My experiences with weighted balls, long toss, and where
they should fit in your pitcher‘s training regimen.
By Joseph Brascher Jr. @3XFastpitch
As of late, weighted balls, long toss, and running throws have become very hot topics in
the land of pitching velocity development and arm health. There is a lot of good information as
well as misleading information out on the web about such subjects and I’m hoping in this article
to give any readers an unbiased view of the subject and provide a personal case study, as well as
my opinions and thoughts about such training modalities.
First I would like to define what the use of weighted balls, long toss, and running throws
are, to prevent any confusion about what I’m talking about. For my training program, I did long
toss for about 12 weeks, weighted balls for close to 5 weeks, and running throws for about the
same amount of time. My program was a typical long toss/arm care program with some
slight modifications here and there.
Before starting this program I had just finished my fall baseball season as a starter so my
arm was aptly prepared to take on an intense throwing program and have no history of an arm
related injury (other than my arm was broken 7 months earlier by a hard-hit comebacker to the
mound). I threw long toss 3 times a week (and for about 7 weeks before I even started this
program) and weighted balls 2 times a week in the form of running throws and tracked my
results with a jugs radar gun. The first week velos are below:
Max velocity off mound before weighted balls and long toss: 81 mph
Weighted ball tests:
6 ounce ball: 76 mph
5 ounce ball: 80 mph
4 ounce ball: 83 mph
I continued to track my results as the weeks progressed. This was about week 3:
6 ounce ball: 76 mph
5 ounce ball: 82 mph
4 ounce ball: 81 mph
And week 5:
6 ounce ball: 78 mph
5 ounce ball: 78 mph
4 ounce ball: 84 mph
I also tracked the max distance thrown in my long toss sessions.
Week 1: 240 feet
Week 3: 250 feet
Week 5: 265 feet
Week 7: 280 feet
Week 9: 295 feet
Week 11: 295 feet
Week 12: 305 feet
During this program I was lifting a lot of heavy weights and doing intense plyometric training three to four days per week.
Velocity off the mound after weighted balls and long toss: 82 mph
Now granted, it wouldn’t be fair to say that the weighted balls and long toss added just 1
mph to my velocity on the mound. My body was taxed from weeks of lifting and other intense
training so after some decent rest and recovery the final number could’ve been higher.
Evaluation of methods
After testing these methods myself and reading other’s experiences and programs online, here’s my opinions on the following methods:
Max distance long toss: I determined this training modality to be the least effective to help pitchers increase velocity. I would expect little to no increase in velocity from this method.
1. Max distance throws help the pitcher increase his intent dramatically from what he uses from the mound. He has the distance of throws to measure his intent.
2. Some max distance long toss can help build up arm endurance and prepare the arm to handle extreme loads in season.
1. If a pitcher is already close to his max level of intent, he will see very little improvement to his mound velocity.
2. Long toss beyond 180 feet puts extreme torques on the arm, especially the small muscle groups in the arm and shoulder, potentially causing risk of injury.
3. Biomechanics of max distance throws above 180 feet cause the pitcher to become rotational in his lower half and trunk movements, which are dissimilar to his movements on the mound.
4. My arm was sore a lot, making it difficult to execute my lifting routine thoroughly due to the weakness in my shoulder.
Weighed balls thrown in running throws: No doubt you will see an increase in velocity using this method, but it will likely not be a large increase. I would expect maybe 2-3 mph from this form of training
1. Heavier balls will help increase greater ROM in the shoulder during maximum external rotation, which is linked to arm health but not necessarily velocity.
2. Lighter balls will help the arm adapt to higher velocities and accept greater peak forces.
3. Momentum built in running throws can give the pitcher the feel of moving faster on the mound.
1. Weighted balls encourage throwers to use their arm more in their delivery, when most of the power needs to be developed in the ground then carried up the chain.
2. Lighter balls may cause some horizontal adduction in front of the face during pitch release, thus teaching a mechanical flaw of late pronation to pitch release.
3. Because the speed generated in running throws is developed prior to the stride, pitchers will not work to develop ground reaction forces during the throw, thus teaching ineffective mechanics.
4. Weighted baseballs throws can place a lot of stress on the arm and shoulder, increasing chance of injury.
How to implement them
Although these aren’t my favorite training modalities for increasing velocity, I do have a use for all of them personally. Before pitching I will throw a variety of weighted baseballs (6 ounces, 7 ounces, and 2 lbs.) into a screen at low intensity. This helps me loosen up the shoulder and elbow and feel that good forearm layback (MER). After throwing these balls around for a while throwing a 5-ounce ball feels like a throwing a whiffle ball, giving me the confidence I will throw hard that day. Occasionally if I feel I’m losing some of my intent to throw hard I will go out a little farther than usual on my long toss, just to get the feeling back of a full intent fastball. A lot of pitchers will lose intent on their fastball in-season because they are now facing batters and have the pressure of throwing strikes and hitting spots. Running throws I rarely use because I don’t see a large correlation between the pitching motion a full-sprinted throw. I don’t feel like I’m improving anything, just simply throwing the ball for throwing’s sake.
Overall these training methods will have a small effect on pitching velocity and arm health. Long toss, weighted balls, and running throws are a small piece of the puzzle to developing the high velocity pitcher. Pitcher should spend more of their time at perfecting the lower half mechanics and building force from the ground up. You will find much more success in a ground up method than a risky weighted ball or long toss program. Not all, but some players see these programs as quick fix methods and don’t want to put the hard work in to increasing velocity safely and effectively. These methods aren’t bad, but the way they are used could be. If these methods are used properly they can complement a ground-up velocity enhancement approach that focus on maximizing the kinetic chain. I don’t believe weighted baseballs, long toss and running throws should be at the center of any velocity enhancement program. Now coaches think for yourself and develop your own opinion on the subject. I would hope you wouldn’t blindly take mine or anyone else’s advice, because when it comes down to your training methods, it up to you.