Home Blog Long Toss: Don’t Skip Steps in Your Throwing Program

Long Toss: Don’t Skip Steps in Your Throwing Program

Written on January 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm, by Eric Cressey

My good buddy Alan Jaeger has gone to great lengths to bring long tossing to the baseball world.  I discussed why I really like it and what some of the most common long toss mistakes are in two recent posts:

Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program
The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

However, one thing I didn’t discuss in those previous blogs was the status quo – which is essentially that long toss distances should not exceed 90-120 feet.  These seemingly arbitrary numbers are actually based on some research discussing where a pitcher’s release point changes and the throwing motion becomes less and less like what we see on the mound.  Alan looked further into the origins of the “120 foot rule,” and informed me that these programs began in the late 1980s/early 1990s and were based on “post-surgery experience” of a few rehabilitation specialists.

Yes, we’re basing modern performance-based throwing programs for healthy pitchers on 20+ year-old return-to-throwing programs that were created for injured pitchers.  It seems ridiculous to even consider this; it’s like only recommending body weight glute bridges to a football player looking to improve his pro agility time because you used them with a football player who had knee or low back pain.  It might be part of the equation, but it doesn’t improve performance or protect against all injuries.  Let’s look further at how this applies to a throwing context, though.

A huge chunk of pitching injuries – including all those that fall under the internal impingement spectrum (SLAP tears, undersurface cuff tears, and bicipital tendinosis), medial elbow pain (ulnar nerve irritation/hypermobility, ulnar collateral ligament tears, and flexor/pronator strains), and even lateral compressive stress (younger pitchers, usually) occur during the extreme cocking phase of throwing.  That looks like this:

It’s in this position were you get the peel back mechanism and posterior-superior impingement on the glenoid by the supra- and infraspinatus.  And, it’s where you get crazy valgus stress (the equivalent of 40 pounds pulling down on the hand) at the elbow – which not only stresses the medial structures with tensile force, but also creates lateral compressive forces.

In other words, if guys are hurt, this is the most common spot in their delivery that they will typically hurt.

So, logically, the rehabilitation specialists try to keep them away from full ROM to make the surgical/rehab outcomes success – and you simply won’t get full range of motion (ROM) playing catch at 60-120 feet.

Effectively, you can probably look at the “progression” like this:

Step 1: 60-120 ft: Low ROM, Low Stress
Step 2: 120+ ft: Medium ROM, Medium Stress
Step 3: 240+ ft: High ROM, Medium Stress
Step 4: Mound Work: High ROM, High Stress

In other words, in the typical throwing program – from high school all the way up to the professional ranks – pitchers skip steps 2 and 3.  To me, this is like using jump rope to prepare for full speed sprinting.  The ROM and ground reaction forces (stress) just don’t come close to the “end” activity.

Only problem?  Not everyone is rehabbing.  We’re actually trying to get guys better.

Long Toss.  Far.  You’ll thank me later.

Want to learn more? Check out Alan’s DVD, Thrive on Throwing, to learn more.  He’s made it available to my readers at 25% off through this link.

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  • jack

    Is it Ok to do the weighted balls thrown into a net after the long toss?

  • Jack,

    That’s what we often do!

  • Andrew

    Could you go into a little more explanation of your philosophy behind weighted throwing? Possibly why you use it post long toss? And as a follow up do you ever implement “over-speed” training by using something lighter than a baseball to develop velocity?

  • TJ

    When will we see an ebook about training/conditioning for pitchers?

    Loved Assess and Correct.

  • Clay

    Guilty of leaving out steps 2 & 3. Will be adding this in, although unsure as to the volume. I really like the fact that modern performance base is using a back to throwing program for injured pitchers.
    Pitchers are having good success after Tommy John. Two thoughs for the reason. One being the surgery itself, the other is the rehabilitation after the surgery.
    Would it be benificial for healthy pitchers to use the Tommy John rehab as part of their routine? If so where could one find that rehab information?
    Thanks for another great artical!
    Clay

  • JDub

    Excellent article….just outstanding! Thank you..

  • JDub

    Excellent article….just outstanding! Thank you for the information

  • your articles are awesome thanks for great info. it would be great to see your long toss program. I have a 13 year old and want him to train in the right way, but the correct info is hard to come by however you have trustworthy information always well researched, thanks again!

  • Ben

    What should i expect going into a throwing program after a slap tear and after 4 months of PT? Will it hurt the first few times i throw?

  • Ben,

    I wouldn’t expect it to hurt, but I would expect it to be stiff and to have you struggle to find an arm slot. The first week should feel like crap, but not in a painful way!

  • Brock Koone

    I’m an 18 year old senior in high school. My coach and I have really bought into pronation/long toss/ shoulder tubes in the 4 years we have been going at it. We kind of have our program specific for us, as an individual. No cookie cutter products here. haha. There is one thing I had a question about. What is your thoughts on weighted pronation via OATES Specialties w/pronation bench work, prior to long toss? Are these interchangeable? Love your site.

    Brock Koone
    Winston, OR

  • Dave

    Eric,

    What are your thoughts on the VELOCITY program developed by Jamie Evans and Tom House that has become popular of late in terms of long term health and performance? Any chance that the “holds” place more stress on the decelerators when you begin actually releasing the ball due to higher arm speed?

    Dave


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