AB implemented a 6-Week Throwing Program for High School Athletes in the Fall of 2010. We wanted to show parents, coaches and athletes that properly taking care of the body and arm prior to throwing, during throwing and after throwing can have significant increases in velocity while minimizing shoulder and elbow injuries. Why haven’t we released any information on results of this program? It’s because we wanted people to understand the information taught and the process behind the information.
12 High School Athletes signed up for a 6-Week (2 days/week) Structured Throwing Program. They were allowed 1 extra day during the week to throw using the same format. This was done on their own. Each of these 12 athletes were also involved in a 6-Week (2 days/week) Strength & Conditioning Program that focused on general strength, medicine ball throws and core stability. These 12 athletes went through a pre-screening evaluation process and injury history. (Strength Program Details will not be specified due to individualized training for each athlete). Strength Training sessions were implemented on opposite days the throwing sessions took place. Each throwing sessions was 1 hour in duration. We recorded throwing velocities at the beginning and end of the 6-Week Program.
The methods will be broken down into Pre-Throwing, Throwing Protocol and Post-Throwing Stretches/Cooldown.
Athletes performed a lower body and upper body Dynamic Warm-Up, Rotator Cuff Exercises using a thera-band (since we were outside) and Scapulae Exercises prior to even throwing a baseball. Duration for this lasted about 20-25 minutes. For the rotator cuff and scapulae exercises, sets of 2-3 of 10-12 reps were performed. Note that we did not perform these exercises to fatigue.
The actual throwing sessions did not have a set time, did not have a set number of reps and did not have set distance. The goal was to start close (about 30 feet) and move out as far as possible as the arm allowed. This long toss progression is the most efficient for warming up the shoulder capsule and getting a feel of how the arm will react to the distances for that particular day. Some athletes were throwing for a total of 40 minutes while other athletes threw for a total of 20 or 30 minutes. Each athlete was different and they listened to their arms and recognized when it started to become fatigued. It’s very important for these athletes to understand the difference between fatigue vs pain. For youth athletes, throwing patterns and quality of reps should be the focus. Nobody cares how hard you throw at 12 years old!
The idea behind this throwing progression is to see how easy and how effortlessly an athlete can throw the ball as they continue to increase the distance between themselves and their partner. High arching throws should be the goal until the max end range has been reached. When the ball is bouncing 1 or 2 times before it reaches your partner, and you are throwing at near max effort, this is now considered your max end range.
There should be no pain during these throws, just a sense of fatigue. If there is any pain, the throwing session for that day is over and a Post-Throwing Protocol is implemented.
Change of Release Point
Once the max end range has been established, it’s time to start moving in. This is where the release point should change. So, instead of throwing high arching throws to the partner, start to throw the ball on a line at near max effort or max effort. Make 1 throw every 10 yards, until the distance decreases. Continue this pattern until the distance between the athletes is 60 feet. Depending on how the arm feels, make no more than 10 throws at MAX EFFORT at this distance. The throwing progression is now completed.
For the first 4 weeks, the throwing program followed this protocol.
The Last 2 Weeks of the Throwing Program
In the last 2 weeks of the throwing program we implemented Overload & Underload Training Baseballs for our athletes to throw. We used 3 types of baseballs.
1. Overload Weighted Baseball 6 oz
2. Underload Baseball 4 oz
3. Normal Baseball 5 oz
The Overload/Underload Training was implemented at the end of the Long Toss Throwing Protocol and were SUBSTITUTED for the Max Effort throws at the end. Athlete’s used the fence to throw the overload and underload training baseballs into.
Sets & Reps
5-8 Throws with Overload
5-8 Throws with Underload
5-8 Throws with Normal
Post Throwing Protocol
Each Throwing Session ended with Flexibility and Range of Motion Exercises of the shoulder and elbow, Scapulae Exercises, Mobility Exercises for the hips and Soft Tissue Work on the arm, back and lower extremities.
When testing throwing velocities at the end of the 6-Week Program, the average increase in throwing velocity was 4.8 MPH. The biggest increase in velocity was 11 MPH by a High School Sophomore! No arm pain was detected in 11 of the 12 athletes. One athlete had elbow pain due to excessive throwing from a Fall Ball Game!
Performing Long Toss along with Pre and Post Throwing Exercises can significantly increase throwing velocity and reduce the risk of elbow and shoulder injuries. In reality, throwing velocity plays a tremendous role in the college recruiting process and the professional level. Increasing throwing velocity by almost 5 MPH is the difference between a Division 2 or 3 school to a Division 1 school or having an opportunity to play professionally.