10 Keys to a Better Long Toss
Virtually, no baseball specific activity can be done successfully if you have a weak, or worse, an injured arm. You can’t make accurate throws if you’re an infielder. You can’t gun down a runner from the outfield corners. You certainly can’t pitch well. I'll say it again, the bottom line is that a baseball player needs to have a strong, conditioned and healthy arm to play the game. It can be the deciding factor as to whether you move on to the next level.
The primary goal of any throwing program should be to put the arm in the best position possible to be healthy and perform at the highest level possible. The next priority is to build strength, endurance and accuracy.
The most important time to establish a throwing program is during the OFFSEASON for the following reasons:
When a player is in the offseason, there are no demands of games or practices giving players the freedom to follow a structured throwing routine. This freedom allows players to throw based on their own personal needs. The offseason also gives a player the ability to recover adequately between sessions.
When a player is “in” season, bull-pens and game related throwing put a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the arm. It has been shown that arm strength, more specifically rotator cuff strength and scapular stabilizer proficiency, actually begins to decrease throughout the course of the season. Because of this, we don't want to add any excessive stress on the arm during season.
Even the most talented arm is vulnerable to serious injury if not properly cared for with functional rotator cuff and scapular stabilization exercises.
By neglecting the importance of a rotator cuff strengthening program and an adequate throwing warm up routine, you are pushing the odds in the favor of injuring yourself at some point.
The THROWING PERFORMANCE SYSTEM is a quick and efficient pre-throwing mobility and muscle activation series designed to help prepare the arm for throwing while significantly decreasing risk of injury.
Stretching out phase
This is the first stage of a long toss session where our goal is to let the arm stretch itself out with a loose arm action and throw for distance Here we are allowing our arm to throw the furthest distance possible while keeping throws pain free and effortless.
The goal of this phase is to "stretch out the arm" to create a greater capacity for arm speed using a longer, looser arm motion.
pull down phase
After reaching our max distance during the stretch out phase, we will work back in towards our throwing partner. Because the muscles have been lengthened and the arm has been adequately loosened, we have a greater capacity for the arm to generate speed which will allow for improved velocity and throwing performance.
As we work into this phase, you will notice that you will have focus to pull down your throws and not sail them over your partners head. If you fail to pull down through your release point you will not generate any increase in arm speed.
The amount of throws during the pull down phase will vary from player to player. A general rule of thumb is to come in about 10 feet at a time with each throw.
Arm speed and endurance comes from executing both phases "stretching out" and "pulling down". The additional distance provides the arm with an opportunity to generate more arm speed on longer, looser and well conditioned muscles.
HERE ARE SOME KEY REMINDERS TO GET THE MOST OUT OF YOUR LONG TOSS SESSIONS:
1. Warm up properly
2. Always maintain sound throwing mechanics. Don’t sacrifice safety for distance at any time.
2. Keep your throws loose and nearly effortless. You should not be straining to reach your target.
3. If you max out in the stretching out phase in terms of distance, don’t despair, just stay at the phase distance and continue to work there until your arm allows more.
4. Remember, the goal of a long toss program is to progressively build arm strength through increasing distance.
5. Let your arm dictate the precise number of throws that you perform at each distance. If you feel strong, feel free to throw a few extra, but remember…if at any point you feel sore or fatigued, stop throwing. You should never throw through fatigue and certainly not through soreness.
6. When returning from max distances to throw from 60 feet, the tendency might be to air it out and miss high, concentrate on finishing through your release and low.
7. Use a step behind before every throw. It keeps the hips properly closed preventing the arm from flying open too early, especially as you stretch out to longer distances.
8. Don't hesitate to use an additional crow hop once you get to or past 90 feet for additional momentum and power.
9. Starting a long toss program early on will help you develop a unique understanding of YOUR arm that will pay big dividends for years to come. Get to know your arm now and put yourself ahead of your competition.
10. Perform a cool down. Gently stretch and perform a post-throwing mobility routine to help speed up your recovery and maintain muscle tissue quality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Dale Bartek
Dale Bartek is a Physical Therapist and performance enhancement specialist with nearly a decade of elite-level training experience. Prior to receiving his Doctorate in Physical Therapy from the University of St. Augustine in San Marcos, Ca; Dale received his BA in biology at Piedmont College (Ga), where he was a 4 year member of the NCAA baseball team
Dale is committed to continued learning and helping people achieve their physical therapy, fitness, performance and personal goals. He has a strong passion for baseball and weight training with a vision of combining high performance strength training principles, elite sports performance physical therapy, and pain free training approaches to revolutionize the way athletes look, feel, function and perform.