These are some of the many questions I get on a weekly basis. I have debated the effects of long toss on this site for years but as much as I would hope the baseball world would turn the page, it just doesn't seem like it is going to happen. I am writing this article for those who actually care about the science and research behind this conventional training approach to pitching. If you don't care and you are one of those guys who is going to do max distance long toss your entire career, no matter what science says about it, then good for you and I wish you the best. If you are someone who actually cares about your success and longevity in baseball, based on how well informed you are, then this information below will be eye opening!
The Myth of 300 feet Equals 90 mph
I love this myth. Those who believe it have a very poor understanding of physics. I believe I have an average understanding of physics and when I first heard this argument I was very confused. Something just didn't sit well with me. I mean how can you calculate speed with only distance when the laws of uniform motion state that to calculate distance you need rate or time?
Velocity (V) = Distance (d)/Time(t)
I know throwing a baseball can not be defined completely as a uniform motion because the ball doesn't travel in a straight line but still, if you only know the distance the object traveled how can you ever know velocity without its rate or time it took to travel that distance? I will leave it up to any math guru's to educate me if I am completely off course here. My wife has a Masters in Mathematics at Cal State Fullerton and I asked her to hear my logic on this and she confirmed that yes, you can not calculate acceleration with only distance.
Scientific Proof that 300 feet Does NOT Equal 90 mph
So in theory and physics we have no proof that 300 feet equals 90 mph and now we have a case study, from the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) which is listed below, showing this myth may very well be completely false. The mean or average max distance thrown in the case study by ASMI was 292 feet and the average throwing velocity was 85 mph. I understand we have 8 more feet to go until 300 feet but I highly doubt this 8 more feet will equal another 5 mph. My reasoning is that in the same case study when the participants where throwing the ball 180 feet the ball velocity was 87 mph on average. Yes, there was actually an increase in throwing velocity when the participant was throwing the ball 112 feet less. Which brings this article to its most important discovery from the case study.
Max Distance Throws Do Not Increase Pitching Velocity
This is not based on opinion, I have proof. The data from the case study, performed at the most prestigious baseball institution in the world the American Sports Medicine Institute, has without a doubt shown NO correlation in max distance throws to pitching velocity or more specific throwing velocity. Even worse, the data shows a small correlation to a throwing velocity decrease with max distance throws. Yes, the average ball speed dropped once the distances increased past 180 feet. Even worse, the forces to the body increased while the distance increased and the throwing velocity decreased. I couldn't think of any worse environment to develop a young or even a mature pitcher than in a max distance long toss program because you are increasing the pitchers chance of injury without increasing pitching velocity and developing mechanics that are not conducive to the pitching mound.
This isn't just my understanding of the data from this case study. This case study was lead by the legendary Dr. Glen Fleisig who is referenced below. I have specifically pulled out the excerpt from the discussion section of the case study which is specific to the effects of max distance or extreme long toss on pitching velocity. It also states the mechanical changes that are not supportive of increased pitching velocity. If you don't want to read the entire excerpt I highly advise reading the sentences that are in bold type.
Biomechanical comparison of baseball pitching and long-toss: implications for training and rehabilitation.
Fleisig GS, Bolt B, Fortenbaugh D, Wilk KE, Andrews JR. - American Sports Medicine Institute, 833 St. Vincent’s Drive, Suite 100, Birmingham, AL 35205, USA. - J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2011 May;41(5):296-303.
It has often been hypothesized that long-distance throwing is beneficial to the throwing athlete for increasing flexibility, ball speed, arm strength, and endurance. A previous comparison of adult pitchers with high versus low ball velocity demonstrated 3 kinematic differences. Namely, pitchers with high ball velocity had greater maximum shoulder external rotation, forward trunk tilt at the time of ball release, and lead knee extension velocity. For longer throws, the current study found greater maximum shoulder external rotation but less forward trunk tilt. Furthermore, the current study found no differences in ball velocity for various throw distances, and approximately 10° of knee extension from foot contact to ball release for all throws. Thus the current study did not find greater similarity between particular distances of throws and the pitching mechanics of pitchers with high ball velocity.
In another study investigating changes within individual pitchers, several characteristics correlated with greater ball velocity. Kinetic values near the time of ball release (elbow flexion torque, shoulder proximal force, and elbow proximal force) increased with pitch velocity. For pitches with higher ball velocity, at the time of ball release, pitchers displayed decreased shoulder horizontal adduction, decreased shoulder abduction, and increased forward trunk tilt. The current study showed no differences among throw types in ball velocity, kinetics at the time of ball release, shoulder horizontal adduction, or abduction. Forward trunk tilt decreased with throwing distance. Thus, the current study did not indicate that particular throwing distances were superior in training to increase ball velocity.
The current study did find greater range of motion (maximum shoulder external rotation), speed (angular velocities of the pelvis, upper trunk, and elbow), and arm torque (elbow varus and shoulder internal rotation) in long-toss, which indicates that these throws may be beneficial in training. However, long-distance throws also produced changes in throwing mechanics at foot contact (up hill trunk tilt and foot position) and at ball release (forward trunk tilt and front knee flexion). Furthermore, maximum-distance throws produced the greatest elbow and shoulder torques, without any change in ball velocity, making these the least efficient throws, as they produced the most torque for comparable ball velocity. The benefits or detriments of long-toss cannot truly be determined without prospective studies comparing performance and safety between groups trained with and without long-toss.
Source - http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21212502
Does Long Toss Stretch the Arm Out?
I have had this question come my way too many times. I just don't understand the concept. I know a ton of pitchers and coaches who believe this but the research from the case study shows no evidence of this actually happening. The only piece of data from the case study above that may create the sensation of the arm feeling like it is stretching out when the pitcher performs max distance throws is the increase in elbow extension velocity. This means the arm is moving into extension during pitch release faster during max throws than at shorter distances. This arm speed increase during elbow extension would give that feeling of the arm stretching more but if you look at the rest of the data there is no other information that would prove it is actually stretching out more during max distance long toss. For example, from the case study data table illustrated below, shoulder abduction is actually decreasing during ball release during max distance long toss. This means the arm is actually moving closer to the body during ball release as compared to the shorter distance throws. This information proves that the arm is actually not stretching but shortening during max distance long toss.
It just shows you how weird the beliefs in this game really are. I continue to discover, through my research here at TopVelocity.net, that many of the conventional wisdom that is being coached today is just bogus.
Does Long Toss Improve Arm Strength?
This is a tough question to answer. First of all if you think of increased pitching velocity when you think of arm strength then I can't answer this question for you until you do more homework on what actually generates pitching velocity. If you think the only way to strengthen the arm for a pitcher is to throw a ton then I can't answer this question for you either until you do your homework on what actually generates pitching velocity. If you believe that you do not have to destroy your joints to build integrity in the throwing arm, then I can answer this question for you.
Max distance long toss proves to do a better job of cutting the grass on the field you are throwing on than building joint integrity. The study above focused mainly on the health benefits of max distance throws than pitching velocity and the final recommendation from ASMI was:
However, maximum-distance throws produce increased torques and changes in kinematics. Caution is, therefore, advised in the use of these throws for rehabilitation and training.
Yes, they used the word CAUTION when describing the use of max distance long toss for rehabilitation and training purposes. Should I say more? I will say more for those who want to learn about arm care. It is a fact that more force generated on the body efficiently and effectively will produce higher pitching velocities. It is also a fact that the more force applied to the body inefficiently, like during max distance long toss, and with a higher amount of throws, will lead to injury. The lesson here is to learn optimal high velocity pitching mechanics, like with the 3X Pitching Mechanics, limit the amount of throws per game, per practice, per season, per year and build enough strength to handle the stress put on the body. 3X Pitching believes the most effective way to do this and increase pitching velocity is with a throwing program that trains high velocity pitching mechanics with the least amount of throws and a strength and conditioning program that builds the elite power athlete. Learn more about the 3X Pitching Velocity Program and stay away from the 300 feet equals 90 mph trap!
[soundcloud url="http://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/96741454" params="" width=" 100%" height="166" iframe="true" /]