To help parents and young athletes in their quest to become the best players they/their child can be, I wanted to provide a basic outline of what the best throwing programs I’ve seen incorporate to get results. This obviously isn’t a fully comprehensive list but if you are looking to train somewhere that doesn’t have one or more of the following, I would strongly reconsider. So, without further ado, here is my list of what a throwing program NEEDS to have:
Any program worth a damn should include a movement screen of some sort (FMS, TPI, etc.), video breakdown, range of motion assessment, strength assessment, etc. The Coach/Program needs to understand physical limitations, strengths, weaknesses, of each athlete and know where to begin programming. If a trainer/coach doesn’t appreciate an athlete and what their movement profile, skeletal structure, etc. can present, it’s only a matter of time before injuries happen. A vast majority of injuries that occur while training can be prevented. Making an informed decision on what exercises/drills an athlete should or shouldn’t be doing as an absolute MUST. If where you currently train doesn’t assess AND reassess their clients, RUN. Being able to evaluate if/where improvements are being made and making an INFORMED decision on where to alter programming to minimize this risk. Which brings me to the next point….
No two athletes are the same. No two athletes have the exact same strengths, weaknesses, lever lengths, training histories, genetics, etc. Giving a 17 year old who’s been lifting weights for 5 years and throws above average velocity for his age the same program as a 13 year old who’s never seen a barbell and can’t break a plane of glass with his fastball is not only stupid, it borders on incompetence. If your throwing and training programs aren’t individualized to meet your goals and improve where needed, it’s a bad program. Plain and simple.
It is a MUST have a period of time to build up to high-intensity throwing (pulldowns, bullpens, etc.). With out adequate time to prepare the arm for the ensuing workload, an arm injury is almost inevitable. There’s a reason well over 50% of UCL tears in professional baseball occur in February and March. The SAID Principle needs to be followed here. It takes time for your body to adapt to the stress of increased throwing. Too much, too soon is a recipe for disaster.
A Strength & Conditioning Program
Increasing throwing velocity, improving mechanics, improving command, ensuring arm health isn’t all on the throwing coach. There needs to be a strength training component as well. These two programs should work in unison with one another to correct movement and strength deficiencies. We require our throwers here at Prime Performance to train AT LEAST the same number of times per week they throw. We’ve also had zero in-house injuries.
If you’re doing a high-intensity throwing program without adding strength, power, and correcting movement flaws in the weight room, you’re begging for a disaster. Arm care isn’t just managing throwing workload. Being able to recover physically and improve sport-specific skills all comes down to how well one trains in the weight room. Want to know what correlates extremely well with throwing velocity? Strength. Get in the weight room. Want more info on this? I’ll refer you to the experts I trust on twitter that are way better in this arena than myself (Tommy Johnson, Nunzio Signore, Sam Briend, Austin Wasserman, Zach Dechant, and Josh Heenan).
A Proper Warm Up and Recovery Protocol
Often the most overlooked aspects of any throwing program, a proper full-body, as well as arm specific, warmup and recovery routine. When looking at the best players in the world, they all have a pregame and postgame routine to get them prepared for the next task. Whether that’s getting ready to pitch or jumpstarting the recovery process, it’s an important piece of the puzzle that often separates the average from those that advance in this game. Need some help in this area, check these resources out: BR Warmup and WB Warmup
Any throwing Program is incomplete without a Radar Gun. Not getting regular velocity checkups to see if any progress/regression is occurring. A radar gun is BY FAR the most objective tool in any throwing program. The radar gun is brutally honest with your progress or lack thereof. Having instant feedback to know if a different cue or mechanical thought worked or didn’t is invaluable.
Client Education and Culture
Lastly, any throwing program should include the clients learning about the task. That doesn’t mean every athlete needs to understand the throwing motion as well as the best coaches in the world, but they do need to understand what makes them successful and how/what to adjust to get themselves back on track when failure inevitably occurs. A pitching coach’s ultimate job is to no longer be needed. A great college pitching coach once told me his ultimate goal is to be able to sit in a lawn chair at practice because all of his pitchers know what they need to do and how to get better. That being said, this works best in an environment where everyone wants to work their tail off to get better. A great program doesn’t mean much if you aren’t training in the right environment. If the other people you’re working with aren’t rooting for you to succeed, you’re at the wrong place. Being in a (healthy) competitive training culture is what really makes a program great. I’m willing to wager at least 70% of facilities and organizations have most, if not all, of what I previously discussed. But what separates the good from the great? The training environment.
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you learned something. Did I miss something? Do you disagree with my list? Let me know!
Be sure to follow me on twitter and Instagram at @PitchMechanics and feel free to reach out with any questions! Video analysis and remote programming are available, if interested. Email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions!