The Thought Process of a Big Game Pitcher

Why does one pitcher succeed with below-average velocity and “stuff,” while another who throws 96-98mph posts a 7.00 ERA?

Why do flame-throwing rookies have such a hard time getting outs, despite amazing ability? Regardless of how hard a pitcher throws, he must learn how to read hitters, execute pitches, and process all the information he’s given on every swing a hitter takes.

In this article, you’ll learn the process of big-game pitchers, the guys who teams trust when the game is on the line. Becoming an Ace takes a lot of mental bandwidth, and I’ll give you an outline below to help expand yours.

The Four-Zone Process

Between at-bats, we need to remind ourselves all our duties before and after the pitch. Within this checklist are simple things like knowing the score and which base we’ll back up on a double.

But, there are higher-level processes like analyzing the hitter, the situation, our own strengths and weaknesses, and how it all fits together when we choose the next pitch.

In short, smart pitchers are much like computers. The more experience one has – both playing the game and going through a logical, analytical process – the faster one can process larger amounts of information.

The faster you process the simple pieces, the more bandwidth you free up to think clearly about the reason you’re choosing the next pitch. And, you MUST have a reason behind every pitch you throw.

Zone 1: The Big Picture

In this zone, we’re standing in the grass behind the mound. We just retrieved the ball following the conclusion of an at-bat, and we’re taking it all in to prepare for the next one.

We think about the big things, such as the score, the inning, base runners (where and who they are), what base to cover on a single or extra-base hit to different parts of the park, where to go with a comebacker or bunt, and the overall situation. What needs to happen next for us?

Zone 2: Focus on the Hitter and Runner, and situation

In this zone, we’re standing at the bottom of the mound, narrowing our focus from the big picture and more custodial tasks (like which bases we cover).

We narrow our focus and think about the hitter and the baserunners – what threats they present and how we’ll deal with them.

The first focus can be who’s up, and what has he done thus far? 0-2 with two Ks, or 2-3 with two doubles? What do we know about his habits, swing, etc.? What’s the situation ask him to do? Bunt? Swing away? Hit behind the runner?

What’s he capable of? Can he hurt us? What can’t he do? How did we pitch him last time? What’s his swing look like? What do we see? What’s his approach?

The next focus could be who is on base? Is it a stealing situation? Is there a base open? If so, will that change how you pitch the hitter?

How fast are the base runners? Is the lead runner a stealing threat?

How aggressive have you seen the baserunners lead, steal or break on balls in the dirt? Do we know if they like to go on a certain pitch?

Considering all the above, how much attention do they need to be paid? What do I think I might throw first pitch? Do I need to protect it if that’s the one I choose?

The last focus can be what’s the situation? What is the best possible result?

What do I need? Strikeout? Ball to stay on the infield? Do I have a base open? Is the double play in order?

Is the hitter likely to change his approach because of the situation? Am I changing my approach because of the situation? How does mine match up with his? What’s my escape route? How do I get the result I want?

Zone 3: Planning for the Pitch, At-Bat and Running Game

In Zone 3, we are straddling the rubber as the hitter completes his warm-up swings. This is our waiting position – as he gets in the box, we then step on the rubber and narrow our focus even more. What do we want the catcher to put down?

First, we summarize the hitter. What are his tendencies? What has he done?

What does his approach appear to be? Does it change as the at-bat changes?

What are his weaknesses? Does he have a swing flaw? Slow bat? Obvious bat path? Where does his bat-path live?

Next, we remind ourselves of our strengths. What are we good at? Does our strength match his weakness?

How did we pitch him last time? Did it work?

What do I feel confident in today? What do I want to stay away from?

What can I not allow him to beat me on? What is my go-to pitch when the game is on the line?

Lastly, we do some planning of the at-bat.

If I get my intended result on the first pitch, where might I go next? If I don’t, what am I probably coming back with?

How likely is it that the runner steals on the first pitch? The second?

Do I need to pick over on the first pitch? What move do I show him? A? B? C?

Am I in big trouble if this runner steals the next base? Is this a base-open situation? Do I need to throw it over the plate if I fall behind? Or, can I pitch him tough until the end?

What’s the first stepping stone to the result I want?

Zone 4: Choose your pitch and execute

We’ve done our diligence and checked off all the questions above (and probably many more).

With all the work done, we step onto the rubber and peer in to get our sign. We’ve chosen our pitch and know what we’re doing with the runner. Now, ALL the work is done, which leaves us with one thing left: Execute this pitch.

The One-Pitch Mindset: Crucial, But Difficult

One we’ve considered all possible information and chosen a pitch we believe in, it’s time to block out all potential consequences, stakes, results, AND all the stuff we were just thinking about. None of it matters once we’ve come set.

After the pitch is chosen, the pitcher has one job: lock his eyes on the mitt with tunnel vision and give 100% focus to executing the pitch.

Nothing else can come between the visual tunnel to the mitt. Not the roar of the crowd, the potential embarrassment if he lines it into the gap, not our potential release if our ERA goes up. None of it.

Our job is to execute one single pitch. Then, execute one single pitch. Then, execute one more single pitch. If we do that until our day is done, we’ll have strung together the best possible outing.

Remember this old proverb, “A Journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”?

Pitching is the same way. One pitch at a time, then look back at the end and see what you’ve strung together, how a string of single pitches joined into an amazing outing.

The Secret Formula?

If someone out there tells you that pitching in games merely expresses your currently skill level…they’ve never stepped foot on the mound. These people think throwing is pitching, and it’s not.

You don’t learn any of this stuff until you’re on the mound, taking in the situation and thinking your way through it. You can become a darn good thrower in practice, but you don’t become a pitcher until you’re in the heat of the moment and forced to think your way through it.

And, if you don’t have a coach who is pushing you to think through the above checklist, you’ll never stick at the highest levels of baseball. Pitchers make it, throwers don’t – it’s just that simple, because at every level, hitters get smarter and there will always be guys who can turn around a 99mph fastball.

Learn How to Become the Ace of Your Staff

If you want to learn this stuff faster, to not have to suffer through years of trial and error not knowing what to look for, and not knowing the best strategies to live by, my online course Ace of the Staff is for you.

I designed this 13-hour, 80+ video course to pass along the lessons it took me a decade to absorb, so that younger pitchers with a passion for the game can learn faster, and climb higher.

3 Single Leg Exercises to Build Strength and Improve Force Production for Baseball Players

This is no secret. As a baseball player, you need to be able to produce force and you need to be able to absorb force. Being able to do these two things will give you the ability to be powerful, but also help reduce the risk of injury.

When we look at throwing, and more specifically pitching, if you can’t produce or absorb force, you’re going to put a lot more stress on your arm. Not only that, but you will not be able to produce enough power to throw with any real velocity.

If the legs are not doing their part, you have to try to develop power and arm speed somewhere else. This somewhere else is the arm, because in its “mind” it knows it needs to do something to catch up.


Using Strength to Improve Stability

When it comes to being powerful, tinkering with mechanics will help, but really a lot of this comes down to your strength, stability, and body position. If you have good relative strength, you’re going to be able to get into better positions.

Pitching is a very explosive movement and requires a lot strength and stability to maintain good body positions.

To become explosive, you must put a lot of force into the ground. Therefore, you will see athletes who put on good weight have a big tick in velocity.

They are putting on relatively good weight, which will help them get stronger, and will ultimately help them produce more force and be more stable to absorb it.

Now when focusing on getting stronger, you want to prioritize unilateral strength. Pitching and throwing is mostly done on one leg, therefore getting strong on one leg will have more carry over.

Building single-leg strength will help you produce power and give you stability to transfer your weight and energy from one leg to the other. By being able to transfer your weight effectively, you will be able stay in a better position to pitch.

With this, I have picked these three single leg strength exercises below because it hits all three sides of the spectrum. The reverse lunge, single leg RDL, and the single-leg hip thrust.


Front Squat Reverse Lunge

When it comes to building single-leg strength, this is the king of single-leg exercises. Not only will this exercise get you strong, it makes you absorb force when you step back, and then put force in the ground to drive up.

Another added benefit is the torso position it forces you to be in. Because of the front squat grip and the weight being in front, it helps keep you in a more upright position and makes your anterior core work extra hard, so that you don’t tip.

When pitching, it’s important to be able to create tension at the right time and this exercise requires the same. Being able to create tension through the core is important to maintain good position and being able to push in to the ground.


Single Leg RDL

Single Leg Training for Baseball Pitchers

When pitching, you should be able to transfer your weight from your back leg to your front leg, and be able to put your foot in the ground while getting over your front leg.

This exercise not only teaches you to load that front leg, but also put force into the ground and get over it so you can get extension on your pitch.

The ability to get over the front side and get extension will not only help you throw harder, but will add deception to your pitch.

This exercise is going to challenge the glutes and the hamstrings, as well as the core because it helps you stabilize so that you do not tip your pelvis laterally.

The ability to stabilize and get over your front leg not only allows you to get into a better position but allows you to put more force into the ground. With the RDL, you have to be able to load the front leg and then drive it through the ground, and in this case, drive your hip through.


Single Leg Hip Thrust

Single Leg Training for Baseball Pitchers

The single-leg hip thrust is a great exercise because it targets the glutes and teaches good hip extension. This exercise is less dynamic and more of a pure glute exercise.

Hip extension is important when it comes to pitching and all three exercises require you to be able to do so to do the exercises correctly.

This exercise, compared to the others, is usually unweighted. However, if you get a point where you want to use weight, you can put a band, bar, or sandbag over your hips.

Pitching is a powerful, explosive movement and requires good single-leg strength and stability. It is important to gain good, relative, single-leg strength so that you can put your body in good positions to allow yourself to produce a lot of force into the ground.



3 Exercise to Develop Rotational Power in Baseball Players

Rotational ability is one of the key components in transferring power from the lower half and core towards either the catcher (pitching) or ball (hitting). Developing proficiency in this area will help further progress the efficiency of a complete power transfer from the lower to upper half in either movement. In addition, rotational power in the hips can only be maximized if the upper back is adequately able to rotate at the same velocity with the same power.

I this article, I will break down the importance of rotational power related to both hitting and pitching, along with a three-exercise progression to not only develop better and more efficient rotational ability, but proficiency in weight transfer and additional power development.

The Role of The Core and Thoracic Spine in Baseball

The core is essential for generating and transferring force during the powerful and asymmetrical movements that take place in baseball. For this discussion we are going to define the core as: the abdominals, the erectors (muscles that run parallel to the spine), the pelvic floor, and the hips (the glutes, groin muscles, and hip flexor muscles).

When throwing a pitch, the core muscles maintain stability of the low back and hips allowing force generated through the legs to be transferred through the core to shoulder complex and ultimately to the ball.

This transfer of force takes place in less than 0.2 seconds!

The core is essential to maintaining proper mechanics through all phases of delivering a pitch. Any imbalances in flexibility, strength, or coordination at that high rate of speed can lead to decreased performance and injury.”

We must also acknowledge the role of the thoracic spine in conjunction with the core.

After force is transferred from the lower half to the upper half and shoulders via the core, the thoracic spine (mid back), must be able to rotate and the hips able to clear in order to square the body to both the target when throwing or the ball when swinging.

Lack of rotational power can severely limit velocity potential and swinging power. An extremely strong base at the legs or shoulder may not see full potential utilized if a player cannot rotate at a similar rate.

The Planes of Motion Involved in a Swing or Throw

Many people would state that a pitching delivery or swing is performed in the transverse plane (the plane which involves rotation).

While that is correct, I like to break down these movements in two phases because there are movements that take place prior to the rotation that occurs. As a result, I like to explain each motion as a frontal plane movement followed by a rotation (transverse plane).

Frontal Plane

The frontal plane divides the body into the anterior (front) and posterior (back). As such, any movements occurring along this divide, or laterally, are performed in this plane.

The frontal component of each movement takes places during the loading and stride (towards home plate as a pitcher or towards the ball as a batter). Therefore, lateral power is equally important to develop in addition to rotational ability (I will get to this at another time).

Transition to Transverse Plane

For the sake of this article this is the more important plane to highlight. After weight is transferred from the back leg towards the target via a frontal plane movement, rotation then takes place to square the shoulders and transfer all energy in the desired direction.

This rotation takes place as a batter simultaneously brings their hands towards the ball to swing or a pitcher brings their arm around to deliver a pitch. This is where the importance of thoracic rotation ability and power take place.

Three Exercise Progressions to Develop Rotational Power

The following exercises progress from simple thoracic rotational focus to then include both frontal and transverse movements with a weight transfer, and lastly a more advanced progression that builds excess power prior to the movement.

Sledgehammer Swings

It is important to do these with your feet perfectly squared so that you experience full thoracic rotation.

Start the sledgehammer at your waist with your arms extended and fully rotate around towards one side before bringing your arms back around and rotating back to a squared position while simultaneously slamming the hammer.

Figure 8 Medicine Ball Slams

These are performed in a lateral position and involve a front leg to back leg weight shift prior to rotation and slamming. Thus, it involves both planes of movement.

Counter Movement Figure 8 Medicine Ball Slams

This final progression involves a build of additional power via kinetic energy build up (the forward and backwards hop). Perform the traditional figure 8 medicine ball slam and include a quick front to back hop prior to rotating and slamming.

Try these 3 drills to develop your rotational power to develop more effective swing or pitching mechanics.

The Proper Way For Baseball Pitchers To Push Down The Mound

The pitching motion is an explosive lateral to rotational movement down a hill in under two seconds.

The greatest key component to this explosive movement is “leg drive,” or the moment the pitcher moves down the mound after reaching peak leg lift.

Competing terms like “tall and fall” or “drop and drive” combined with balance and toe tap drills have caused confusion and reinforced slow twitch movements to hinder pitchers’ abilities to complete leg drive athletically and efficiently.

The most common diagram we know in physics is that of the roller coaster on a hill to illustrate potential and kinetic energy.

At the top of the hill, the roller coaster is at peak potential energy. It then converts to kinetic energy as it moves down the slope and gains speed.

A pitcher’s center of mass needs to move with the slope of the mound the same way a roller coaster moves down a hill.

Now, imagine that the roller coaster has a motor to kick-start it down its hill. This motor is the pitcher’s back leg, which is used to create additional force in the ground and accelerate more explosively.

The Load And Go

After peak leg lift, the pitcher needs to focus on driving the rubber back towards second base and pushing his entire body down the mound.

The pitcher will shift weight to the middle/outside of his back foot, stabilize his back knee over his back ankle, and drive his body as a single unit down the mound. The timing trigger for this is hand break.

The pitcher should think two phases: load and go. Leg lift is the “load” where the pitcher’s weight shifts over his back leg. Hand break is the “go” where he explosively drives away from the rubber.

Notice there is no “fall” in the way I describe this move. On the flip side, there’s no drop either.

We DO NOT want the pitcher to sit down or sink his weight into the ground attempting to bend his back leg and push. This is a slowing action that causes the back leg to break down and lead to early rotation.

When doing a box jump, we don’t bend our knees slowly and try to squat down as low as we can to execute the jump. Instead, we move as fast and fluid as we can, causing our leg to bend to a comfortable flexed position (around 45 degrees) and then explode upward.

A Simple Drill To “Load And Go”

If a pitcher thinks “push fast” or “drive fast” away from the rubber with his entire body, the back leg will naturally bend and move efficiently and explosively down the mound. The following drill can instill this intent into a pitcher:


Start at peak leg lift, fully relax the front leg and DO NOT worry about it. It does nothing once in the air.

Hold a counterweight (kettlebell, dumbbell) of some kind to represent the baseball. The counterweight is heavier to cause the pitcher to feel his weight all the way over his back leg at leg lift. It will also help the pitcher lean slightly back during leg drive to not leak energy forward.

Wrap a band for increased resistance to cause more intent in leg drive. However, you don’t need the band to get the movement down.

Drive far out and DO NOT go into rotation. Keep both feet closed and just push sideways. Focus on moving faster and faster out of this position without leaning or sinking in posture.

The bottom line is, when describing the mental approach to leg drive, “tall and drive” much more accurately depicts the movement to your pitcher.

3 Things Baseball Players Need to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

There is no magical answer to the question, “what are the best pitching mechanics?”  Take a look around Major League Baseball and you’ll see an endless amount of mechanical variations.

There’s definitely not just one way to throw a baseball.

However, some key moments in the delivery do tend to be more consistent in elite baseball pitchers than many think.

I’ve always considered the wind up more of the dramatical part of the delivery, often times allowing some unique “flare” for each pitcher.  It’s almost like a peacock showing their feathers.  The windup sets the stage for what is to come but doesn’t really have much force or stress seen.

However, everything changes when the foot hits the ground.

Take a look at the moment of foot contact between these three pitchers (photo credit is from Rob Friedman and his amazing collection of pitching gifs):

How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

And these three at the moment of ball release:How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

All of a sudden, we start to see very similar mechanics, even though how they got to these positions differed dramatically.

Sure, you are always going to find anomalies, that’s why they are Major League Baseball pitchers.  But I don’t think it’s in anyone’s best interest to try to emulate the mechanics of that one goofy big leaguer.

To truly understand how to best train youth baseball pitchers, we must understand 3 things:

  1. What do elite level baseball pitching mechanics look like?
  2. What are the mechanical faults most common in youth baseball pitchers?
  3. How does youth pitching mechanics change as they age?

Once we understand these factors, we can then develop programs to help facilitate their natural development.  It is extremely important to base our pitching instruction on the science of baseball pitching mechanics.

We sat down last year with my team at Champion PT and Performance and The Farm Baseball Academy to discuss these exact 3 questions to help develop our Elite Pitching Performance Program.

Our youth and high school baseball pitchers should strive to develop sound pitching mechanics at an early age.  Then, once the master the basics, we can start focusing on their long term development based on the above 3 points.


Youth Baseball Pitching Mechanics

A recent research study performed by Dr. Glenn Fleisig and the team at ASMI did an amazing job of following several youth baseball pitchers to see how their pitching mechanics changed as they aged, and how this compared to elite baseball pitchers.  The authors followed a group of youth pitchers and assessed their mechanics yearly from age 9 to age 15.

For first time, we now have a more clear pitcher of how youth baseball pitchers slowly develop into elite pitchers.

Using this information, we can build not only better training programs for baseball pitchers to perform, but also a several year curriculum to develop elite pitching performance as they age and mature.

The researchers discussed a few main findings:

  • Stride length – Youth baseball pitchers had a shorter stride length than elite pitchers
  • Open landing – Youth baseball pitchers landed in a more open position than elite pitchers
  • Land with too much Shoulder ER – Youth baseball pitchers shoulder was too far into layback early in their delivery when foot plant occurred than elite pitchers
  • Trunk separation – Youth baseball has less separation of their hip and shoulder than elite pitchers

How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

Interestingly, pitching velocity has been correlated to both trunk separation and stride length in youth pitchers, so these findings are even more important.  These appear to be two very important things that youth pitchers do with their mechanics that may be holding them back from being elite.


The 3 Keys to Enhancing Pitching Performance

Based on the two reports above, we identified three big keys to enhancing pitching performance that we wanted to assure we built our programs around:

  1. Develop hip and shoulder separation
  2. Develop linear and rotation power
  3. Develop lower body drive and intent

We considered this the foundation of our pitching performance programs.  Anything else, like working on long toss or weighted ball programs prior to developing this foundation would be focusing on the wrong things in my mind.

I always say that in baseball pitchers, the lower body develops the power, the core transfers the power, and the upper body dissipates the power.


Develop Hip and Shoulder Separation

The first key is developing the ability to separate the hip and shoulder.  This will help land in a more closed position and develop the ability to transfer the force from the legs to the arm and eventually the ball.

While mobility of the hips and spine is a huge factor in developing separation, core stability is also important to control the mobility.  In youth, I see many that don’t have any issue with the mobility to achieve separation, they simply don’t have the core control.


Develop Linear and Rotational Power

The next key is to train baseball pitchers to develop linear and rotational power towards the plate.  The body is inherently strong moving forward and back, and less so moving sideways and rotation.

Linear and rotation power is something that needs to be developed.


Develop Lower Body Drive and Intent

Once proper trunk separation is established, and linear and rotational power of the lower half and core is developed, then we can focus on developing lower body drive and intent down the mound.

This would inherently increase stride length and help land in a more closed position.

It’s amazing to me how many kids essentially throw with their arms, and not their lower half.  Take a look at our three pitchers here slowly developing drive with their lower half:

How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

I do believe that intent is something that needs to be taught to many youth baseball pitchers, but many simply just don’t have the mobility, strength, and stability to drive down the mound.


How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance

How to Develop Elite Pitching PerformanceThe above information is what I consider to be some of the most important things to focus on when developing pitchers.  As I previously mentioned, this has become the core of our Elite Pitching Performance Program at Champion.  But I know not everyone can train with us.

So a few months ago I hosted a seminar on Developing Elite Pitching Performance that we have recorded and now made available online for everyone to view.

I invited a group of pitching coaches around the country to participate and share their knowledge, including:

  • Dan Blewett of Warbird Academy
  • Brent Pourciau of Top Velocity
  • Paul Reddick of Paul Reddick Baseball
  • Lantz Wheeler of Baseball Think Tank

I hand chose each of the above because I know they also believe in the above factors and I wanted them to share this information.  Sure, I don’t agree with everything that they teach, but I do believe in what they teach in regard to the above concepts.  That’s what the program is all about.

We’ll show you exactly what it takes to safely and effectively developing baseball pitchers, without the shortcuts or gimmicks you can find on the internet.

It’s geared towards baseball players and parents, as well as baseball coaches, strength coaches, and rehab specialists.

If you want to learn how to take your pitching to the next level and do it the right way, this is an amazing resource that you are going love.

The program is on sale for 50% off this week only!  Purchase the program now until Sunday, January 21st, at midnight EST for only $99.  Click below to learn more and purchase today:


How to Develop Elite Pitching Performance


This article on Developing Elite Baseball Pitching Performance originally appeared on



Addressing And Correcting Trunk Tilt At Foot Strike

Many times, when analyzing video of our young pitchers, I’ll come across what I call trunk tilt at foot strike.

It’s quite common in younger throwers and is characterized by an excessive lean towards your glove side.

The head becomes tilted, facing away from the driveline and gives the appearance that the athlete is getting ready to launch the ball over a three-story building. This tilt helps to keep the arm at a roughly 90-110- degree angle from the body. It’s this angle that is thought of as being the safest and most powerful. Here are two examples of different positions at ball release, both with similar angles.

The problem could be lower-half driven (click here for a prior article on lack of back leg extension) or physical limitations in mobility or strength which we’ll be discussing today.

First, let me start by saying that pitching with an excessive contralateral trunk tilt has been associated with a benefit in velocity. This may be true, but it also has been associated with increased joint loading.

It’s true that many pro players can and do throw harder by creating more angular velocity and acceleration in the upper body from hand break to ball release through an excessive trunk tilt. If you’re currently making a great living playing pro ball then by all means carry on, but if you’re a young athlete trying to make it to the next level, the risk may not be worth the reward. Many times, correcting issues early on that can help address the tilt and learning to “re-tension” the throw may be just what keeps a young athlete in the game (injury free) long enough to get a shot at the big leagues, or even a great college education for that matter.

How To Identify An Excessive Tilt

Based on testing methods in the study, I use the side view of our 4-camera system to find the point when the pitcher reaches maximum shoulder external rotation at foot strike.

Being that our camera system is synchronized, I can now look at him from the front view at the exact same moment. Next, I’ll draw a vertical line straight up from the middle of the landing foot.  If the middle of the head is more than a “head-width” outside of this vertical line, it would demonstrate what I call an “excessive contralateral tilt”.

The Effect Of Excessive Tilt On The Shoulder And Elbow

Since throwing with a tilt is essentially placing the arm slot in a more “over the top” position, there are higher levels of torque at the elbow and shoulder due to the arm moving in a more superior direction.

If you look at the picture below you can see that this athlete is about to accelerate his arm towards the plate.

Due to the degree of trunk tilt, his shoulder and elbow are going to be migrate in a more provocative, superior direction, which isn’t the greatest. Not a great direction for the shoulder or the labrum to be accepting force.

Keeping the body more upright will keep the direction of the throw moving in a more horizontal, less provocative (superior) direction.

What Causes An “Excessive Tilt At Foot Strike”?

It can be caused by a few different things but today, some of which are mechanical, but we’re going to talk about 3 big physical reasons that I see every day in our high school throwers.

We could include other issues such as hip mobility and t-spine extension as well, but for
the scope of this blog we’ll hit these three. Let’s dive a little deeper.

Poor Breathing Patterns

Next to the lower half, the rib cage is probably the most important part of a pitching delivery. It is at the center of the body, and serves as a platform for the shoulder blades to move upon.

Poor scapular movement can force the athlete to tilt the upper half to get to that optimum 90-110 degrees at foot strike that we talked about earlier. Working on breathing with the ribs down and shutting down tight lats can help upward rotation.

Anterior Core Strength

Many times, young athletes have an undeveloped and weak anterior core due to growing live in an extended posture.

This can inhibit rib cage and pelvic position, making it hard to create efficient rotation at front foot strike while still holding his line to home plate. The result can be a closed landing forcing an excessive tilt to help “cut the ball” around the body.

Creating some good rotational stiffness can go a long way.

Insufficient Lead Leg Strength

No mystery here. You can’t build a strong stabile house on a weak foundation.

Pitching coaches can try, try, try but if strength is the underlying issue they’re banging their heads against the wall. It just simply doesn’t work. Get strong.

If you’re looking to reduce your excessive lateral trunk lean, try focusing on your rib position, anterior core strength, and lead strength.

See ya’ in the gym…

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.


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.


  • 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.

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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: