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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:

 

Defining Long Toss

A recent study out of Wake Forest in the Orthopedic Journal of Sports Medicine looked at the perceived definition of a long toss program by pitchers, pitching coaches and athletic trainers associated with Major League Baseball. The ultimate goal was to see the differences, if any, in how players and teams incorporate these programs into daily programs, including rehabilitation.

The study showed that long toss distances were longer if utilized by the pitcher or pitching coach compared to when an Athletic Trainer employed the program. Also, there was considerable variation in throwing mechanics when throwing on a line and when the athlete would utilize a crow hop.

One possible explanation between these differences may be that players performing a long toss program designed by an athletic trainer were likely rehabilitating back from a pitching injury, while pitching coaches were just performing daily long toss between outings.

The results of this study show that there is considerable variation in the use and rationale behind a long toss program. Players, coaches and athletic trainers need to understand the implications  and demands of a long toss program in order to maximize their use between starts and in the rehabilitation setting. It may be most beneficial to use multiple variations of long toss programs that best suit the athlete and the goals of the throwing program, such as one form for rehabilitation and another for healthy players.

 


 

Defining the Long-Toss: A Professional Baseball Epidemiological Study

Austin V. Stone, MD, PhD, Sandeep Mannava, MD, PhD, Anita Patel, Alejandro Marquez-Lara, MD, and Michael T. Freehill, MD

Background: Despite widespread use of long-toss throwing in baseball as a component of arm conditioning, interval throwing programs, and rehabilitation, long-toss distance and throwing mechanics remain controversial.

Purpose: To ascertain the perceived definition of long-toss throwing through a survey of professional pitchers, pitching coaches (PCs), and certified athletic trainers (ATCs) associated with Major League Baseball.

Study Design: Descriptive epidemiology study.

Methods: Pitchers, PCs, and ATCs associated with 5 Major League Baseball organizations completed an anonymous survey that collected demographic data, personal use of long-toss throwing, and their perception of the distance and throwing mechanics that comprised long-toss.

Results: A total of 321 surveys were completed by 271 pitchers, 19 PCs, and 31 ATCs. For all respondents, the mean distance considered as long-toss was 175 ft (95% CI, 170-181 ft). Respondents categorized the throwing mechanics of long-toss, with 36% reporting throwing “on a line” and 70% reporting long-toss as “not on a line.” Of those throwing “on a line,” 28% reported using crow-hop footwork while 60% used crow-hop footwork when throwing “not on a line.” Interpretation of long-toss distance significantly varied by position: pitchers, 177 ft (95% CI, 171-183 ft); PCs, 177 ft (95% CI, 155-200 ft); and ATCs, 157 ft (95% CI, 144-169 ft) (P = .048). When asked when long-toss throwing is used, pitchers reported using it more frequently in preseason (P = .007), during the season (P = .015), and in the off-season (P = .002) compared with that by ATCs. Functional goals for long-toss throwing demonstrated that pitchers and PCs use long-toss for shoulder stretching more frequently than ATCs (P < .001 and P = .026, respectively). ATCs used long-toss more than pitchers for interval throwing programs (P < .001).

Conclusion: The definition varies for long-toss throwing distance and throwing mechanics. Pitchers and PCs believe that long-toss comprised longer distances than ATCs and employed long-toss differently for strength conditioning, training, stretching, and rehabilitation. This discrepancy highlights a potential lost opportunity for protecting the shoulder. While long-toss is an important tool, a more scientific definition is warranted to better elucidate its role in enhancing throwing performance and rehabilitation.

 

Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5315237/

Keys to an Inseason Throwing Program

A common concern we often hear at Elite Baseball Performance is pitchers not knowing what to do for an inseason throwing program.  We recently discussed how to perform a throwing program to prepare for the season.  If you’ve followed our recommendations and built a proper foundation of arm strength and endurance in the offseason, a correctly performed inseason throwing program will continue to facilitate a healthy arm.

Once the pitcher has built his pitch count leading into the season, I would assume that by the first game of the season, the pitcher is now in a position to throw 60-75 pitches or the equivalent of 4-5 innings, and 75-90 pitches by his second game. The key here is that the innings have been increased by maintaining a Long Toss program throughout the week. What has changed inseason is that the pitcher will learn to adjust the Long Toss program based on how many pitches they’ve made in a game, and how much recovery period they have until their next outing.

This is where inseason training gets a little tricky based on whether or not you are a starter or a reliever. So to address the inseason training mentality for both starters and relievers, I’m going to break them down into two categories. This way, whatever your role is as a pitcher you will have a clearer understanding of how to keep your arm in optimal shape throughout the year.

The following article will discuss how to develop an inseason throwing program.  If you are interested in learning more, we an 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:

 

Inseason Throwing Program for Starting Pitchers

While relievers have to play with unknown variables as to when and how much they are going to pitch from day to day, starting pitchers have it much easier inseason. Starting pitchers know exactly what day they are throwing each week and therefore can plan the other six days (amateur) or four days (professional) around their game day. For this reason, setting up a starter with an inseason routine is much easier than a reliever.

Below, I am going to go through the format and workload for a basic 7-day routine, considering that more players are at the amateur level. Also, once you understand the principles to the 7-Day routine, adjusting to the 5-Day routine will be relatively similar. Keep in mind that the priority is to always “listen to your arm.”

 

In Season Throwing Program – 7 Day Routine

To make this routine very simple to follow I’m going to pick “Monday” as the reference point as to when you are scheduled to start your game. By establishing our “game day,” we can then focus on how we maintenance (cycle) the arm back in shape most effectively for your next start, the following Monday.

 

Monday, Game Day (Long Toss Day)

Game day is ironically your best Long Toss day inseason because you’ve had six days to rest, recover and rebuild leading into your game day from your previous start.

As a simple example, if you have been long tossing out of season in the 250-foot range, then that’s about how far your arm is going to want to stretch out to the day of your start. In essence, your game day is very similar to your best offseason long toss day, except that you may cut down on the amount of throws you’re making in both the stretching out (going out away from your partner) and pull down phases of Long Toss (coming back toward your partner). If you feel like cutting a little distance out of your throwing (especially if it’s later in the season) or you feel like cutting down on your aggressive throws coming back in toward your throwing partner, that’s fine.

But if you conditioned your arm well throughout the off-season, your arm is going to want a pretty thorough long toss session the day of your start.

 

Tuesday, Day 1 after start (Recovery/Stretch)

Depending on how many pitches you made, Day 1 is all about blood flow, range of motion and “stretch throwing.” If you threw 90 pitches the day before you may only want to go out to 90-120 feet of really low impact, light catch. If you only threw 50 pitches, your arm may want a distance closer to 150-200 feet. Again, the priority is RECOVERY.

The focus is on positioning the arm for the next day, and in fact, the next start. There should be little to no “downhill” or aggressive throwing on Day 1.

 

Wednesday, Day 2 (Recovery/ Stretch)

Ironically, Day 2 is when most pitchers are the sorest after a start. Thus, Day 2 is often a continuation of the stretch out, low impact mentality. Again, keep in mind that your arm is going to tend to have a tremendous recovery in general due to your off-season throwing program, but to be safe, I tell players to let the arm breathe again on Day 2. Again, I would suggest minimizing downhill or aggressive throwing unless the arm tells you differently.

 

Thursday, Day 3 (Extension, Pull Downs)

Day 1 and 2 have now set you up for a more normal Long Toss session on Day 3. This is the beauty of having a 7-day routine — you can use an extra couple of days to recondition your arm inseason. The arm is positioned on Day 3 to both stretch out to it’s normal Long Toss distance and to pull down relatively aggressively. How far you go out again depends on the individual, but for someone who throws 85mph, your probably looking at about 250 feet. Harder throwers again are looking at 300 feet or more.

So we’re both extending the arm on Day 3, and we’re beginning to integrate the pull-down or aggressive phase of Long Toss. The key here is to still use Day 3 as a conditioning day and to prep for Day 4, which is your bullpen day.

 

Friday, Day 4 (Long Toss/BullPen)

Now that you’ve used the first three days after your start to do nothing but progressively and effectively build the arm back into shape you are now set up for your bullpen day. The key here is to not “save your arm” by minimizing your throwing before the bullpen.

It’s actually to do the opposite.

You have set your arm up for another great Long Toss day, and that is your priority. Again, your bullpen tops off your workout as opposed to being the focal point of it. It doesn’t mean that you have to have an epic Long Toss before your bullpen, it just means to be sure that you have a pretty thorough Long Toss before getting on the mound.

Remember, your arm is programmed now to condition before it gets on a mound, and that’s the way you want it to be.

 

Saturday, Day 5 (Stretching/Optional)

Day 5 is a bit like Day 1 after your start. You’ve been on the mound the day before, you’ve had a lot of workload leading up to this point in the week, so I advise pitchers to go lighter on Day 5.

Again, listen to your arm, but you may find that you are only interested in a minimal amount of throwing, or you may find that you want to stretch it out to 120-150 feet without any aggressive throwing, or you may want another good day of stretching the arm out pretty far. This day is dictated by how you feel and the timing within the season.

Listen to your arm.

 

Sunday, Day 6 (Stretching/Rest/Optional)

The day before any pitches start can truly be a personal preference. So, I always advise pitchers to do what’s comfortable. Some pitchers like to take the day off, some like to play light catch, and some like to stretch it out to about 75% of their max distance, but with little to no aggressive throwing downhill. It is the core principle of our program to listen to your arm, and this day is no different. Do what feels right.

 

Monday, Day 7, Game Day (Long Toss)

Now you can see how your “start day” is your best day to Long Toss. You’ve spent the previous six days resting, recovering and rebuilding in the most optimal and effective way. You’ve allowed the arm to progressively build itself back into shape and positioned it for what it wants most, a great Long Toss/conditioning session before getting on the mound.

 

Inseason Throwing Program for Relief Pitchers

Because relief pitchers don’t have a set rhythm throughout the season, it can be a little bit harder to figure out when to Long Toss and when to rest from outing to outing.

As you will find with our approach, “listening to your arm” is always the first principle to keep in mind because there are so many variables. For instance, you may have made 40 pitches in relief the previous day, or you may not have thrown in a game situation for a week. In either case, your plan should be to go out each day to do your arm care program and stretch your arm out.

This sensation of stretching your arm out is what I refer to as “opening the door,” meaning, you are allowing your arm to get the benefits of stretching, blood flow and range of motion each day, regardless of whether or not you are pitching that day. What you’ll begin to realize is the arm wants to stretch out every day (unless it needs a total rest), and that some days the arm will want to stretch out further than others. In fact, if a pitcher has gone more than 3-4 days without pitching in a game, the arm will probably want to not only “open the door” to a long distance, but it will want to come back in toward your throwing partner and “pull down” aggressively just like an ordinary offseason Long Toss session.

This feeling of wanting to “close the door” after some days off of the mound is essential in keeping your base strong throughout the season.  Having an aggressive Long Toss session may be critical for your base even if you are going to pitch in the game later that night. Remember, the point is to “condition” first when the arm needs it. Besides, you will probably throw harder and have better recovery period even if you do get into the game on a night that you had a relatively aggressive Long Toss session.

In short, relief pitchers should come to the field each day to “open the door” or stretch out the arm. How far, how long and whether or not you “pull down” aggressively depends on how much throwing you’ve done the previous day or days. The key is to always go out with the intention of stretching your arm out because, quite simply, your arm has been built this way from the off-season and it is looking to condition, even in season.

 

Keys to an Inseason Throwing Program

Inseason throwing is just as important as throwing in the offseason.  A proper inseason throwing program must build in both rest and recovery days, as well as long toss and pull down days.  As always, the key is developing a program based on your role, starter or reliever, and most recent workload.

When in doubt, “listen to your arm.”

 

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:

 

 

How to Throw to Prepare the Arm for the Season

One of the most important concepts when trying to prepare the arm for the baseball season is developing an appropriate offseason throwing program.  It is important that any throwing program consists of a rest period after a long summer, followed by a rebuilding period to prepare the arm for the upcoming season.

During the rebuilding period, it is important to stay off of the mound for an initial four week, base building period. The idea is that the better you build your base in the fall and winter months, the better you can maximize your health, strength, and endurance during the season.

The key to optimizing the health, strength, and endurance of your arm inseason is significantly reflected by how well you can maintain this base throughout the offseason months, and then how well it carries over into the season.

The following article will discuss how to transition your offseason throwing program into mound work to prepare the arm for the season.  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:

 

How to Throw to Prepare the Arm for the Season

After a pitcher has gone through the initial offseason phase of resting his arm and rebuilding his base correctly through among other things, arm care exercises and long toss, there are two more stages to go through before pitchers transition into the inseason training or maintenance phase.

  • Stage 1 involves the integration of mound work, bullpens, and live batting practice
  • Stage 2 addresses the transition into the spring inseason maintenance period

The goal of this article is to understand the importance of maintaining your base and optimizing your recovery time once throwing off a mound is introduced in the offseason. This is best accomplished by understanding that throwing off a mound is an extension of your Long Toss throwing program, rather than the primary focus. In other words, Long Toss is the key to your workload each day, and if you get on a mound, it is simply the culmination of your throwing program.

As you will see throughout this article Long Toss is what most effectively replenishes the base and significantly improves recovery period after any form of “mound work.” Maintaining a strong base and optimizing recovery time are the key factors in optimizing health, strength, and endurance throughout the year. This article is written with this in mind.

 

Stage 1 – Integrating Bullpens into Your Offseason Throwing

After the arm has had a minimum of 4-6 week offseason period to rest and rebuild without throwing off the mound, the pitcher is ready to begin to integrate bullpens into his throwing program.

Because such a strong base was built from the previous phase, bullpens should have a dramatically less effect on producing arm soreness. The arm will recover faster, which in turn will allow the base to be minimally affected or “depleted.” This is a critical principle to understand because having great recovery is the essential ingredient to maintaining arm health, strength and endurance throughout the year.

In the case of a pitcher who has extended his Long Toss to 5 days a week leading into his first week of bullpens, the main priority on bullpen days is for the pitcher to think conditioning and long toss first, and mound work second.

Essentially, the bullpen is used to “culminate” the workout, rather than be the focus of the throwing that day.

The idea is that when the arm can “stretch out” through Long Toss, it is most effectively prepared to throw off the mound. To put it another way, the focal point of each day is to condition the arm, and then use the bullpen for pitching specific skills, such as working on mechanics or getting used to throwing with the decline of the mound.

Many coaches make the mistake of “saving the arm” for the bullpen by minimizing the amount of throwing on “bullpen days.” In my experience, this has the opposite effect on the arm — it is telling the arm to throw aggressively before it has been properly stretched out and conditioned. It’s like running only a mile each day to “save your legs” for a marathon at the end of the week. This mentality of “saving the arm for the bullpen” is the primary reason why recovery periods worsen, and the pitcher’s base becomes depleted.  The same principle also applies to inseason bullpens and game situations.

How often a pitcher integrates bullpens into the offseason months is a feel thing from player to player. But the bottom line is to integrate workload slowly and progressively into your bullpen sessions just as you worked slowly and incrementally into your Long Toss routine when you built your initial base. I would recommend two bullpens a week through the offseason months, separated by as many recovery period days as possible. For example, a Monday/Friday is an ideal format because you maximize your “off days” from bullpen to bullpen. These off days away from mound work allow the arm optimal time to recover and recondition itself for the next bullpen. The amount of pitches thrown in the bullpen and the intensity behind it again varies from pitcher to pitcher (and the workload that preceded it).

The priority is that the arm is stretched out thoroughly through a Long Toss program before any mound work.  Remember, the recovery period between bullpens is crucial because the better your recovery period, the more the arm is going to want to “stretch it out” from day to day.

Stretching the arm out is what replenishes the arm.

Having great recovery periods leads to what I call a “positive cycle” – a positive cycle because the arm wants to throw more rather than less from day-to-day because it feels good. Essentially, the arm can sustain it’s base throughout the offseason and into the season because bullpens and game action have a minimal effect on recovery period. If the recovery period between pens is poor, and the arm is unusually sore, the arm will need to rest more often, which further deprives the base from getting replenished.  This is what we call a “negative cycle” which exposes the arm to breaking down.

As you go through the offseason months, the primary goal is to stay in a conditioning mode as you increase the pitch counts in bullpen situations. As bullpens turn into game action, the principle doesn’t change. Bullpens and game situations are interchangeable. So if you throw a bullpen or pitch in a game situation on Monday/Friday, your goal is to continue to Long Toss at least one other day of the week. Remember, your bullpen/game day are also relatively thorough Long Toss days.

The idea with this offseason mentality is to keep the focus on Long Toss as you increase pitch counts for bullpens and game situations. Because a thorough Long Toss session is incorporated at least three days a week, the arm is best positioned to stay in a positive cycle through the end of offseason, despite the reality that pitch counts can elevate up to 45-60 pitches in game situations.

Once a pitcher starts throwing bullpens in the offseason, he will find that the days he is going to throw off a mound are his best Long Toss days because he will have the most amount of recovery period days between mound work. With that said, it should be noted that the day after a pitcher’s mound work, Long Toss will probably consist of only the “stretching out” phase and the distance may only consist of about 50-75% of a pitcher’s normal distance. This is important to understand because Long Toss after mound work should be less aggressive with the focus being on “stretching” the arm out.

If done right, the second day after mound work will lead to a more typical distance of Long Toss, and the “pull-down” or more aggressive phase of Long Toss can be added if it feels right. Remember, it always comes down to “listening to your arm.”  Once mound work begins, your focus is on stretching the arm out each day. How far you go out and how aggressive you “pull down” from day-to-day depends simply on how your arm feels, and how good your recovery period is.

 

Phase 2 – Transition Throwing from the Offseason into the Inseason

Once the Winter Holidays come and go (this is traditionally a 2-3 week window) and players return to school, pitchers need to be able to spend at least two weeks off the mound to recondition their arm. For the same reasons why pitchers use the first 4-6 weeks in the Fall to stay off the mound to condition, players need to “rebuild” the base for the first two weeks without even thinking about mound work. This is essential to understand because these two weeks allows the pitcher to reconnect to the base that was built all offseason. Fortunately, because the arm was so well “built” in the offseason, it only takes a couple of weeks to “re-catch” the wave, especially if the pitcher spent the Winter break doing his arm care program and playing some form of catch.

Once this two week period has been established the pitcher is ready to integrate bullpens and game innings into his throwing routine. This should come quickly. A pitcher should be able to go from throwing a 25 pitch bullpen in week 3 (late January/early February) to throwing 35 pitches in an inter-squad game by week 4.

Naturally, because High School and College seasons begin at different times, how you integrate bullpens and game situations depends on many variables. The priority here is still about learning how to prioritize your conditioning off of the mound for two weeks after the Winter break so the base is reinforced and the recovery period is sufficient once mound work is reintroduced. Remember, once the Spring starts getting close, the tendencies are to ramp up the pitch count and prepare for game situations. This is an even greater reason to use the first two weeks for base building — otherwise, you may be putting the pitcher’s arm in harm’s way.

 

The Key to Preparing the Arm for the Season

Remember, the ideal way to maintain an arm inseason is to have a great base in place from the offseason.

This offseason base is the key to having a great recovery period, which in turn allows the arm to recondition itself most effectively as mound work is integrated into the offseason months, and eventually into the Spring season. This ability to maintain good recovery periods and a Long Toss program as bullpens and game situations are integrated is the key to not only maintaining a healthy arm throughout the offseason but also to positioning your arm to get more durable and possibly even stronger throughout the season.

Finally, always “listen to your arm.”

Only it knows from day to day what it needs and what it wants. Because you have learned to condition and maintenance it so well the reality is you will probably find yourself wanting to stretch your arm out with Long Toss more often than you have in the past. But this is a great sign. It’s a reminder that the body responds best to activity rather than inactivity.  The arm wants to regenerate, not degenerate.  And when the arm gets into this “positive cycle,” the arm is in the best position possible throughout the year to stay healthy, strong and durable.

 

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: