By Steven Ellis, former Chicago Cubs pitching pro
Youth baseball pitchers can really benefit from a year-round baseball throwing program. Studies show throwing on a regular basis reduces a player's risk to un-warranted elbow & shoulder injuries.
From Little League to High School baseball, when pitchers make the effort to play catch with the baseball consistently 8 to 10 months out of the year, their pitching performance increases while their risk to injury decreases.
This article lays out a game plan for creating a year-round baseball throwing routine for your youth pitcher, showing what time of year to throw, how much, and how often.
The increase in arm injuries for youth baseball pitchers has caught the attention of the sports medicine community. More players are getting treatment for tendon damage and muscle tears than ever before.
AMSI has reported a 25% increase in pitching-related youth baseball arm injuries from three decades ago. The research suggests players aren't developing the functional arm strength they used to. Experts in the baseball and medical community agree the easiest way to reduce arm injury is to put down the XBOX controller for a ball and glove.
The bottom line is youth baseball players need to throw more. An increasing number of youth players have been starting the new season with out of shape arms -
arms that haven't been strengthened properly through a year-round throwing routine. As a result, we're seeing more injuries related not to just poor throwing mechanics, but to a lack of functional strength, mainly in the elbow and shoulders.
All of my pitchers learn a baseball throwing program specific to helping them become more successful and healthier pitchers. I teach a basic throwing routines which helps pitchers learn to develop control around the plate, improve their pitches, and increase arm strength/speed.
I recommend they throw 7 to 10 months out of the year, and depending on their age, the workloads vary. A solid commitment to a regular throwing routine and drill work program helps pitchers develop efficient mechanics for maximizing their potential on the hill.
Here are definitions to key components to the throwing training charts.
Types of throwing in the baseball program
The baseball throwing program encompasses several types of throwing activities for developing location, pitch movement, and arm strength:
- Flat Ground throwing program – Basic type of catch from the same distance as mound. Excellent for learning to throw with perfect mechanics.
- Long Toss throwing program – Extended catch from the distance you can throw with perfect mechanics. If your delivery becomes inefficient (out of sequence), you know it's time to bring it in closer to your partner. Never throw past the distance throw with perfect mechanics. Long Toss is excellent for developing arm strength & stamina.
- Skill Work throwing program – Designated time for developing your pitches & improving your command. Throw with perfect mechanics always having a specific goal with each pitch. Goals include: Movement, Location, and Movement with Location. Done at the same distance as Flat Ground work.
- Bullpens throwing program – 20 to 50 pitch bullpen sets thrown at 60-90% max effort. Excellent for learning to throw all of your pitches with command and perfect mechanics in simulated game scenarios.
- Drill Work throwing program – Isolated repetitions for helping you learn to rotate late, sequence properly, and throw with balance and posture. It takes about 2,000 repetitions to change a habit. Drill Work = Hard Work.
Training phases of the baseball program
Your off-season throwing routine should be separated into training phases relative to the upcoming baseball season:
- Building Phase: Training phase following 1-2 months of active rest away from baseball. Focus on developing rock solid mechanics & gaining strength in key areas, i.e., core, throwing arm/elbow, lower body.
- Skill Development Phase: Training phase prior to the start of the new season. The focus is to improve your pitch-ability, which includes your ability to throw hard & throw strikes, and, to consistently locate your pitches in and around the strike zone.
- Maintenance Phase: Training phase during the baseball season. The average major leaguer loses 20% of his strength base by the end of the season. The goal is to maintain the strength & mechanical efficiency developed from the previous two training phases.
Your throwing routine here will help you recover from outing to outing. Drill work will help you stay mechanically efficient.
To learn more about our baseball throwing program and drill work routines, check out TUFFCUFF Jr, the revolutionary baseball program covering everything you need to know to safely develop into a successful youth pitcher.
Over 150 pictures and 40 topics of information will help you understand baseball's most up-to-date information & instruction on training youth pitchers.
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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!