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What do you think about the use of weighted baseballs when training pitchers? The weighted balls have been around for a long time, but seem to be trending now with many coaches.
Is there a right/wrong way to use these?
What age should start using them?
Does this build arm strength?
Do professional pitchers train with weighted baseballs?
Is it a bad idea?
Any other thoughts and opinions are appreciated.
I have extensively researched the use of weighted balls and believe there is some benefit in their use. I do not have any of my clients throw weighted baseballs, but we go through the throwing motion with emphasis on pronation and we do not let go of the ball. This is similar to the overhead movement of a tennis serve. I think there is a lot to be said about keeping the weight in the hand that lends itself to increasing the shoulder strength.
Is there a right/wrong way to use these? Yes
What age should start using them? 16
Does this build arm strength? Yes
Do professional pitchers train with weighted baseballs? Yes
Is it a bad idea? No
I have not yet used heavy balls in the off season for strenghth but I plan to. I was at a tournament and a pickup player gave me a set. He said that his surgeon told him that it was throwing heavy balls that contributed to his torn labrum. He said it was because you build up the internal rotators but when you release the ball, you are not building up the external rotators. Makes sense but that begs the question; why not use therabands or dumbells to strengthen the external? Tom House has a program where you do not release the weighted ball when you go through the motion. Mike Marshall had a workout years ago where he taped hand weights to pitcher's arms and had them throw regular balls.
I only use the heaviest one during the season to warm up. I hold it while doing shoulder rotations and then start throwing it lightly. I never throw it hard. I just use the wieght to get more external rotation in my shoulder before throwing the real ball. I plan to throw them into a net hard next off season and I will workout my external rotators to compensate. A strong flexible shoulder is a good thing in my opinion.
As a child my dad put a baseball in a sock, he then told me to put my hand in and grab the ball. I would motion throw the ball. I learned to throw left handed and right handed. As I got older he use weighed balls with the same system Again no throwing weighted balls until age 14. This gave me good location, good throwing motion and a good mph.This also earned me Best JV pitcher in my first year at PBGHS.
Got a notification about this thread and first want to say that I am not qualified to talk about this. I believe Jon Davis who is a trainer, former ball player as well as an expert on Overload-Underload training would be the right guy to answer this question. I'll try contacting him to comment. Here's his bat speed site, he is mainly focused on overload-underload training for gaining bat speed. And let me tell you from personal experience with my son, it TOTALLY works. no bs, just simple sports science, developed by Eastern block countries in the 70's, mainly for track and field events.
Jon has mentioned to me in the past that it can be applied to pitching. Simply put you would have to have a glove radar on the catcher or a 3rd person with a gun. The pitcher would 1st throw a game weight ball and do a set of x. Then he would throw the weighted ball (not to exceed 20% more weight than the game ball) a set of x. Then you would throw the light ball (no lighter than 20% of a game ball) a set of x. Then 1 more set with a game ball. Someone would have to make notes of the mph readings for each throw/set.
The key is the amount of reps you do and how you gradually work your way up in reps. Jon has those numbers for throwing, I know them for swinging a bat, but not throwing. My son is 14 and I feel too young to be doing this. I'm going to wait till he is 16-17 to try it out.
Call or email Jon if you are really serious. This guy is the real deal, a true believer so to speak and very approachable. I'm just so slammed right now I don't have time to call him. But I promise, if you do, you won't be disappointed.
edit - just wanted to add, whether it be swinging a bat or pitching; you want to really get your mechanics down before starting an overload-underload program.
Personally I don't like them because it felt as if it was putting a lot of stress on not only my shoulder but my elbow as well. Yes, there are some professional players that do use them but I also know that I didn't ever see any of these guys at the higher levels, but then again this was 11 years ago. I have spoken with many pitchers that had long long great careers and each of them have said that to them it's a gimmick and I have to tend to agree with them all. In fact all of them are even against flat work unless you are playing long toss to stretch the arm out and to help find your arm angle. But once again, to each their own, if it works for you it may not work for others,
Weighted ball training can be effective in building stronger muscles that help increase velocity, but strength is only part of the equation. ARM SPEED accounts for more when it comes to improving velocity. There are studies that compare the effects of light ball training versus heavy ball training and they have come back with solid results that throwing the lighter ball will actually account for an average of 2 to three miles per hour more gain than the heavy ball training. That's considerable. The muscle fibers for developing twitch muscles are developed more when throwing the lighter balls. I am a proponent of a mixed weight program. Not only does it develop both sets of muscles (Bulk and Twitch), it trains the mind and muscle memory to make adjustments when necessary to continually deliver the ball to the same spot; thus increasing your control. Here is a program you might want to try....
COACH "K"s LONG TOSS LADDER DRILL
Mark five stations roughly 10 feet apart (make the last station the player's furthest recorded throw last workouts and measure in from there). Have the player start at the closest station after he is properly warmed up. (I recommend a Super Cans Warmup).
1) Have him make 5 throws from each station while promoting a "long" arm motion. When the player reaches the last station....
2) Have them work back the other way but using the lighter ball.
3) When finished have the player use a normal regulation baseball and make 10 throws from his normal pitching distance to finish off the workout session.
Here is a diagram that might help:
Keep it simple. A youth football weighs about 10-12 ounces and a regulation size football weighs14-15 ounces. Nolan Ryan it is said, used a football as part of his off season and pre season arm strengthening program. I haven't heard of kids throwing footballs incurring alot of rotator cuff injuries. After all, it about strengthening the shoulder capsule. As we all know a baseball of any quality weighs in at about 5.5 ounces or so. And if you want to get curve ball training it's a great tool also according to Dr. Mike Marshall, one of the few closers to win a Cy Young, not to mention the extensive research he's done in the field of kinesiology and pitching injuries. My 15U baseball son and I use a football just to do something different than playing toss with a baseball. Just by placing an index(pointing) finger on the left side of the end of the ball and your middle finger on the right side of the end of the ball and using proper curve pronation and release you can develop a pretty nasty curve.
Stole this from Eric Cressey.It's a great warm up,but also a good part of our strength work. This is the only way I use weighted baseballs with my players, regardless of age. I like them, but don't use them to throw.
great decelerator drill...........we use this one as well along with a few others. Eric has very good stuff!
I have been using overload/underload training for over 10 years now. The reseach shows that there can be improved performance. It just has to be done correctly. We only allow kids that have a high level of mechanical efficiency throw ligher and heavier baseballs. They have to be functionally strong, have good ROM, and have to be in very good shape. We do not go heavier than 8 oz and lighter than 3 1/2 oz..........for some we will not let them go over 6 oz. We radar each throw and do a progressive training program. Likewise, we do not let a player throw the lighter baseballs more than 7-8 mph harder than a 5 oz baseball.
I will agree this type of training is stressful on the arm. However, we have to stress the arm to gain the benefits. Its the old risk vs reward issue. Doing a squat is stressful on the body but there is a strength reward that goes with it. If I were doing a squat and a kid has a max of 200 lbs we would not throw 300 lbs on the bar. we would add 5 to lbs until his body adjusted to the increased weight. We try to follow the same principal with overload/underload training with baseballs. Sprinters do it with uphill/down hill running, sleds, bungees, etc. You can see Wolf's Law (training principal for overlaod/underload training). And if you think about it....... we throw a weighted object. It weighs 5 oz.......so by adding 1/4 oz 1/2 oz at a time ( or underloading which works on increasing type 2B muscle fiber....or fast twitch). will increase endurance, strength, and the ability to make my arm move faster. I would suggest doing this in a controlled enviroment and with a trained coach and following a very specific protocol.
Also dont always follow what Major leaguers do! Major league baseball is full of convential wisdom and they are not always right. I have seen organizations that ban their palyers from throwing heavier baseballs........but the same organization incourages them to throw 15 oz footballs.........does not make sense to me (I understand there are some subtle differences but it is still overload training. I will have to say that you are seeing more and more teams coming out of the stone ages when it comes to using new training techniques and using things like video, 3D kinetic analysis, sports eye drs, sports psychologist, etc. 10 years ago many clubs woud turn their nose up to these things