Home Posts tagged "Long Tossing" (Page 2)

Strength and Conditioning Programs: How to Make Change Easier

Yesterday was a busy (but fun) day at Cressey Performance, and when I got home around 7pm, I was beat. Luckily, it doesn’t take much energy to check emails, so that’s what I did.  This one made my night: Hey Eric, Just wanted to thank you for helping me out this summer. I've weighed in at 197 the last few days, a 19 pound increase in about 3 months. My fastball has gone up 7-8 mph and I still feel like I haven't thrown the ball near my best yet. Because of the work I put in this summer I now have a legitimate shot to pitch a lot this year after not seeing an inning and getting redshirted last season. Thanks again, John Pretty cool, huh?  These are the kind of emails that make the long days all worthwhile and remind me why I have the coolest job in the world.  It gets better, though – as there is a lot to be learned from this specific story. John – a college pitcher coming off two surgeries in two years on his throwing shoulder, plus a few hamstrings pulls – drove seven hours for his one-time consultation/evaluation at Cressey Performance back in May and then took a program home with him.  Then, he drove back to CP at the start of his June and July programs to learn the exercises and check in with us to make sure everything was progressing nicely.  That’s some serious dedication (and gas money!).

Just as significant, though, was his ability to embrace change, as our programs were a huge deviation from his previous experiences.  His original email to us included this line: “I run 6 days a week, one of my goals between the end of this season and the beginning of next one is to run 1,000 miles.”  He didn’t do a single “run” over 50 yards in the entire three month program with us.  He also did far more (and longer) long toss in his throwing program than he had previously.  So, you could say that he not only embraced a change, but thrived with it. Change is tough, though.  Lots of people read my blogs, hear me speak at seminars, and interact with me on short-term observational visits to Cressey Performance – but only a small percentage of them actually put things into action.  Loads of people acquire knowledge, but never act on it. However, interestingly, when a new client starts up at CP, they stand a much better chance of succeeding with change.  Starting (and staying consistent with) a strength and conditioning program is a big undertaking; in fact, for many, it’s as significant as taking on a new job, opening a new business, or learning to play a new sport or instrument.  And, when that program is a complete deviation from what you’re expecting, it’s even tougher. Why, then, do some people succeed with change more than others?  I think it has to do with a lot of factors, but these five stand out the most to me: 1. They get those around them involved – John’s dad came along for the ride for his first day at CP – and this is often the case for the parents of our high school athletes.  While you don’t want overbearing parents, you do want a support system that’s aware of new goals and can be there to help keep one accountable in the quest for change.

2. They find good training partners and a quality training environment – I had a quick video blog about this yesterday, but I’m convinced that training partners and environment are just as important as an effective program.  There are always people to pick you up when you’re dragging, and the energy is contagious.  It makes change fun while making it seem like it is actually a “norm,” as training partners are constantly reaffirming what you’re doing and providing encouragement and feedback. 3. They don’t get overwhelmed by changing everything – Sometimes, the easiest way to create massive change is to take baby steps and break the overhaul into smaller components.  As I wrote recently, small hinges swing big doors.  This has never been my “cup of tea,” but there have been times when we’ve had to slowly change around a program for a client that was accustomed to a completely different school of thought.  “One of mine and one of yours” can work for the initial period and help you to gain an individual’s trust before a more thorough transition. 4. They incorporate this change into an existing schema – This is one I originally read in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, by Chip and Dan Heath.

To illustrate things, I’ll call upon my own personal experience.  Back in 2006 or so, I didn’t think that there was any possible way that semi-private training could work. How could you have clients of all different ages, experience levels, and goals training at the same time without having chaos?  My buddy, Alwyn Cosgrove (who, at the time, had just beaten stage 4 cancer for the second time), had some great advice: Physical therapy is done in group settings. Cardiac and pulmonary rehab are done in group settings.  I did pulmonary rehab post-chemo.  Seventeen of us in the group and one nurse. That's called semi-private! Chemotherapy is done in a semi-private setting for most cancers, too. My first time through there were ten of us in a room with two nurses. Actually, when I was in the hospital getting chemo it was still semi-private. I had one nurse who covered six rooms. Now I'm even more convinced. If life saving (and potentially deadly chemotherapy) is done in a small group setting, you're really stretching to tell me that an exercise program has to be one-on-one. We now do almost exclusively semi-private training, and it’s amazing.  Middle school athletes get to watch how the high school guys train.  The pro guys get to mentor the high school guys.  The adult clients get to know athletes they see on TV on a personal level.  Experienced clients introduce themselves to new clients when they start training.  Just the other day, one of our local families had two of out-of-town athletes (Colorado and Virginia) over for dinner on Saturday night, and then brought them to church with them on Sunday morning.  There is insane camaraderie among folks from all different walks of life.

None of it would have been possible if I hadn’t been able to wrap my head around the idea of semi-private training – and it would have been tough to get to that point if Alwyn hadn’t put the concept into my existing schemas (physical therapy, cardiac/pulmonary rehab/chemotherapy) for me. 5. They spend money – Taking a leap of faith and increasing the stakes can sometimes motivate people to make change happen.  Whether it’s a payment for training, or just a bet with friends about exercise consistency or some training goal, separating people from their money always seems to magically increase adherence.  People don’t like getting ripped off – and it’s even worse when you rip yourself off because there is nobody else to blame except yourself! In a recent example, Pat Rigsby, Mike Robertson, and I outline many assessment, training, and business strategies that one can effectively employ in a fitness business in The Fitness Business Blueprint.  One of our primary goals in making it the way that we did was to make sure that we made it easier for buyers to apply the changes we recommended; we discussed how to incorporate our ideas seamlessly in their current business strategy.  Still, none of these tactics will work is someone isn’t willing to change – and that means putting in some leg work to both set the stage for change and then follow through on it.

This resource is on sale for $100 off through Friday at midnight.  If you’re looking to make positive changes in your fitness business – or get one off the ground in the first place – it’s an outstanding way to get the ball rolling.  You can learn more about The Fitness Business Blueprint HERE. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial!
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Long Toss Debate Heating Up!

The question of whether or not teams will allow pitchers to long toss as part of their throwing programs between/before outings has become a hot topic that could really impact the MLB draft on June 6-8.  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports did an excellent job of outlining the entire situation in this article: Long Toss Debate Shakes up MLB Draft Additionally, I gave a quote for this article on the subject at PineTarPress.com.  Needless to say, I'm a big long toss advocate and have seen its efficacy over and over again when it comes to increasing throwing velocity. I'm glad that these issues are being brought to the forefront.  If you'd like to read more about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of long toss, check out these three articles: Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes Long Toss: Don't Skip Steps in Your Throwing Programs Just some food for thought to kick off the week! Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
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Long Toss: Don’t Skip Steps in Your Throwing Program

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.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!

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Lose Fat, Gain Muscle, Get Strong: Eric Cressey’s Best Articles of 2010

Show and Go: High Performance Training to Look, Feel, and Move Better - This was obviously my biggest project of 2010.  I actually began writing the strength and conditioning programs and filming the exercise demonstration videos in 2009, and put all the "guinea pigs" through the four-month program beginning in February.  When they completed it as the start of the summer rolled around, I made some modifications based on their feedback and then got cracking on writing up all the tag along resources.  Finally, in September, Show and Go was ready to roll.  So, in effect, it took 10-11 months to take this product from start to finish - a lot of hard work, to say the least.  My reward has been well worth it, though, as the feedback has been awesome.  Thanks so much to everyone who has picked up a copy.

Optimal Shoulder Performance - This was a seminar that Mike Reinold and I filmed in November of 2009, and our goal was to create a resource that brought together concepts from both the shoulder rehabilitation and shoulder performance training fields to effectively bridge the gap for those looking to prevent and/or treat shoulder pain.  In the process, I learned a lot from Mike, and I think that together, we brought rehabilitation specialists and fitness professionals closer to being on the same page.

Why President Obama Throws Like a Girl - A lot of people took this as a political commentary, but to be honest, it was really just me talking about the concept of retroversion as it applies to a throwing shoulder - with a little humor thrown in, of course!

Overbearing Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar - This one was remarkably easy to write because I've received a lot of emails from overbearing Dads asking about increasing throwing velocity in their kids.

What I Learned in 2009 - I wrote this article for T-Nation back at the beginning of the year, and always enjoy these yearly pieces.  In fact, I'm working on my 2010 one for them now!

What a Stressed Out Bride Can Teach You About Training Success - I wrote this less than a month out from my wedding, so you could say that I had a good frame of reference.

Baseball Showcases: A Great Way to Waste Money and Get Injured - In case the title didn't tip you off, I'm not much of a fan of baseball showcases.

Cueing: Just One Piece of Semi-Private Training Success - Part 1 and Part 2 - These articles were featured at fitbusinessinsider.com.  I enjoy writing about not only the training side of things, but some of the things we've done well to build up our business.

Three Years of Cressey Performance: The Right Reasons and the Right Way - This might have been the top post of the year, in my eyes. My job is very cool.

How to Attack Continuing Education in the Fitness Industry - Here's another fitness business post.

Want to Be a Personal Trainer or Strength Coach?  Start Here. - And another!

The Skinny on Strasburg's Injury - I hate to make blog content out of someone else's misfortune, but it was a good opportunity to make some points that I think are very valid to the discussion of not only Stephen Strasburg's elbow injury, but a lot of the pitching injuries we see in youth baseball.

Surely, there are many more to list, but I don't want this to run too long!  Have a safe and happy new year, and keep an eye out for the first content of 2011, which is coming very soon!

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Weight Training For Baseball: Best Videos of 2010

I made an effort to get more videos up on the site this year, as I know a lot of folks are visual learners and/or just enjoy being able to listen to a blog, as opposed to reading it.  Here are some highlights from the past year: The Absolute Speed to Absolute Strength Continuum - Regardless of your sport, there are valuable take-home messages.  I just used throwing velocity in baseball pitchers as an example, as it's my frame of reference.

Should Pitchers Overhead Press? - This was an excerpt from Mike Reinold and my Optimal Shoulder Performance seminar (which became a popular DVD set for the year).

Shoulder Impingement vs. Rotator Cuff Tears - Speaking of Mike, here's a bit from the man himself from that seminar DVD set.

Thoracic and Glenohumeral Joint Mobility Drills - The folks at Men's Health tracked me down in the lobby at Perform Better in Providence and asked if I could take them through a few shoulder mobility drills we commonly use - and this was the result.

Cressey West - This kicks off the funny videos from the past year. A few pro baseball players that I program for in a distance-based format created this spoof video as a way of saying thank you.

Tank Nap - My puppy taking a nap in a provocative position.  What's more cute?

Matt Blake Draft Tracker - CP's resident court jester and pitching instructor airs his frustrations on draft day.

1RM Cable Horizontal Abduction - More from the man, the myth, the legend.

You can find a lot more videos on my YouTube page HERE and the Cressey Performance YouTube page HERE.

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Weight Training for Baseball: Featured Articles

I really enjoy writing multi-part features here at EricCressey.com because it really affords me more time to dig deep into a topic of interest to both my readers and me.  In many ways, it's like writing a book.  Here were three noteworthy features I published in 2010: Understanding Elbow Pain - Whether you were a baseball pitcher trying to prevent a Tommy John surgery or recreational weightlifter with "tennis elbow," this series had something for you. Part 1: Functional Anatomy Part 2: Pathology Part 3: Throwing Injuries Part 4: Protecting Pitchers Part 5: The Truth About Tennis Elbow Part 6: Elbow Pain in Lifters

Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture - This series was published more recently, and was extremely well received.  It's a combination of both quick programming tips and long-term modifications you can use to eliminate poor posture. Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 1 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 2 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 3 Strategies for Correcting Bad Posture: Part 4

A New Paradigm for Performance Testing - This two-part feature was actually an interview with Bioletic founder, Dr. Rick Cohen.  In it, we discuss the importance of testing athletes for deficiencies and strategically correcting them.  We've begun to use Bioletics more and more with our athletes, and I highly recommend their thorough and forward thinking services. A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 1 A New Paradigm for Performance Testing: Part 2 I already have a few series planned for 2011, so keep an eye out for them!  In the meantime, we have two more "Best of 2010" features in store before Friday at midnight. Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter:
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Throwing Programs: The Top 4 Long Toss Mistakes

In part 1, I made the case for long toss as an effective addition to a throwing program.  Today, we answer the question, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?”  Let’s look at the top four reasons why someone may not be approaching long toss optimally.

1. They structure it incorrectly.

By far, the biggest mistake I see from pitchers when they’re long tossing is that they don’t utilize compression/pull-down throws at the end of the session.  These throws teach the pitcher to get on top of the ball and bring the release point down to where it should be with pitching – but they do all this with the increased arm speed you get from long tossing.  Effectively, you use compression throws to transition from your longest throwing distance to a flat ground session (this is a practice you’ll see from a LOT of MLB starting pitchers in pre-game warm-ups before they ever step foot on a mound).

Typically, our guys use a compression throw every 45-60 feet on the way back in (it almost amounts to a brisk walk back in).  So, if a pitcher went out to 300 feet with his long toss, he’d take compression throws at about 250, 200, 150, 100, and 60 feet.  I joke with guys that the last throw at 60 feet should pretty much scare the crap out of their throwing partners.  If you've seen Trevor Bauer crow-hopping downthe mound for his last warm-up pitch prior to every inning, you know what I mean.  Not surprisingly, Bauer is an Alan Jaeger/Ron Wolforth long toss disciple.  Here’s what Baseball America had to say about it: “[Bauer] starts behind the rubber, runs over the mound and throws as hard as he can to the plate, from about 54 feet. I've heard reports that those throws have registered 100 mph…”

Some guys – particularly those with a history of control issues and the guys who are trying to tinker with their mechanics – are wise to go into a brief flat-ground (or regular) bullpen right after these compression throws.  It’s a good chance to transfer the arm speed and athleticism of long toss into a little more of a sport-specific action.  I’ve also seen quite a few pitchers who have improved their change-ups considerably by long tossing for part of the session with their change-up grip, and then integrating it into one of these post-long-toss flat ground or bullpen sessions.  It helps with keeping the arm speed up in pitchers who tend to slow down the arm for change-ups.

2. They become good throwers and not good pitchers.

I’ll be straightforward with this one.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but pitch at 80-82mph, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and use that general motor potential to your advantage.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but have a 1:6 strikeout:walk ratio and have pitches hitting the backstop, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and actually throw strikes.

If you can long toss 350 feet, but are getting shelled because you just throw a very straight 93mph and don’t have any secondary pitches, you can definitely stand to cut back a bit on your long tossing to spend more time focusing on mound work to sync things up and learn some other pitches.  The average fastball velocity is higher in low-A than it is in the big leagues, you know…

3. They think long toss covers all their needs.

There are a ton of different factors that contribute to pitching success and longevity.  Once you can throw a ball a long way, there is a tendency to think that you’ve done what you need to be successful, but in reality, there are a lot more things to address to prepare your body and long toss is still pretty specific, in the grand scheme of things.  As is often the case, the greatest benefits are usually derived from doing the things that you don’t do particularly well (yet).  Bartolo Colon, for instance, might be able to long toss 330 feet, but he might have a heart attack on the light jog to the outfield to partake in that long tossing session.

4. They don’t long toss on a straight line.

It seems like a no-brainer, but you should throw on a straight line.  If the guy 250 feet away is 20-feet to the left of “center,” you’re teaching yourself to either stay closed or fly open with your delivery.  Stand on the foul line or line yourself up between foul poles, if you’re looking for a quick and easy way to “get aligned.”

As you probably appreciate now, while long toss is usually a tremendously valuable inclusion in most throwing programs, it isn’t a perfect fit for everyone – and that’s why each unique case must be considered individually.

Don't forget that long toss guru Alan Jaeger has put his popular Thrive on Throwing DVD on sale for 25% off for my readers for a limited time only.  Click here to learn more.

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Making the Case for Long Toss in a Throwing Program

Long toss may have been scorned by quite a few baseball traditionalists, but I am a big fan of it – and our guys have responded outstandingly to the way we’ve used it.  Perhaps it’s just my “1+1=2” logic at work, but I just feel like if you can build up the arm speed to throw the ball a loooonngggg way, then you’ll be able to carry that over to the mound as soon as you get your pitching mechanics dialed in.  And, this has certainly been validated with our athletes, as we have loads of professional pitchers who absolutely swear by long toss (both off- and in-season).

So, you can understand why I got excited when my good buddy, Alan Jaeger – a man who has devoted a big chunk of his life to getting long toss “accepted” in the baseball community – was featured in this article at MLB.com about what a difference it makes - including for the Texas Rangers on their road to the World Series a few years ago.

I was, however, not a fan of this paragraph in the article:

“Former Red Sox pitcher Dick Mills has a business built around teaching mechanics and maximizing velocity, and he is a staunch opponent of long tossing. He has released countless YouTube videos angrily decrying this practice. In his latest, ‘How Long Toss Can Ruin Your Pitching Mechanics and Your Arm,’ he says, ‘Why would you practice mechanics that are totally different and will not help a pitcher during a game? And why would you practice throwing mechanics that are clearly more stressful where the arm does most of the work?’"

Taking it a step further, here’s a Dick Mills quote I came across a few years ago:

“Training will not teach you how to apply more force…only mechanics can do that. And pitching is not about applying more effort into a pitch but is about producing more skilled movements from better timing of all the parts. That will help produce more force. No matter how hard you try, you will not get that from your strength training program…no matter who designed it, how much they have promised you it would or your hope that it will be the secret for you.”

While I agree (obviously) on the importance of mechanics and timing, effectively, we’re still being told that long toss, strength training, and weighted balls are all ineffective modalities for developing the pitcher – which leaves us with what, bullpens and stretching? It sounds like every youth baseball practice in the country nowadays – and all we’re getting now are injured shoulders and elbows at astronomical rates.  Something isn’t right – and the message is very clear: specificity is a very slippery slope.


On one hand, when it comes to mechanics, you need to throw off the mound to get things fine-tuned to achieve efficiency.

On the other hand, research has shown that arm stress is higher when you’re on the mound (there is less external rotation at stride foot contact with flat ground throwing).  Additionally, every pitch that’s thrown is really a step in the direction of sports specialization for a youth baseball player – and something needs to balance that out.  Why?

Well, specializing at a young age is destroying kids.  As a great study from Olsen et al. showed, young pitchers who require surgery pitched “significantly more months per year, games per year, innings per game, pitches per game, pitches per year, and warm-up pitches before a game. These pitchers were more frequently starting pitchers, pitched in more showcases, pitched with higher velocity, and pitched more often with arm pain and fatigue.”  And people think that kid need more work on the mound?  What they need are more structured throwing sessions (practice, not competition) and a comprehensive throwing and strength and conditioning program to prepare them for the demands they’ll face.

But those aren’t specific enough, are they?!?!?!  Well, let’s talk about specificity a bit more.  Actually, let’s read – from renowned physical therapist Gray Cook, a guy who certainly knows a thing or two about why people get injured:

The physical presentation of differently trained bodies often provides a signature of the type and style of activity that developed it. Those who are exclusive in their activities seem more often be molded to their activities, and sometimes actually over-molded. These individuals can actually lose movements and muscles that would make alternate activities much easier.

Specialization can rob us of our innate ability to express all of our movement potential. This is why I encourage highly specialized athletes to balance their functional movement patterns. They don’t so much need to train all movement patterns, they just need to maintain them. When a functional movement pattern is lost, it forecasts a fundamental crack in a foundation designed to be balanced. The point is not that specialization is bad—it only presents a problem when the singular activity over-molds to the point of losing balance.

While there are probably 15-20 awesome messages we can take home from the previous two paragraphs, here’s the big one I want to highlight: it’s our job as coaches to find the biggest window of adaptation a pitcher has and bring it up to speed – while simultaneously keeping other qualities in mind.

If he’s stiff, we work on mobility.  If he’s weak, we get him strong.  If he’s a mechanical train wreck, we get him more bullpens.  If his arm speed isn’t good, we work more on weighted balls and long toss.  If you just take a 5-10, 120-pound 9th grader and have him throw bullpens exclusively, he’ll get better for a little bit, and then plateau hard unless you get him bigger and stronger.

How does this work?  It’s a little principle called Delayed Transmutation that Vladimir Zatsiorsky highlighted in Science and Practice of Strength Training.  Zatsiorsky defines delayed transmutation as “the time period needed to transform acquired motor potential into athletic performance.”  In other words, expand and improve your “motor pool” in the off-season, and it’ll be transformed into specific athletic performance when the time is right.

And, as I wrote in The Ultimate Off-Season Training Manual, “the more experienced you are in a given sport, the less time it will take for you to transform this newfound strength and power [and mobility] into sporting contexts.”  This is why professional pitchers can find their groove each year MUCH easier than high school pitchers in spite of the fact that they probably take more time off each year (2-3 months from throwing) than the typical overused kid who plays on 17 different AAU teams.

That said, there’s a somewhat interesting exception to this rule: really untrained kids.  I’ll give you two examples from the past week alone at Cressey Performance.

We had a high school senior and a high school junior who both just started up their winter throwing programs to prepare for the season.

The first told me that he was sore in his legs after throwing for the first time in his life.  Effectively, without throwing a single pitch or really doing any lesson work (or even throwing off a mound), this kid has managed to change the neuromuscular recruitment patterns he uses to throw the baseball.  Strength, power, and mobility took care of themselves: delayed transmutation.

The second told me that his arm feels electric.  Ask any experienced pitcher, and they’ll tell you that your arm is supposed to feel like absolute crap the first 4-5 days after an extended layoff, but it always gets better.  However, when you’re a kid who has gotten more flexible and packed on a bunch of muscle mass, it’s like all of a sudden driving a Ferrari when you’re used to sharing a minivan with Mom: delayed transmutation.

Specificity is important in any sport, but a it really is just the work as far to the right as you can go on the general to specific continuum.  Elite sprinters do squats, lunges, Olympic lifts, jump squats, and body weight plyos as they work from left to right on the general-to-specific continuum to get faster.  So, why do so many pitching coaches insist that pitchers stay as far to the right as possible?    Symbolically, long toss is to pitchers what plyos are to sprinters: specific, but just general enough to make a profound difference.

In a very roundabout way, I’ve made a case for long toss as something that can be classified as beneficial in much the same way that we recognize (well, most of us, at least) that mobility drills, foam rolling, strength training, movement training, and medicine ball drills to be excellent adjuncts to bullpens. In the process of learning to throw the baseball farther, we:

1. push arm speed up

2. train in a generally-specific fashion

3. improve contribution of the lower half

4. realize another specific, quantifiable marker (distance) of progress

5. keep throwing fun

6. train the arm with just enough LESS specificity to help keep pitchers healthy, as compared with mound work

The question then becomes, “Why don’t some pitchers respond well to long toss?”  In part 2, I’ll outline the most common mistakes I’ve seen:

When I told Alan Jaeger that I was sending this article out, he graciously offered to set up a 25% off discount code on his Thrive on Throwing DVD set for my readers. This outstanding DVD set thoroughly teaches players and coaches how to approach long tossing, and Alan has also applied a discount to his J-Bands and his Getting Focused, Staying Focused book for pitchers. Here's a link to the discount page.

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