Weighted Ball Throwing: An Advanced Training Tool
Another year, another chance to get better. At Infiniti Sports Performance, we highly encourage most of our baseball athletes to put a baseball down once October hits.
However, the baseball culture still pushes playing fall ball, which is highly unfortunate. My question is, for what reason?
At the end of every summer season, your arm has a bunch of mileage on it with not a lot of maintenance performed on it. You LOSE mobility in your throwing arm AND you usually see a dip in velocity.
So, if you didn't throw a lot during the summer season, then keep throwing so you can add onto the chronic workload of your arm. If you DID throw a lot, and you're part of that example that already lost mobility, velocity, and strength in your arm, do you really think you should be showcasing yourself?
With that being said, hopefully you at least took a few weeks off from throwing. When the body is broken down from a long season, don't mope and feel sorry for yourself. Rather, look at this stage as a new opportunity to grow and build on what you presented this past season.
This brings me into the weighted baseball discussion. We see time and time again kids wanting that acute spike in throwing velocity so that they can showcase themselves in front of college coaches. That acute spike in throwing velocity usually comes from unsupervised weighted baseball throwing.
We developed the VELOBOOST program from current research and our knowledge base on the topic. What we DO know, is that strength is the foundation for all athletic qualities. If you are not strong, you will be left behind.
Yes, some of us can throw weighted baseballs and see tremendous benefits from it.
Our very popular VELOBOOST program is starting up shortly, so I thought now would be a good time to go over the W's for weighted ball throwing:
- WHO should and should NOT be using them
- WHAT they can be used for
- WHERE you should be feeling engagement when we use these tools
- WHEN we should and should NOT be using them
- WHY we should use them (in certain cases)
For every thrower, it's important to get strong simultaneously with a throwing program. The foundational strength from which you build in the offseason is built in a systematic way so you're able to display the athletic qualities from which you're pouring your heart into.
Let's go over the W's of weighted ball throwing.
This is the most important "W" for this post. In our VELOBOOST program, we limit the minimum age to 14 for a few reasons.
1. This is usually the age where kids are fully acclimated to playing on 90' bases and throwing from 60'6" on the bump
2. Most 12-13 year olds aren't STRONG enough to throw a bullet across the diamond
3. Throwing mechanics are not fully matured just yet
Now, let's say you're "of age", have a good relative strength base, and display efficient throwing mechanics WITHOUT any pain, then this advanced training tool may be able to help you.
If you are unable to throw a 5 oz. baseball without pain, this advanced training tool is NOT going to help you. Rather, it will steer you in the wrong direction.
In last year's program, the average 5-RM deadlift was 255 pounds and the average velocity BEFORE any training intervention was 84 mph. These kids were already pretty strong and could throw decently well.
Again, unfortunately, the baseball culture looks for velocity first and foremost for pitchers. Yes, weighted baseball do work. They will make you throw harder. However, doing so without any supervision and direction, you will end up hurting yourself. This is where Infiniti Sports Performance comes in. We are the professionals!
Throwing weighted baseballs have shown to increase throwing velocity and, in some cases, arm speed. For more details on the research of weighted baseballs, click here.
In short, here are the facts on what they can be used for:
- Using baseballs from 4-7 ounces can show an increase in velocity. Anything above or below that range can be potentially dangerous
- As the mass of the ball increases, the total amount of torque on the shoulder and elbow joints decrease over time
- External rotation of the shoulder joint is correlated with throwing velocity at ball release. Heavier baseballs produce more "layback" in the arm cocking position
- Lighter baseballs and moderately-heavy baseballs produce a speed-strength and strength-speed effect, respectively
Some research shows that weighted baseballs can increase arm speed, while others show that they do not increase arm speed. Whatever the case may be, the underload/overload effect does come into play when using this implementation.
While all of these results seem great, at the end of the day, you are a pitcher and not just a flame-thrower who can't find the strike zone.
The art of pitching is all about command and control with pinpoint accuracy and velocity. So, when performing these type of weighted baseball drills, be a pitcher. Hit your spots on the wall.
When we throw a baseball and rapidly decelerate, our bigger muscles are responsible for slowing the body down and absorbing all of the force that has been produced.
Understandably so, everyone's mechanics are different, which will result in where you will feel sore. When we see efficient pitching mechanics, you should be "sore" in the muscles that surround the shoulder blade.
If you every get really sore in the front of your shoulder or in your bicep, this could be indicative of instability in another joint, resulting in extra forces being placed on the anterior shoulder and elbow.
Now, when we throw a weighted baseball, we do not permit you to throw it as hard as you can. Initially, we want you to build upon your mechanics and strengthen the arm before getting to higher rotational velocities.
In our VELOBOOST program, we use our softer plyo-balls to hammer in efficient mechanics. We want the thrower to feel the connection from the lower half to the upper half.
When doing so, we should get a "feel" for how our shoulder blade is supposed to move along the rib cage.
Your shoulder blade movement is dependent on how your other joints move. The more that you throw, the less your joints will want to move correctly. This is why before we throw in our VELOBOOST program, we introduce our throwers to our arm care program so they can perform our drills on their own at the field.
A shutdown period from throwing is highly recommended before jumping right into a weighted baseball throwing program. This period should be anywhere from 6-10 weeks and is highly variable on how much you threw during the summer season.
If you're one of those kids who are STILL playing fall ball, you should NOT hop into a weighted baseball program right away. Your body needs the rest, so listen to it, and listen to us!
If you elected not to play fall ball and get in the gym instead, then good for you! November is usually a good time to start throwing lightly again, assuming that you took off for most of September and all of October.
Let's say, however, that you sustained an injury during the summer and you shut yourself down. Even though you were in a shut down period, does NOT mean that a weighted baseball program is for you because of a recent injury.
Rather than using an advanced tool, make sure your arm moves like an arm should without any pain.
Lastly, we want to always ask this question: why?
At the end of the day, we want to be able to explain our rationale behind any sort of program.
Weighted baseball throwing can be good for a few reasons:
1. You're already strong in relation to your own body weight, and you need an extra velocity jump
2. You're already strong in relation to your own body weight, and you need to enhance your mechanics
3. Your body moves very well, you're strong, and you need an extra velocity jump
4. Your body moves very well, you're strong, and you need to enhance your mechanics
5. You fit all of the criteria above, but you just want to be able to throw harder because it's the last piece that's missing from your resume. Everyone wants to throw harder.
"You can't fire a cannon from a canoe...BUILD A BATTLESHIP"