By Steven Ellis former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
"I'll start playing long toss in January. If I can throw it 200 feet, I try to throw it 300 feet. I don't stop at 120 feet, I throw it as far as I can." –Greg Maddux, Atlanta Braves
"Without the opportunity to long toss, the arm isn't able to gain the strength, length, and endurance it needs. Your arm will eventually reject you." –Seth Etherton, Cincinnati Reds, former 1st round draft choice
"The pull-down phase of the 'long toss' has actually solidified my release point on all three of my pitches, especially my curve ball." –Barry Zito, 2002 Cy Young Award winner
A high school pitcher's long toss program
The following is a sample long toss throwing program for high school pitchers. It can be performed in the off-season and in-season, as a general maintenance throwing program.
If you're going to use it in the off-season, to get your arm in shape, perform the routine about two times a week.
It takes about 12 minutes to do.
1. Warm up by playing light catch
2. Throw at 60 feet for 4 minutes
3. Throw at 90 feet for 3 minutes
4. Throw at 130 feet for 2 minutes
5. Throw at 160 to 180 feet for 2 minutes
6. Cool down at 45 feet for 1 minute, working on spins
Try to throw with a limited arc on the baseball, and use proper throwing mechanics by taking a small crow hop with each throw. It's OK if a player has to bounce the ball to his partner, particularly at the start of the throwing program, in the off-season. After a couple of weeks with this routine, you'll be amazed at the improvement, and you should find that you're able to get the ball to your partner without having to bounce it.
A professional pitcher's long toss program
The following is a sample long toss throwing program that's based on a Chicago Cubs throwing program. It can be performed year round, four to seven days a week.
It takes about 10 minutes to do.
1. Throw at 60 feet for 3 minutes
2. Throw at 90 feet for 3 minutes
3. Throw at 120 feet for 3 minutes
4. Throw at 60 feet for 1 minute, working on spins
Once or twice a week, you may want to "air it out" with some long toss beyond 120 feet. That's up to you. But 10 quality minutes of throwing a day, and you're on your way to developing a great arm!
Annual throwing recommendations for all pitchers
The way to develop big league arm strength is simple: throw. Pitchers make a living throwing a baseball, so I encourage them to throw as often as possible.
In the big leagues, pitchers throw more than 225 days a year. You should develop consistent throwing habits, too. They don't have to be as intense as a big league pitcher's throwing routine, but you should throw consistently year-round.
How many days a year should you throw?
Little league pitchers: Throw 125 days a year
Junior high school pitchers: Throw 150 days a year
High school pitchers: Throw 175 days a year
College pitchers: Throw 200 or more days a year
Professional pitchers: Throw 225 or more days a year
I strongly encourage all players (especially professional pitchers) to take at least two full months off every year to allow the arm, body, and mind to fully rest and recuperate.
Related Pitching Materials
Want to learn more baseball pitching drills and practice tips? Arm yourself with the most innovative and up-to-date baseball pitching training available. These related pitching materials from former Chicago Cubs pitching pro Steven Ellis are guaranteed to help you or the players you coach pitch better and reach the next level faster!