen, or even ask a friend to hold their hand out so you have something to aim for with your towel. Really, anything that is roughly shoulder-height will be a great object to place just off to the side of your stride so you have something to aim for that is at the same place as your release point.
Add a Small Weight in Your Glove for Balance Training
A simple, two-pound weight in your glove can do wonders for you with the towel drill. The purpose of the small weight is not for any type of strength training, but to give you feedback when you are off-balance.
When there is a two-pound weight in your glove and your pitching motion is good, you should not notice the additional weight. But if you end up being slightly off-balance during your pitching motion your glove will feel pretty heavy and you will instantly know that your balance was off. This additional weight added to your glove during the towel drill is a great way to get that immediate feedback on how well your pitching mechanics were during that pitch.
Tom House and the Towel Drill
Tom House is a former major league baseball pitcher who became a pitching coach after retiring as a player. He has numerous baseball training videos online where he teaches kids of all ages how to play the game of baseball. Check out his video below for an in-depth look at how Tom House covers the towel drill for pitchers.