Long Toss is one of those topics in the baseball world that is highly debated for many reasons. On one side, it is argued that long toss puts un-necessary stress on the arm, while reinforcing bad mechanics, and ultimately does not translate to velocity on the mound. Today, I am going to start an in-depth series breaking down this throwing program, and explain why I am a believer. To me, there are so many factors that make long toss a beneficial addition to your velocity training program.
First, let me start by saying that baseball is one of the more uninformed sports in the world today. This sport has relied on traditions, values, and methods for quite a number of years, many of which are simply not backed by science. One of those ideologies, which has run rampant, is this idea that every pitcher only has a set number of “bullets” to use over the course of their career. With this ideology, it is encouraged to do as little throwing as possible, and save your arm from its impending doom. To me, this is just the blind leading the blind. In what sport, category, or profession can you ever expect to “not practice” your actual craft, and make improvements/ set yourself up for injury prevention?! If you think about it from a sport by sport perspective, EVERY OTHER SPORT, endorses advancement by the act of throwing, kicking, or shooting rigorously within the same movement pattern, with the same equipment to achieve results. So why is throwing a baseball (In America) any different?
To me, there is one American-specific condition that sheds a lot of light on throwing phobia, and it is the fact that we are completely front-side dominant. This front side dominance is a major contributor to most throwing related injuries, which would also explain why people are cautious to let kids throw the baseball a lot. We are obsessed with the “glamor muscles” on our anterior side of the body. This includes our pecs, biceps, abdominals, quads, etc. Where we have neglected our bodies as throwing athletes is on the posterior side. This includes the back side of our rotator cuff, scap chain, lats, rhomboids, glutes, hamstrings, etc. This imbalance is important because it shows that as a culture we have bigger accelerator muscle groups than our “brakes” will allow. One of the easiest ways to expose this imbalance is by testing the internal rotation strength versus external rotation strength of the athlete.
My personal testing of young baseball athletes has shown that there is an approximate 1:4 deficiency in the decelerators of the shoulder to the accelerators, which is culturally instilled. Sometimes, this gap is even more! I’ve had a number of athletes that were closer to 1:10! What this shows me, is that the great majority of American throwing youngsters are driving Ferraris equipped with Prius brakes. What happens when you don’t have the brakes to match the horsepower? You either have to cruise at a sub maximal speed or you’ll likely crash at some point. The same can be said for these young throwers. This also shines light on exactly why there is a phobia with athletes throwing a baseball as hard as they can. If you push your body’s limits without the proper structural integrity, you are asking for trouble.
I am a firm believer that in order to throw the baseball hard, you have to go out on a regular basis and learn to throw hard… BY ACTUALLY THROWING THE BASEBALL HARD. When you push the envelope in your catch play, you are not always going to be perfect, but as long as you are making sound adjustments mechanically, you are re-wiring your body to be a quicker, more efficient athlete. This is quality practice, and there are many factual reasons why long toss is one of the most effective ways to develop elite throwers. If you are looking for positive gains in velocity, long toss is certainly one of the answers. However, you need to make sure you start developing the balance and strength in your rotator cuff that will be demanded of you when you hit the gas pedal on your training. We will start hashing out the nuts and bolts of why long toss is so effective next time. In the meantime, gentlemen, start mixing in a back/ pull day every now and then. Those biceps aren’t going to help you throw 90MPH.
Kyle Richter, CSCS, USAW, TPI
USC Baseball Alumni, BA Human Performance