Posts

The Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization Approach To Arm Care

Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization (DNS) is a method of training stability and movement of the arm and body. Not only does it help with longevity and health of the arm, but also with movement and functionality of the kinetic energy system. DNS is revolutionizing rehabilitation, and its principles can be directly applied to pitching.

The function and position of the diaphragm is foundational to DNS. Dr. Hans Lindgren’s previous article on diaphragmatic function and intra-abdominal pressure (IAP) called “Core Stability From the Inside Out” exposes the importance of this mechanism.  IAP is the foundation for which the spine is stabilized and forces are efficiently transferred throughout the body.

Joint centration is the other main tenet of DNS.  Joint centration is defined as the ideal loading of a joint in a neutral position that enables:

  • Optimal loading
  • Ideal balance between agonistic and antagonistic muscles
  • Generation of maximum muscle power

Joint Centration is a position in which the joint surfaces are in maximum contact and the ligaments and capsule have low tension. In this position, all muscles around the joint can most effectively be activated. Symmetrical activation of the muscles around any joint is the hallmark of ideal function without injury. When disturbed, there can be catastrophic joint injury (ie ACL tear) or more low level chronic injuries such as: forms of tendonitis, ligament strains, and spinal disc herniation’s to name a few. DNS exercises emphasize joint centration at all times regardless of the position being used to exercise.

The concept of DNS is based on the scientific principles of developmental kinesiology. Meaning, all positions used for exercise in DNS are the same positions every human-being will advance through in the first year of life. If the baby develops normally, and the right environment is present, the correct activation of all muscles helps to form the joint surfaces and skeleton. This has enormous implications for baseball pitchers. If the development is not ideal then performance and arm health can be drastically altered later in life.

Revolutionizing Arm Care: The DNS Approach

As a baby develops, they must use their body as efficiently as possible which means proper joint centration, intra-abdominal pressure, and global stabilization.  There are phases for development of the stabilization function that are:

  1. 0 – 4.5 months (Sagittal stabilization)
  2. From 4.5 months (Extremity function differentiation within global patterns)
  3. From 8 months (Development of locomotor function)

For example, at 3 months of development in the prone position (on the stomach), the baby starts to integrate all the muscles involved in scapular stabilization. This is a complex strategy that involves many muscles, including some away from the shoulder girdle. Correct diaphragm position and IAP is a prerequisite for activation of key scapular stabilizers such as serratus anterior. Using closed chain exercises (elbow or hand support) is imperative for establishing the correct stabilization around the shoulder. This allows the muscles to be pulled from the opposite direction. Said differently, because the distal segment is now fixed (elbow) all the muscles around the shoulder reverse their direction of pull. Traditional rehabilitation exercises often neglect this function.

You can learn more about DNS and the stages of developmental kinesiology.  Also, if you’re interested in taking a DNS course you can check to see if they’re coming to your area.

The function of the scapula during the throwing motion is to allow 3-dimensional movement as well as coactivation of the muscles around the scapula to allow functional stabilization throughout the ranges of motion.  Dr. W Ben Kibler was one of the first to discuss scapular dyskinesis.  Kibler has shown that dysfunctional scapular movement can possibly lead to injury if not addressed, which is incredibly prevalent in the overuse community of baseball. He was also one of the first people to start talking about the importance of the entire kinetic chain as it relates to arm injuries.

Most injuries in baseball are non-contact which means that injuries occur because of stress overload, which can be from repetitive overuse, poor mechanics, or both. If not a biomechanical issue, often improper stabilization of the shoulder girdle can be found in both shoulder and elbow injuries.

Kibler has shown that patients with scapular dyskinesis will demonstrate:

  • Medial or inferomedial scapular border prominence (winging)
  • Early scapular elevation or shrugging on arm elevation
  • Rapid downward rotation on lowering of the arm

To assess scapular dyskinesis we will demonstrate a couple of DNS tests.

The 4-point rock test

Start on your hands and knees, rock back and forth several times and observe for any fatiguing or lack of stabilization in the scapula or hips.

What to look for:

  • Hand support (improper support on outside of palms)
  • Gradual winging of scapula
  • Medial border of scapula more than 2.5 – 3 inches away from spine.

Shoulder abduction test

The shoulder abduction test is where you raise your arms from the side all the way up and bring them down in a controlled manner.

What to look for:

  • Early activation of the scapula before 90 degrees of abduction
  • Clunking or popping of the scapula during abduction
  • Rapid downward rotation upon lowering of arm

These strategies can be used for rehabbing an injury, improving performance, and they’re a great warm up because it neurologically wakes up the muscles that hold the scapula in a good position.

Now let’s dig into a few of the exercises that really set this technique apart. We’re going to start with only a few to leave you with to master. The first exercise is called the…

5-7.5 Month Uprighting

You’ll start on your side laying on your shoulder with your arm directly out in front of you. Next, you’ll drive pressure into the ground with your elbow and bring your upper half off the ground trying not to bend too much at the torso. Slowly lower your body back down using the muscles around your scapula.

Repeat this process 8-10 reps in a situation where you’re trying to strengthen those muscles and 3-4 reps when you’re just warming up before throwing or exercises.

Bear

Start on your hands and knees just like the 4-point rock test with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Next, raise your knees about 5 to 6 inches off the ground. You’ll be supporting your weight while stabilizing at your hips and your shoulders. Now while staying as balanced as possible, lift one hand or foot (either side) off the ground 1 inch and hold it there for 15 seconds. Alternate until you run through all 4 extremities, or you can just hold the normal bear starting position. The important part is to feel the stabilization in the shoulder blades and the hips.

Again, this can be performed in a strengthening or in a warm-up setting and reps/sets should be done appropriately.

In conclusion, there are several different approaches to stabilizing the scapula. We believe a strategy that utilizes development kinesiology principles is the most effective. Many different developmental positions could be used; however, certain positions have a greater influence on the shoulder blade than others. Every exercise is a snapshot of the developmental sequence and will always be seen in the normal developing child. If the correct IAP and joint centration is maintained throughout the exercise, then the CNS will be able to proportionately activate all the muscles around the shoulder blade. Training and rehabilitation techniques that focus solely on individual muscles (ex. rotator cuff) may not create the most ideal stabilization strategy around the shoulder. These principles are revolutionizing how we assess and treat the throwing athlete.

Although this article has focused on assessment and treatment, the principles can also be used for biomechanical evaluation of the pitcher.

This article was co-written by Tyler White, co-founder of Gestalt Performance.

References:

  • Kibler, Ben W., and John McMullen. “Scapular dyskinesis and its relation to shoulder pain.” Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons11.2 (2003): 142-151.
  • Burkhart, Stephen S., Craig D. Morgan, and W. Ben Kibler. “The disabled throwing shoulder: spectrum of pathology Part III: The SICK scapula, scapular dyskinesis, the kinetic chain, and rehabilitation.” Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery 19.6 (2003): 641-661.
  • Burkhart, Stephen S., Craig D. Morgan, and W. Ben Kibler. “The disabled throwing shoulder: spectrum of pathology Part I: pathoanatomy and biomechanics.” Arthroscopy: The Journal of Arthroscopic & Related Surgery19.4 (2003): 404-420.
  • Wilk, Kevin E., Leonard C. Macrina, and Michael M. Reinold. “Non-operative rehabilitation for traumatic and atraumatic glenohumeral instability.” North American journal of sports physical therapy: NAJSPT 1.1 (2006): 16.
  • Frank, Clare, Alena Kobesova, and Pavel Kolar. “Dynamic neuromuscular stabilization & sports rehabilitation.” International journal of sports physical therapy 8.1 (2013): 62.

How to Get Your Arm Loose When Throwing Indoors

I recently shared a video showing how I recommend baseball players get your arm loose when playing catch.  I discussed that one of the biggest mistakes I see baseball players make is throwing too hard too early when playing catch.  If you haven’t watched it yet, click here to see my past post on The Biggest Mistake Baseball Players Make When Playing Catch.

In this past video, I demonstrated how to stretch your arm out with long toss but starting to throw harder on a line.  When getting your arm loose, you need to let distance dictate your intensity before you start throwing harder on a line.

A simple concept, but something that many amateur players do not perform well. More importantly, this is a common trait I see in players with sore arms.  They simply don’t know how to play catch well to get their arm loose.

But how do you do this indoors?

 

How to Get Your Arm Loose When Throwing Indoors

In the video below, I show the same concept, but how you can apply it when throwing indoors into a net.

Want our FREE Arm Care Program?

EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramOur mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information. That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE. A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs. The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.

Are Weighted Baseball Velocity Programs Safe and Effective?

Weighted baseball velocity training programs continue to rise in popularity in baseball pitchers of all levels despite us not knowing why they may improve velocity, the long term effects on the body, or the most appropriate program to perform.

Unfortunately, it seems like the trend is towards more aggressive programs every day.

The following is a summary of the 2-year research project that we have just finished conducting at Champion PT and Performance.  Myself and Lenny Macrina teamed up with Dr. James Andrews and Dr. Glenn Fleisig of ASMI to design and conduct the first study to document the effects of a 6-week weighted baseball training program on pitching velocity, arm characteristics, and injury rates.

This may be the most important research project I have conducted to date.  Weighted baseball programs continue to rise in popularity while injury rates continue to soar in baseball.  This is completely unbiased scientific research that has been conducted with sound methodology.  I actually make a living rehabbing baseball injuries, so you can assure I am sincere when I say I want to decrease the amount of baseball injuries.

I simply want to advance the game of baseball.

The injuries we are seeing at the youth, high school, and collegiate level are heartbreaking.  Collegiate and minor league baseball pitchers are having their second Tommy John surgery, which have a low success rate.  When I first started working with baseball players, Tommy John surgeries were occurring in older baseball veterans, not youth.  The severity of injuries we are seeing are significant.  Never before in my 20 year career have I seen such an enormous amount of significant injuries in baseball players.

We have presented the findings of this study at numerous conferences so far, and the manuscript is currently submitted for publication in a scientific journal.  It is currently in the running for the 2018 Excellence in Research Award by the Sports Section of the APTA.

I’ve decided to publish an initial summary because I know many people are looking to start weighted baseball velocity programs this offseason.  The journal submission and publication process can takes months or even years to finally get the information published, and I did not want to delay any further.

 

We Still Don’t Know the Science Behind Weighted Baseball Velocity Programs

There has been a recent increased emphasis on pitch velocity within the amateur and professional levels of baseball.  According to Pitch/FX data, the average fastball velocity in MLB has gone up each year since tracking began in 2008, from 90.9 MPH to 93.2 MPH in 2017.  Previous studies have shown both a correlation between increased pitch velocity and increased elbow stress and elbow injury rates.   Thus, it is not surprising that injury rates continue to increase in a nearly linear fashion with increased average pitch velocity.

This emphasis on pitch velocity has resulted in the development of several velocity enhancement programs often marketed on the internet to baseball pitchers.  These have become increasingly popular with amateur baseball players looking to enhance their playing potential in the future.  One of the most popular forms of velocity enhancement programs utilize underweight and overweight weighted baseballs.

These programs have been theorized to enhance throwing mechanics, arm speed, and arm strength, resulting in enhanced pitch velocity, despite this not being validated scientifically.

Several studies have shown that weighted baseball training programs are effective at enhancing velocity, however, we still do not understand why or the long term effect of these programs.

Thus, the purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of a 6-week weighted baseball training program on enhancing pitch velocity while also quantifying the effects on biomechanical and physical characteristics of the shoulder and elbow.

 

How the Study Was Conducted

Youth baseball pitchers between the ages of 13 and 18 years old were recruited for the study.  To be clear, there was one 13 year old who turned 14 shortly after, who was in the control group and did not throw weighted balls.  The majority of subjects were ~16 years old.  We just reported how old they were in year, not the months, many were almost 16 years old.  If we were to have used the month, the mean would have been about 16 years old.  We choose to use high school aged pitchers because we wanted the study to look specifically at this population, as these are the baseball pitchers that are often looking to perform a weighted baseball program due to the aggressive amount of marketing online.

38 youth baseball pitchers with the mean age of 15 years old met these criteria and agreed to participate.  Subjects were randomly divided into a weighted baseball training group and a control group.

Upon enrollment in the study, baseline measurements of shoulder passive range of motion (PROM), elbow PROM, and shoulder strength were measured for each subject.  They then underwent baseline pitching performance testing while we recorded pitch velocity, elbow varus torque, and shoulder internal rotation velocity using the Motus M Sleeve.

After the baseline testing, both groups were allowed to participate in a supervised baseball offseason strength and conditioning program.  All subjects participated in a throwing program, but were not allowed to practice pitching off a mound.

The weighted baseball group performed a 6-week weighted ball throwing program in January and February of the baseball offseason.  Throwing was performed 3 times per week.   The 6-week program was developed to be similar, if not more conservative, than commonly marketed weighted baseball velocity programs available programs for baseball pitchers.  The volume, frequency, and weight of the balls used was less than many popular programs.

Over the course of the 6-week program, throws were performed from the knee, rocker, and run and gun positions.

weight baseball velocity program

Athletes were instructed to throw at 75%, 90%, and 100% of their full intensity depending on the week of the training program.  The intensity gradually ramped up over the course of the program.  Throws were performed from each position on each training session with a 2 ounce, 4 ounce, 6 ounce, 16 ounce, and 32 ounce ball.  One set with each weighted baseball was performed with the outlined repetitions below:

baseball weighted ball velocity program

 

Many of commented about throwing 2lb balls at full intensity run-and-gun.  Two things to realize about this:

  1. We choose to include this because this is being performed in our athletes
  2. Over the course of 6-weeks, there were 540 total throws, 18 of these were with 2lb balls at full intensity with run-and-guns.  This only represents 3% of the program.  We should not lose focus on the other 97%.

The control group performed an independent throwing program using standard regulation 5 oz baseballs and were not allowed to throw with any underload or overload balls.

All measurements were repeated after 6-weeks for both groups.  The subjects went on to pitch as normal through spring and summer baseball season.

Below is a summary of the major findings of the study.  The results were eye opening for me, personally.  I feel like we have discovered why weighted baseball training programs may work, and you could argue this isn’t for a good reason.

 

Pitch Velocity Increased, But Not in Everyone

After 6-weeks, the weighted baseball group showed a 3% increase of 2.2 MPH, from 67 MPH to 69 MPH.  The control group as a whole did not show a statistically significant increase in velocity.  However, we did note that:

  • 80% of the weighted baseball group improved velocity, and 12% showed a decrease in velocity
  • 67% of the control group also improved velocity, and 14% showed a decrease in velocity

Weighted baseball training on average does help increase velocity, however, not in everyone and some people actually go down.  Many people that did NOT perform the weighted ball program also increased velocity.

 

Shoulder External Rotation Increased, Likely in a Bad Way

There was a significant increase in almost 5 degrees of shoulder external rotation range of motion in the weighted ball group.

This rapid gain in external rotation occurred over a 6-week training program and did not occur in the control group.  I have previously published my results and reported that shoulder external rotation increased from pitching, however, reported only a 5 degree increase in external rotation in MLB pitchers over the course of an entire 8-month baseball season.

While we are not able to determine the exact cause of the increased pitch velocity, based on past studies it may be from the increased amount of shoulder external rotation observed following the weighted ball training program.  Previous biomechanical studies have shown that shoulder external rotation mobility correlates to both pitch velocity, as well as increased shoulder and elbow forces.

It is not known if such a rapid gain in external rotation following a 6-week weighted baseball training program is disadvantageous or challenges the static stabilizing structures of the shoulder.  However, previous research has shown that 78% of pitching injuries occur in athletes with greater amounts of shoulder rotational motion.

 

Weighted Baseballs Do Not Increase Shoulder Strength, They May Actually Inhibit Strength Gains

One of the more interesting findings to me was that external rotation rotator cuff strength actually went up in the control group and not the weighted baseball group.

During the 6-week period, subjects in both groups were allowed to perform a baseball-specific offseason strength and conditioning program.  Strengthening of the rotator cuff, particularly the external rotators, was a specific focus of this program and has been shown to increase pitching performance.  The control group showed a 13% increase in dominant shoulder ER strength, which we were thrilled about, while the training group showed no change.

It appears that not only do weighted ball training programs not help develop rotator cuff strength, as previously theorized, they may in fact inhibit strength gains and should be further investigated.

 

Weighted Baseballs Do Not Increase Arm Speed or Strength

There were no statistically significant differences in valgus stress or angular velocity of the arm in either group.

Arm strength, arm angular velocity, and arm stress were not statistically different following the training program.  This refutes the commonly reported theories that the effectiveness of weighted ball training programs can be attributed to the development of greater arm strength or arm speed.

 

24% of Pitchers Were Injured in the Weighted Ball Group

Potentially most important to the study was the finding that 24% of those in the training group either sustained an injury during the training program or in the following season, including two olecranon stress fractures, one partial ulnar collateral ligament injury, and one ulnar collateral ligament injury that surgical reconstruction was recommended.   This is the first study to document the injury rates associated with a 6-week weighted baseball training program.

No injuries were noted in the same time span within the control group.

It should also be noted again that the weighted ball program utilized in the current study is far less aggressive in regard to the weight of the balls used as well as the volume and frequency of throwing, in comparison to many commonly performed programs.

Of note, two players of the players that were injured both exhibited the greatest amount of increase in shoulder ER PROM of 10 and 11 degrees, making this appear to be related.

It is unclear how quickly athletes gain external rotation and whether it occurs at a safe rate, and future research should attempt to answer this question. While pitch velocity may be enhanced, injury risk may also be elevated when performing a weighted baseball training program.  Future studies should continue to assess the effects of different weighted ball training program on different age groups.  We still need to find the right dosage to maximize the effectiveness while reducing the injury risk.

 

Should You Perform a Weighted Baseball Velocity Program?

Based on the results of this study, it appears that weighted baseball training programs are effective at enhancing pitch velocity, but the question is, at what cost?

It is still unknown why velocity goes up.

Since arm strength and speed were not changed after the training program, and Dr. Glenn Fleisig of ASMI has shown no change in mechanics, the increased pitch velocity observed may be related to this gain in shoulder external rotation motion.

This is alarming to me, as I feel this may also at least partially explain the increase in injury rates.  This is not natural.

 

Who May Want to Perform a Weighted Baseball Program

Realistically throwing any baseball, even a standard 5 oz baseball, has an inherent amount of risk.  I, in fact, actually including weighted balls at times in both our rehabilitation programs and our Elite Pitching Performance Program at Champion.

However, we do them in a very controlled fashion with less volume, intensity, and weight.  We perform 4-7 oz throws with many of our athletes, however we have strict criteria to do so, that includes:

  • Full skeletal maturity
  • Efficient throwing mechanics
  • Baseline of strength and conditioning (usually a year or more of training)
  • Baseline of arm strength and dynamic stability (usually a year or more of training)

Essentially you need to be mature and developed enough to withstand the stress of these programs as well as justify the need to push the limits.  Weighted baseball programs should not be where you begin when developing pitching performance.  If you skip any of the above steps and jump straight to weighted baseballs, you are focusing on the frosting before you even baked the cake.

For you to use lighter balls, heavier balls, or aggressive run-and-gun drills, you need to be even more advanced.   Few will meet this criteria.

There are many people that are willing to accept the increased injury risk, especially older baseball pitchers that are trying to make it to the next level.  Weighted ball programs may be an effective option for you in this case, especially if you have maximized your throwing mechanics, strength and power development, and arm strength and dynamic stability.

Unfortunately, most baseball pitchers I meet have not done so.

 

Who Probably Should Not Perform Weighted Baseball Training

While some older baseball pitchers may be willing to accept this risk in an attempt to extend their career or take their game to the next level, it’s difficult to recommend most others perform an aggressive weighted baseball training program.

I’m not talking about warming up with a few light throws with a 6 oz ball, I’m talking about an aggressive several week- to month-long program with aggressive intensity using underload and overload balls.  These are the videos that are being sensationalized on Instagram so much.

Because it appears weighted baseball training programs are likely effective by pushing your physiological limits, they should be reserved for those that have maximized their potential and have again achieved our criteria of:

  • Full skeletal maturity
  • Efficient throwing mechanics
  • Baseline of strength and conditioning (usually a year or more of training)
  • Baseline of arm strength and dynamic stability (usually a year or more of training)

Basically, if you are still growing, have inefficient mechanics, haven’t been training in a weight room for a significant amount of time, and have never performed an arm care program, you’re not prepared to perform a weighted ball program.

Plus, I can show you several scientific studies that show different training programs and arm care programs can be just as effective, if not more, at gaining pitching velocity without the inherent risk.

We can’t just be jumping to the quick fix.

The problem I am seeing is that we are using weighted ball programs with everyone, regardless of age, mechanics, training level, and injury history.  This and the fact that we continue to try to push the limits and get more aggressive.  If a 16 oz ball works, than a 32 oz ball may be twice as effective.  This is simply unrealistic and unsafe to think this way.

More is not better.

I’ve talked about this before in my article, “Are Baseball Velocity Programs to Blame for the Rise in Pitching Injuries?”  We are overdosing.

I think the most scary trend I am seeing in baseball right now is the blind use of generic weighted baseball programs.  This includes people buying a random program on the internet, or worse, a baseball coach starting one generic program with all players on the team.

We’ve seen college teams with 4+ Tommy John surgeries with their players in one season, this was unheard of just a few short years ago.

We need to make the adjustment.

Weighted ball programs must be individualized, monitored, and implemented progressively.  If you can’t do this, you shouldn’t be using them.

Not everyone is appropriate for weighted baseball programs.  Many players that are currently performing a program probably shouldn’t be doing so, especially if they haven’t established a proper foundation of strength training, arm care, and physical maturity.  In fact, at Champion, we have found that stopping weighted ball programs in those that are not ready for this stress has resulted in an even bigger gain in velocity after we have focused on foundational strength training and arm care programs.

 

Call to Action to Everyone in Baseball

I need your help.

We need to get this information out there so we stop seeing so many injuries in baseball pitchers.  Baseball players, parents, coaches, and even rehabilitation and fitness specialists that work with baseball players need to understand the science behind weighted baseball training programs.

Yes, velocity goes up, but at what cost?

Based on this study, weighted baseball training does not change mechanics, increase arm speed, or increase arm strength.  In fact, they may inhibit strength gains.  They do stretch out your shoulder in a potentially disadvantageous way and lead to a 24% chance of injury.  1 in 4 players sustained an injury.  Are you willing to accept that risk?

Once you understand the science, you can make a more educated decision if using weighted baseballs is appropriate for you.  And if you do, how to safely and effectively choose to use these programs on the right players at the right times.

Please share this article with anyone that you feel shares our goal of advancing the game of baseball.  I feel that many baseball players, parents, and coaches simply are not aware of the science.   The more we can share the science, the better we can become.

We need to get better.  We need to accept the science.

 

 

Building Your Offseason Baseball Throwing Program

For many years I’ve been asked a number of questions about “when” and “how” pitchers should train in the off-season to best prepare for their upcoming season. Because there are so many variables in each case, it’s not usually a short answer. That’s because each pitcher has their own unique history.

However, what variables do seem to apply to nearly all pitchers are

  1. The amount of rest a pitcher needs to take after a long season
  2. Their approach toward their off season throwing program and
  3. The integration of their off season throwing program into their season.

Knowing when to shut down after a demanding period of time and how to best prepare the arm in the off-season is the key to maximizing a pitchers health, strength, endurance and recovery period in season. Without well timed rest and a clear intention of how to best prepare the arm in the off-season, pitchers may wonder why they are lacking endurance or velocity in season, or even worse, why they may be breaking down.

When pitchers truly understands the importance of “resting” and “rebuilding” their arms over a substantial period of time (4-6 weeks) in the off-season without stepping on a mound, they will best position themselves to not only peak at the right time (beginning of the season), but maintain or even enhance their base throughout the season.

The following article will discuss this concept.  If you are interested in learning more, we have our brand new online version of our Thrive on Throwing 2 video where we show you exactly how to perform the Jaeger Throwing Programs, as well as a downloadable Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this information and discusses how to best prepare your throwing programs throughout the year for optimal success.  More information on these can be found below.

This article is part of a 3 part series on year round throwing:

 

 

Establishing A Rest and Rebuild Period

In order to establish the best time to rest and rebuild a pitchers arm, you must establish:

  1. What the pitchers’ workload has been like from the previous season/seasons (their past season may have been only the summer, or it may have been the preceding spring, fall and winter season as well),
  2. Find out how much “pitching” they’ve been doing as opposed to “training” or conditioning (unfortunately, many pitchers “pitch” year round, and leave little or no time for training or conditioning), and
  3. Devise a plan that gives pitchers a chance to shut down and rest (minimum of 2-3 Weeks), and rebuild their arm for an additional 4-6 week period before getting back on a mound. It is very important to keep the pitchers off the mound because the arm is best developed by conditioning without any unnecessary demands on it during the rebuilding phase.

In the case of a typical pitcher who just finished his summer season, he should typically take a minimum of 2-3 weeks off to rest (physical and mental) after he’s thrown his last pitch of the summer, and spend the subsequent 4-6 weeks to do nothing but “train” and recondition his arm. There is nothing more important than establishing this 4-6 week training window after proper rest.

As you will see throughout this article, establishing rest at the right time, followed by the rebuilding or conditioning phase are the single most important factors in getting a pitcher into what we call a “positive cycle” that can last until the end of the season (Note: pitchers who begin their cycle in September/October may find it helpful to take another rest/rebuild period at the end of December. In that case, the rest period may only be a week and the conditioning period may only need to be 2 weeks because the base from the Fall/Winter is still relatively strong).

 

Establishing The Right Time

Our philosophy is pretty simple — it’s of minimal importance as to “when” a pitcher is expected to throw his first bull-pen in the fall/winter, considering that the pitcher has the balance of the year to work off of the mound. What matters most is what the pitcher does in this 4-6 week window leading up to the first bull-pen, and understanding how to maintain or strengthen this base throughout the remainder of the Fall, Winter and Spring. Without the proper base in place by rushing your pitchers back to the mound is like worrying about putting a roof on a house that doesn’t have a structure in place yet.

The desired rest period of the pitcher, along with the 4-6 week window of conditioning is the single most important factor in determining the pitchers health, strength, endurance and recovery period for the entire year (season) — or until that point in which he feels he needs another significant break (rest), and begin a new conditioning cycle. What we’ve found with the guys who have gone through our training program, and have been allowed to maintain their long toss (maintenance) program throughout the year, is that they have less of a need to have a significant rest or conditioning period throughout the year. But I would strongly recommend that every pitcher consider having a rest/conditioning period twice a year, even if it’s only for 2-3 weeks.

 

Building Your Base By Listening To Your Arm

The primary goal of our throwing program is to build an extremely strong base or foundation, progressively. Taking into consideration that a pitcher is coming off of an extended rest of 2-3 weeks, like anything else you would “build” in life, start off slowly and surely — walk before you jog and jog before you run. By not being in a hurry to “get in shape”, the muscles have a chance to stretch out more progressively, develop more efficiently, and recover more quickly. That’s why the first two weeks of our throwing program place such a huge emphasis on Surgical Tubing and the Stretching Out phase of Long Toss.

Chief among all of our principles of our throwing program is the principle of “listening to your arm”. In essence, listening to your arm means to let it guide you — to follow it. As opposed to having a throwing program with a predetermined limit on how many throws you are to make, or for how many minutes you are to throw for, our philosophy is based on learning how to trust your arm by listening to it — allowing it to dictate the pace, amount, and distance of throws for that day. I love the metaphor of allowing your arm to take you for a walk. Since your arm is your lifeline as a baseball player, there could be nothing more important than being in tune with it. This is what happens when you learn how to listen to your arm and let it dictate the pace.

Only your arm knows from day to day what it needs, and by eliminating predetermined restrictions on your arm, your arm will probably surprise you as to how many throws it wants to make each day, and how many times a week it wants to throw.

Because endurance increases through this process as the muscles “get in shape”, recovery period improves because swelling tends to be minimized. This is conditioning at its best because we are allowing the higher intelligence of the arm to guide us, and you will almost assuredly find that the more you allow your arm to throw (smartly and progressively), the more your arm wants to throw. Or, as we like to say, “the more you use it (correctly) the more it produces.”

The arm will tell you what to do from day to day, and even throw to throw. On days that you don’t feel great, try throwing through this feeling unless it is obviously a sign of pain. The reason I mention this is pitchers may often shut down early because of “false” signs. If the feeling doesn’t get better after a couple of minutes, or the pain is obvious, then shut it down. Ironically, the more throwing you do, the more you understand the difference between unhealthy feelings and a “good” soreness that you can throw through.

 

The Throwing Program

Our off-season throwing program is based predominately on 4-6 weeks of Arm Care exercises (Surgical Tubing) and Long Toss. Again, it is crucial for pitchers to stay off the mound during this period. As you will see below, I have broken down our Throwing Program into 3 phases. Each phase lasts approximately 10-14 days. Naturally, if a pitcher is truly listening to his arm, these increments may fluctuate.

 

Phase 1: Stretching Out (10-14 Days)

Before each day of throwing, we have our guys go through a very thorough arm circle (forwards and backwards) and surgical tubing program. Just as you are getting your arm in shape progressively, similarly, you also need to build a base with your arm circles/surgical tubing exercises. Focus on stretching, flexibility, range of motion, freedom, breathing and proper technique when doing these exercises. Symbolically, your first 10-14 days of throwing should also follow this same mentality: stretching, loose arm action, range of motion, freedom, and so on. In this 10-14 day period, the goal is to build endurance and distance through the Stretching Out phase of Long Toss (Long Toss is broken down into 2 parts: Stretching Out as you move away from your throwing partner, and Pulling Down or Strengthening as you move back in toward your throwing partner).

Stretching out means just that — maintain loose, relaxed arm action, put some arc on the ball and gradually move away from your throwing partner. Simply move away from your throwing partner each time you begin to sense that you are going to throw the ball over your partners head. Go out, each day, as far as the arm wants to take you that day — and stay at your furthest distance that day as long as your arm feels like it. There is no need to come back into your partner with any aggressiveness for the first two weeks of throwing — this will come in Phase 2, the Pull Down or Strengthening Phase. The goal of Phase 1 is to focus exclusively on “stretching”, hence the Stretching Out phase.

Depending on the amount of time off you took at the end of your last “in-season”, and how strong your arm is, you may throw as little as 5 minutes at 60 feet or 10 minutes at 90 feet on Day 1. Again, always listen to your arm. Regardless of how far out you get on Day 1 or how much time you may throw for, if you go out virtually everyday for the 10-14 day period, and you are religious with your arm circles/surgical tubing exercises, your arm should begin to feel better with each passing day. Though Day 1 may only be 5 minutes of throwing out to 60 feet and Day 2 may be only 7 minutes of throwing out to 90 feet, by Day 8 or 9, you may be out to 250 feet or more for 20 minutes of throwing (again based on the arm strength of that pitcher). By Day 12, 13, 14, that same pitcher may be out as far as 300 feet or more for 30 minutes.

It’s hard to put a number of throws on it, or a time or distance measurement, but from my experience, based on a pitcher that throws in the 82-90 range, he will probably start pushing 240-300 feet by the end of the second week. The beauty of going out each day without the demands of bull-pens, etc., is that a pitcher can enter into a new threshold simply because he is allowing his arm to open up most effectively. This is where many pitchers, who have never truly built their arm the correct way in the off-season, may have a pleasant surprise waiting for them. For these pitchers, and even pitchers who have been on a good throwing program, they often find themselves pushing beyond distances they thought they had in them. These further distances are critical to gaining flexibility, range of motion, extension, which in my experiences have led to looser/quicker arm action, explosiveness, freedom, increased velocity and endurance.

For example, in the case of a pitcher who throws 90 mph but has never thrown beyond 120 feet or used surgical tubing, I could see where his 120 foot throw could turn into 300, 330, maybe even 350 feet over time. I’ve found that pitchers who can get out to 300 feet throw in the 88mph range, those who can get out to 330 feet may push the low 90’s and those who can get out to 350 feet are typically in the 93-98 mph range.

The beauty of allowing the arm to stretch out without any aggressive throwing in Weeks 1 and 2 is that it best positions the arm for Week 3 and 4, which is the “pull down” or Strengthening Phase of the throwing program. This is where we bring a stretched out, well conditioned arm from Weeks 1 and 2 into the more aggressive and explosive throwing dynamic of the arm into weeks 3 and 4.

 

Phase 2: Stretching Out & Pulling Down (10-14 Days)

Once the base has been built through the stretching out phase, the arm is in a great position to work from and strengthen this base through the Pull Down Phase of long toss. Because the first two weeks have created such a strong foundation, Weeks 3 and 4 deepen this base because each pitcher will actually go through the conditioning phase of Arm Circles, Surgical Tubing and the Stretching Out phase of Long Toss before the pull-down or aggressive throws that are made coming back in toward your throwing partner.

Now that the arm is ready to take this stretched out feeling “downhill” with some aggressive throwing, the mentality shifts from one of uphill to downhill. Though we still want our pitchers thinking “stretch”, “loose” and “freedom” on their pull-downs, we want them to do it in an aggressive manner. We want them to come back toward their throwing partner 10 feet per throw or so, with the same dynamics they made with their furthest distance throw that day (e.g. 300 feet). We just want them to start getting downhill without decelerating their arm. We also want them to understand what it means to maintain a loose and relaxed arm action (loose and relaxed mind) as they make their way back to their throwing partner. In essence, they are not necessarily trying to “throw harder” — they are simply maintaining the effort of a 300 foot throw into shorter and shorter distances without decelerating their arm.

For the first few days of Week 3, there may only be 10-15 pull downs after the pitcher has peaked out to his furthest distance on that given day. Depending on how well he did the first two weeks, it’s possible that he may want to make closer to 20-25 throws on his way back to 60 feet. Regardless, Week 3 and 4 are very personal. Each pitcher may respond differently. Some may throw a lot on the first day of their pull downs, and then only want to go out to 250 feet the next day and not pull down at all. Others may actually throw further distances the next day because the Pull Down phase actually opened their arm up even more, and they will have an even more aggressive pull down the next day.

This is where listening to your arm is imperative. Once the base is built from Week 1 and 2, your primary goal is to still condition in Weeks 3 and 4. If the arm is not ready to pull down in Weeks 3 and 4, continue to build distance and endurance. In fact, a good rule of thumb is to not even think about the Pull Down phase until you are comfortably throwing what feels like your max distance, and you are able to stay there comfortably for 5-10 throws.

Things to look for in Weeks 3 and 4 are pacing and recovery period. Since you are not throwing off a mound, you should have relatively good recovery period. For example, the more you throw, the more you arm will probably want to throw. This doesn’t mean to push it beyond it’s means on any given day (Rule #1: ALWAYS listen to your arm). But if you feel like only stretching your arm out one day, or just throwing 150 feet, or not throwing at all on a given day, than do so.

Again, from my experience, the more you throw after building the base right, the more the arm seems to want to throw. For some players, that may mean stretching out and pulling down nearly everyday for Weeks 3, 4, 5 and 6. For others, it may mean stretching out and pulling down only 3 days a week. For others, it may mean stretching out 6 days a week, and pulling down 2 days a week. Again, your arm will dictate it’s own needs to you. Your job is to put it in a position where it can best maximize it’s potential — and I can tell you from a lot of experience that this usually happens when you are doing more throwing, rather than less.

 

Phase 3: Deepening The Base: Building Strength and Endurance (10-14 days)

If you needed more than 2 weeks to build your base, than Weeks 5 and 6 essentially become Weeks 3 and 4 for you. I’d almost prefer it this way because it’s better to spend the extra 2 weeks of deepening your base than it is to get to the pull down/strengthening phase after 2 weeks of conditioning. Considering that you have the rest of the off season and in season ahead of you, it’s far better to take the extra time and insure that your base is deep and strong. It’s like opening up a bank account with a million dollars in it and making deposits all year long, rather than opening up a bank account with a thousand dollars and making withdrawals right away.

For those pitchers who have been pretty aggressive in weeks 3 and 4, weeks 5 and 6 are considered to be “more of the same” throwing. Because you are staying off the mound, don’t be surprised how often, and how long your arm wants to throw. For example, you may begin to notice that 20-30 minutes of throwing has turned into 30-40 minutes of throwing on certain days. You may find that 250 feet has turned into 300 feet and 300 feet has turned into 330 feet or more. In any case, the things you should begin to notice is that your endurance is getting better (conditioning), your arm is feeling consistently stronger (conditioning) and your recovery period is amazingly good.

Once your foundation is built, the remainder of the year becomes one of maintaining this foundation, and even strengthening this foundation. What you do after this six week period may differ from pitching coach to pitching coach, but if you’ve “built” your arm correctly, and are in tune with it through this off-season throwing program, than you will probably want to maintain some form of distance throwing throughout the year. A simple rule of thumb is to get in at least 2 good days of long toss during the season, and these days tend to be most optimal on your bull pen/game day (if you are a starter). The reason for this is that the arm tends to respond better on the mound after a good long toss session — it’s been trained for it. Velocity seems to come more quickly — endurance seems to last longer — swelling is minimized. Also, long tossing on bull-pen/game days is effective because the rest of the days of the week can be used for rest, recovery and rebuilding. Regardless, if you are in tune with your arm, it will tell you from day to day what it wants to do that day…what it needs to do that day.

 

Building Your Offseason Throwing Program

Though most throwing programs are formatted so a pitcher has structure throughout the off-season, our throwing program places more responsibility on a pitcher listening to his arm. Though it would be convenient to tell pitchers to make “x” amount of throws for “x” amount of minutes each Monday, Wednesday and Friday for six weeks, this can be very limiting to the pitchers development.

In a sense, our programs structure is to be structure-less. This doesn’t mean reckless abandon. Quite the contrary. It means to abandon those contrived restraints that prevents the arm from being built the most effective way — by allowing the pitchers’ arm to dictate the amount of throwing rather than following someone else’s pre-determined format. Only the arm knows from day to day, what it wants and what it needs. And that’s we want our players to ultimately learn to do….know their arm.

Though the first principle of the article was to “listen to your arm” and allow it to guide you from day to day, there are still a number of players and coaches that feel more comfortable with having some form of structure or guidelines to follow — some players simply respond better to having structure and some coaches find it more efficient to have a standardized program that everyone can follow.

You can see my whole throwing program in my new online version of the Jaeger Year Round Throwing Manual.

 

Finally, remember that the bottom line is to listen to your arm. How many throws you make at each increment is dependent on how your arm feels. How far you go out, or how fast you come in may vary from day to day. Your job is to put your arm in a position to throw as often as possible, with awareness and sensitivity to your arm, in order to progressively build a strong base. This mentality is what optimizes your ability to insure health, strength, endurance and improved recovery period.

 

Learn the Jaeger Long Toss Program

Jaeger Thrive on ThrowingFor those interested in learning more, we have teamed up with Elite Baseball Performance to offer a brand new online version of our popular Thrive on Throwing 2 video.  In this program, we teach you exactly how to perform a proper arm care, warm-up, long toss, and pull down program to maximize your arm.

We also have a more detailed Year Round Throwing Manual that builds off this article in much more detail and shows you exactly what to do for a throwing program throughout the entire year.

If you don’t have a structured throwing program that you follow, this is an essential place to start:

 

Download our Free Arm Care Program for Baseball Players

One of the foundational pillars of any program for baseball players is an arm care program. Yet, this is often one of the most neglected areas I’ve seen. Many collegiate baseball players, let alone high school and youth baseball players, have never performed an appropriate arm care program.

Here’s a simple fact… If you are a baseball player, you must be performing an arm care program. All the big leaguers do, why aren’t you?

More importantly, if you are performing a strength training program, getting pitching lessons, or participating in a long toss or weighted ball program and do NOT perform an arm care program, your priorities are reversed.

I always say, you are focusing on the frosting before you’ve baked your cake.

But I get it, some people have never heard of an arm care program and some people do not have access to a good one.

Well, I want to change that.

Our mission here at Elite Baseball Performance is to advance the game of baseball through trustworthy and scientifically proven information and programs.

Download the the EBP Arm Care Program for FREE

EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramI want every baseball player in the world to perform an appropriate arm care program, that’s why I am giving mine away for free here at EBP.

I’ve developed this program over the course of two decades based on the science of throwing a baseball and the science behind exercise selection. This is the foundational program that we have used at Champion PT and Performance on everyone from Little League pitchers to Cy Young winners. Sure, the programs we do with our athletes in person are far more comprehensive, but I consider this to be the mandatory foundational program you should be performing.

In exchange, I only ask for your help spreading the word. Please share this page with all your friends, teammates, coaches, parents, and anyone else that wants to help baseball players enhance their performance while reducing their chance for injury!

Start performing this today and you will be well ahead of the curve. Countless big leaguers perform this exact program, get it here for free today!

 

 

3 Exercises to Improve Velocity in Tall Baseball Pitchers

What did he top out at this weekend? Does that guy consistently throw hard? What was his velo?

You can guarantee to hear these questions at our facility on Monday after a weekend of baseball, and velocity will continue to be the talk of the town.

Everyone wants to throw hard and recruiters want to see the potential to throw hard, for better or worse. As you see more players throwing over 90 MPH, there is a trend to see more players well over six feet tall. Being tall creates better lever arms to potentially throw gas, but it also creates the need for more stability across more real estate.

Tall pitchers typically struggle with a few things in the weight room due to their longer limbs. The longer lever arms often require a few extra areas of focus to maximize control and eventually power development.

This article will detail a three of my favorite exercises to address those issues in tall baseball pitchers.

 

Double Kettlebell Reverse Lunge

Tall athletes almost always struggle with maintaining good trunk position, especially with a dynamic task like throwing a baseball.

Adding weight in front of an athlete during an exercise will automatically create a need to use the core effectively. Be careful that the player does not cheat during the exercise by over-arching the low back. A great cue is to “connect the belt buck to the rib cage” during the move.

Single leg work is vital to all athletic development, especially in those with long torsos. You can see how this pitcher is able to maintain a very upright torso and effectively load his lower half.

 

 

Tall Kneeling Overhead Catch and Slam

A major leak of energy when pitching is a loss of good trunk position during the throwing motion.

Sound familiar? It is very difficult to create force into the ground with the legs and deliver it to the arm with a weak center. Imagine trying to shoot a sling shot with a loose grip. Good luck hitting your target, let alone creating any speed.

Tall guys like to create trunk stability by overarching the low back and using their spine instead of abdominal muscles. The tall kneeling position takes away stability, and the overhead catch and slam teaches the athlete to resist overarching the low back while winding up. He is now in a good position to deliver speed and force back into the ball. Here we see him using the abdominal muscles just like a firm grip in the slingshot analogy.

Sled Drags

Pitchers who are tall need to find ways to build strength and endurance in their lower half. Having a long femur and torso may make the risk in a risk-reward equation too high for my liking with heavy squatting.

Sled drags are fantastic for tall pitchers because it allows heavy loading and little stress on the knees and low back. This exercise can be loaded heavy at the start of a session for a strength stimulus, or lighter for distance to build an aerobic base at the end of training. Sled variations are a staple at Adams Performance, and this version is in most of our tall athlete’s programming.

 

The most important part of our approach to building great athletes is understanding everyone is anatomically and developmentally different. Tall pitchers have powerful levers as a natural advantage, so focus their training around developing strong and stable legs to create force and a strong trunk to deliver it. Give these variations with tall pitchers a try to improve performance and help them take advantage of their natural athleticism.

An Easy Way for Baseball Pitchers to Maintain Mobility: The 2-Out Drill

I have a saying that I always used when I discuss how and why baseball pitchers sustain injuries:

Baseball pitchers get injured when they’re tight or they’re tired.

I know, it’s not that profound of a statement, but I really do think it’s that simple.  We often try to overcomplicate the reason for baseball pitching injuries.  Over the years we have researched this quite a bit and found that:

  1. The act of throwing is stressful on the body
  2. Throwing makes you lose mobility and strength
  3. A loss of mobility or strength is correlated to injuries

I originally published the first study to look at range of motion of the throwing arm before and after pitching.  We were looking to determine what happened to the arm immediately after throwing.

We reported that after throwing a 40-50 pitch bullpen session, that shoulder internal rotation decreased by 10 degrees, shoulder total rotational motion also decreased by 10 degrees, and elbow extension decreased by over 3 degrees.

 

 

What do these 3 motions all have in common?  These are the muscle groups that all eccentrically contract to slow down and decelerate the arm while throwing.

We found that the act of throwing causes an immediate loss of range of motion of both the shoulder and the elbow.  Anecdotally, I have found that this loss of motion can easily be cumulative and result in a steady loss of motion over a season.

However, with a simple mobility routine performed over the course of a season, we reported that we were able to restore and maintain mobility in pitchers, which is one of the primary reasons I believe our pitching injuries were so low and we handled our pitchers so well when I was with the Boston Red Sox.

Since publishing this original research report on loss of mobility from pitching, others have also correlated the loss of mobility to injury rates.  This is why I also have another saying that I often use:

I want you to be “you” every time you pick up a ball.

What I mean by this is, if we know you loose motion from pitching, and we know that this loss of motion is cumulative over the course of the season, and we know that this loss of motion can potentially lead to injuries, then we should do whatever we can to restore and maintain your mobility BEFORE you pick up a ball.

This is why we recommend a good warm-up routine prior to throwing.  I also believe this is why our arm care programs at my facility, Champion PT and Performance, are so successful.  We not only build up the arm strength and dynamic stability in our athletes, we also help restore and maintain their mobility.

The impact is huge.  Players almost immediately notice the difference in how they feel and that it is so much easier to get loose.  We offered a peek into our Arm Care programs at Champion in one of our past episodes of our Champion TV video series:

 

While our arm care programs are effective in managing the baseball pitcher during the season, don’t forget that we have also noted that you lose mobility fairly quickly while pitching, after only 40 pitches.  

You probably lose motion slowly over the course of a game as your pitch count rises.  I am sure any pitcher that plays on a team with a strong offense knows that they feel like they tighten up while on the bench during a long inning while their team puts up a few runs.

So while arm care programs are necessary in season, what if there was something we could do during the game to maintain mobility?

 

The 2-Out Drill

This was the exact question my friends and colleagues Rafael Escamilla and Kyle Yamashiro sought to answer.  Working with the Oakland Athletics, they developed what they called the “2-Out Drill.”  

Essentially what this means is that you should perform the drill between innings, perhaps when your offense records the 2nd out of the inning and your know you’re close to getting back on the mound.

The 2-Out Drill contains a series of mobility, activation, and movement prep drills specific to the act of pitching.  

I wanted to share a video of the 2-Out Drill so you can see it in action.  I have modified the original version slightly based on what I have found to be effective, but here is how I teach people to perform:

 

An Easy Way for Baseball Pitchers to Maintain Mobility

Rafael and Kyle recently published a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine documenting the effectiveness of the 2-Out Drill.

The reported that after throwing a 40 pitch bullpen, that range of motion was limited, similar to our past study.  However, the group of pitchers that performed the 2-Out Drill were able to restore their mobility back to the pre-pitching levels.

These results are amazing and important.  In talking to Kyle, some of the things that he told me that aren’t in the research study were that the pitchers felt so much better, felt like it was easier to get loose, and felt that they were able to pitch better after performing the drill.  My athletes said the same thing.\

To me, this is a no-brainer.  The 2-Out Drill is quick, simple, and effective at maintaining mobility during the game.  I recommend all baseball pitchers use the 2-Out Drill between innings, but also prior to throwing each day.  It’s also a great way for relievers to get ready in the pen before they starting throwing.

Give the 2-Out Drill a try and let me know how you feel.

 

Want our FREE Arm Care Program?


EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramOur mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information. That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE.  A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.  The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.

 

Teaching The Modern Changeup

The changeup is one of the least sensationalized pitch in baseball, but perhaps one of the most important to develop.

This part 3 of a 3 part series on the “modern” change up.  Here in part three, the goal is to explain how pitchers should best use their shiny new changeup, because executing the pitch in a game is ultimately the only thing that matters.  If you haven’t read the previous posts, click below to get started:

  • The Modern Change Up: In part one, we discussed the theory of the changeup, and how a pitcher can reliably remove speed, apply spin, and produce a consistent changeup that sinks, runs, and deceives a hitter.
  • How to Throw a Changeup: In part two, I explained my method of teaching it, with cues for both the coach and the pitcher.

 

It’s Not One Changeup, It’s Four

The biggest thing to understand about the modern changeup is that its action and effect varies depending on where it’s thrown. Let’s talk about five common locations into which it will be thrown. But first, I want to explain the terminology of arm-side versus glove-side, which describes pitch location without needing to know the handedness of the hitter

arm side glove side baseball pitcher

Thrown Glove-side: OK version; flattens out a bit and tends to be a little harder

The pitcher is forced to hold onto the pitch just a little longer to locate it on the glove-side of the plate, which means he can’t roll his hand inward quite as well; this results in a slightly harder changeup with less movement. A pitcher can throw this one, but it makes less sense when other locations will result in better action and deception.

 

Thrown Middle: Good version; will both sink and run, with correct speed differential

Thrown to the middle, it’s easy to pronate in on the pitch to get excellent sink, run and speed change. This was my favorite location to throw it because it would induce swings, and I could just let the pitch rip. Depending on how low in the zone I’d throw it, results would usually be a weak ground ball or swing and miss. The heavy downward action is a major failsafe, and pitchers don’t need to fear throwing it down the middle.

 

Thrown Arm-side: Best version; has the most sink, run and speed differential

The arm-side version is dynamite. Start it on the outer half or outer third, and it will sink below the strike zone on or off the corner of the plate. When a pitcher gets ahead in the count and has this in his arsenal, he can finish opposite-handed hitters off with ease, and bury a changeup down and in to strike out same-side hitters just as well. I punched out plenty of righties with righty-righty changeups; at worse, if they make contact, they’ll hook it foul.

 

Arm-Side Hanger: when a pitcher flies open and gets his hand too much on the side of it.

Pitchers are afraid of hanging changeups, and for good reason – they come in as slow fastballs at the belt, and fly out of the park in a hurry. But, when they learn to pronate their changeup, a good amount of sidespin will be applied even to hangers. The result is that many hanging changeups will “hunt” a same-side hitter. For me as a righty, I would drag occasionally through a changeup and watch as it bore hard into a righty’s hands, basically chasing him as he started his swing; they rarely could much of anything but try to get out of the way. In a sense, applying pronation to the changeup is a failsafe when a pitcher invariably pushes a few each game.

The GIF above is a great example of an arm-side hanging changeup that, if it didn’t have a lot of side-spin, might have lingered in the strike zone. It’s not a good pitch, but it keeps itself out of trouble.

 

Middle Hanger: you’re screwed just like any other “hung” off-speed pitch

When thrown at mid-thigh or above, out on the middle of the plate, speed-differential can’t save a pitcher, as hitters can reset themselves. If two changeups have the same action and speed differential, the one up in the zone will be easier for a hitter to re-adjust to despite being fooled early in the pitch’s flight.

The challenge is learning how to locate the pitch, which is more difficult because of the heavy movement. To throw the modern changeup for strikes, the pitcher needs to learn to use his eyes as a targeting system.

 

Focal Point: Differentiating Starting And Ending Point  

The catcher calls for a four-seamer. You lock your eyes on the mitt, kick and deliver; the pitch flies straight, and you hit you your spot. Next, he calls a changeup. You take your new changeup grip, lock eyes on the mitt then kick and deliver. You miss your spot down and arm-side by eight inches in both directions. What just happened?

Even at high levels, many pitchers don’t understand the concept of the starting point for breaking pitches. The starting and ending point for a slider are different. If a pitcher stares down the mitt and throws his slider for it, he either misses his spot by exactly the amount the slider breaks, or subconsciously starts the pitch at a higher, more lateral location to account for the break. Just like in golf – if you have a slice you can’t fix, just aim a little more to the side so your ball slices into the fairway, as opposed to into the rough. Right? Right.

As pitchers, we need to know our pitch will end up the in place we intend; for that reason, we musts pick a focal point that that represents the starting point on the trajectory that will result in our desired spot.  So, if you throw a 12-6 curveball that breaks exactly eight inches, and you want to throw it at the knee cap, the focal point must be eight inches above the knee cap.

Using focal points to account for break is the only reliable method of controlling breaking pitches, and the modern changeup. Because the changeup you’ve learned in this article series will have a consistent action – typically an equal combination of arm-side run and sink – the pitcher must learn where to start the pitch so it sinks and runs into the catcher’s mitt. Otherwise, every changeup that starts for the catcher’s mitt will sink out of the strike zone, and it will be tough to throw for strikes.

Three Key Steps: 

  1. Learn and develop the pitch until it has consistent, dependable action.
  2. Figure out where you should start the pitch so that its typical action will cause it to hit your desired spot.
  3. Work hard with your eyes – many pitches take their eyes off their target, which makes establishing a strong focal point connection difficult.

 

Throw As Many Changeups As Possible

Even if a pitcher today is striking out the world with just a fastball-slider combination, that will one day run out as he ascends the ranks of baseball. Learning a changeup today is an investment in avoiding that slump in the future, when the level of play catches up to an overachiever. Any new pitch takes at least a year to master, so start now.

The problem, though, is that playing changeup catch with your buddies isn’t, well, fun. Young pitchers like watching their curveball break, slider slide, and their brutal knuckleball occasionally knuckle. No pitcher has ever said, Hey! Let’s see who can throw the most deceptive changeup! Best out of ten!

The changeup will be the pitch that you need to get opposite-handed hitters out in a jam, the pitch you go to when a hitter picks up your breaking ball well, and when you need to induce that double-play ball with the bases loaded. It will be the pitch that makes everything else you throw better.

And, if a pitcher wants any chance at starting in college or pro baseball, a changeup is a requirement. The only guys who don’t throw changeups are select reliever specialists and the hardest-throwing, back-of-the-bullpen type pitchers who see more risk than reward in throwing 90mph changeups when the game is on the line.

 

Take Home

The changeup is evolving, and advanced metrics are showing us that movement and speed-change is superior to speed change alone. Learning a changeup with advanced qualities – more than just speed change– gives a pitcher a chance to be on the leading edge of advances in baseball.

 

The Biggest Mistake Baseball Players Make When Playing Catch

Over my career, I’ve been fortunate to work with a wide variety of baseball players.  I’ve worked with everyone from youth to MLB Cy Young winners, and I’ve also worked with hundreds of healthy and injured baseball players.

I have found that many baseball players make the same mistake when playing catch, and I think this mistake can cause a lot of soreness, decreased performance, and maybe even injury down the road.

But more importantly, I’ve found that most big leaguers do NOT make this mistake and most injured players DO make this mistake.

The Biggest Mistake Baseball Players Make When Playing Catch

The mistake is simply that they start throwing too hard too early.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started a throwing program with someone coming back from an injury and their first few throws are near max effort at my knees from 45 feet!

Throwing a baseball is such a dynamic activity, it’s very stressful on the arm when this happens.  It’s the equivalent of waking up, getting out of bed, and then immediately running sprints.  You’d never do that, you’d maybe stretch out, go for a jog, then start sprinting.

I’ve always used this simple phrase when starting to teach players this concept:

Let distance dictate your intensity.

This is very similar to Alan Jaeger’s concept of stretching out and compressing on the way back in when long tossing, but something I apply to any throwing situation.  The arm needs to get ready for the upcoming demand.

Luckily, this mistake is easy to fix.

Watch my video below to learn how.  I discuss this common mistake and how I teach baseball players to warm up their arm.

EBP Reinold Throwers Arm Care ProgramWant our FREE Arm Care Program?

Our mission at EBP is to provide the best and most trustworthy information. That’s why we now are offering Mike Reinold’s recommended arm care protocol for absolutely FREE.  A proper arm care program should be one of the foundations of injury prevention and performance enhancement programs.  The EBP Arm Care program is the perfect program to set the foundation for success that EVERY baseball player should perform.

Pullover Variations to Improve Overhead Stability in Throwers

When working with overhead athletes, optimal positioning and function of the shoulder complex is vital for sustained performance. Whether you’re a high school outfielder or major league pitcher optimal development and function of the serratus anterior and the deep abdominals are a must for meeting the demands of an overhead sport like baseball. This brings us to the Kettlebell Pullover; this exercise is an underutilized yet effective movement that baseball players can add into their performance and rehabilitation programs.

Why should we use them?

With these exercise variations, we are achieving many things. First, the person will have to stabilize their anterior core while moving their arms in space (AKA proximal stability promoting distal mobility). This allows us to see the person’s ability to reach a full squat both passively (through hip flexion on the floor) as well as actively (reaching a full squat position).

The exercises posted below are challenging the individual to go overhead while maintaining the pelvis and rib cage over one another. This can help achieve proper scapular upward rotation, scapular posterior tilt, and protraction of the scapula.

One of the other benefits is it can be modified to fit the movement ability of each person.  As shown below these exercises follow a developmental sequence of supine to half or tall kneeling to standing.

This is a general progression of positions I may follow with a person who has limited movement experience and needs to better solidify their overhead capabilities.

Kettlebell Pullover Variations for Throwers

Progression 1: Supine

The follow supine exercise can be progressed from bilateral to unilateral, and feet on the ground transitioning to a 90/90 position without wall support.

Supine Kettlebell Pullover

 

Supine Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Supine Bottoms Up Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Progression 2: Kneeling

The following exercises progress from half kneeling or tall kneeling, can be performed bilateral or unilateral, and can go from a light band to a light Kettlebell.

Tall Kneeling Bilateral Band Pullover

 

Half Kneeling Single Arm Kettlebell Pullover

 

Progression 3: Standing

Lastly, we can progress to the standing position, with or without the squat. 

Kettlebell Goblet Squat with Heartbeat to Pullover

 

Application to Strength Training

These exercises are beneficial for the overhead athlete in both the warm up and during the workout itself. These exercises teach the client how to keep their pelvis and rib cage aligned, which will then carry over to relearning a more optimal overhead mechanical pattern.

When progressed appropriately it can also be a challenging anterior core exercise because the person has to resist excessive lumbar extension while their arms begin to move overhead.

Application to Rehabilitation

Many times patients come to us with hip and shoulder pains that can be traced back to overuse of the latissimus dorsi and underuse of the deep abdominal muscles, serratus anterior along with an anteriorly tilted pelvis. When we begin to balance out these opposing forces, we then see better outcomes in our patient population.

These exercises are a good starting point to slowly and safely reintroduce the overhead pattern in various non-threatening positions. Many times a patient is highly guarded after experiencing shoulder soreness or an injury. Putting them in these positions allows the therapist to tap into the person’s nervous system and make a positive change towards the patient relearning a more optimal overhead movement sequence.

Finally, it gives us a global view of the person we are working with. Can they do the task we want or do they need an excessive amount of extension strategies to get into the squat position or to get their arms fully overhead?

How to Program

Start with 2-4 sets of 4-6 breaths either in the warm up or as filler in between exercises is a great place to begin implementing this exercise.

  1. Reach your arms long to the ceiling throughout the motion
  2. Inhale to start the motion and exhale as you bring the Kettlebell down towards the floor
  3. Slightly bring your belt buckle towards your chin while maintaining your low back on the floor