Baseball Pitching Velocity Training

In episode 9 of the @topvelocity #pitchingtips show we discuss why long toss is not a good exercise for pitchers. If you ask any pitcher what they think the best way to gain velocity is, chances are they will tell you long toss. It has been engraved into baseball for years now. Want to gain velocity? Then start long tossing! However, this couldn’t be any farther from the truth. High school, college and even professional pitchers religiously long toss, but they have never looked into the research on how much it really benefits throwing velocity. Luckily, we have. Long toss puts more stress on the arm and changes the kinematics of the pitching delivery. This increases the chances of injury and messes with your pitching mechanics. Is it really worth the 2-3 mph you might gain? There is also no correlation to a 300 ft long toss translating to 90 mph on the mound.

ASMI Cautions Long Tossing for Training and Rehab

Dr. James Andrews at ASMI is the leader in injury prevention and arm care for pitchers. If a pitcher gets an arm injury, chances are they are going to him to get it checked out. He has done a lot of studies on long tossing including, Biomechanical comparison of baseball pitching and long-toss: implications for training and rehabilitation. In this article he says, “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.” (1) So, the leader in arm injury prevention is telling the baseball world to proceed with caution when using long tossing for training and rehabilitation because it increases torques on the arm.
Long tossing also changes the kinematics of the pitching delivery. In other words it doesn’t allow you to maintain good throwing mechanics of using the kinetic chain to create velocity and take stress off the arm. Dr. James Andrews also says in the same article, “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.” So, this study is telling us that long toss completely changes the kinematics that high velocity pitchers use on the mound. Why would we practice making throws that are teaching our body the opposite of what we want it to do on the mound and increase the stress on it?

Does Long Tossing Convert to the Mound?

Finally, long tossing 300 feet does not equate to 90 mph on the mound. Many pitchers believe that if they can long toss 300+ feet that this will get them to 90 mph. However, there is no evidence that this is true. In fact, there is studies that claim that distance has no correlation to ball velocity and who came out with the studies? You guessed it… Dr. James Andrews. The mean or average max distance thrown in the case study was 292 feet and the average throwing velocity was 85 mph. In the same case study when the participants were throwing the ball 180 feet, the ball velocity was on average 87 mph. So, throwing velocity on average actually decreased when throwing past 180 feet. However, long toss does increase your intensity to throw the ball and that is a benefit. It can actually help you gain a little velocity, but if you are a pitcher who needs more than 2-3 mph to reach 90 mph you need more than long tossing.
In conclusion, long tossing adds increased torques to the arm which creates a greater chance of injury. Also, it changes your kinematics and therefore your pitching mechanics that high velocity pitchers use. Furthermore, there is no evidence that being able to throw the ball 300+ feet actually equals 90 mph on the mound. If a pitcher wants to do max effort throws than he should keep his throw on a line anywhere from 90-150 feet. This helps you keep your similar kinematics you would use on the mound and will raise your intensity. It will provide similar benefits to long toss and hopefully become a safer, more effective alternative.

Long Tossing Reference

1.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.