Thursday, July 14, 2011

Long Toss

There is quite a debate in the baseball community about long toss. Some people swear by it and others say it's unnecessary. I am 100% for it. But when it is done incorrectly in can have undesirable results.

We don't want to get into bad habits, so the first issue we need to address is form. A lot of people long toss just to see how far they can throw it. As a pitcher we only need to worry about making it 60'6"; however, we can strengthen and stretch the arm by long tossing a predetermined distance with proper technique.

By long tossing, the muscles used to throw are strengthened as well as the muscles used to slow the arm down. What does this achieve? Well, a simple analogy would involve sprinting. When sprinting in a large open field you can run as fast as your ability allows. If you try to sprint inside of a small room your body needs to slow itself down before hitting the wall. In this case you will never reach top speed. Long toss trains the muscles that slow your arm down so that they can support more arm velocity, thus increasing pitch velocity. In addition, it also stretches out the arm to help you recover faster.

Now let's discuss form. We want to get as close as possible to recreating a pitching motion. The way this can be done is to start in the stretch. Crow hop crossing your back foot behind the front foot and then pushing off your back foot (drive leg) to complete pitching motion. Use a 4-seam grip and make sure to exaggerate the follow through. The baseball should stay on a line and not with a huge arc. This will allow the pitcher to stay on top of the baseball helping keep everything moving downhill. The video below will demonstrate proper technique.

This technique should be used throughout the entire throwing session, form warm-up to long toss. Mixing in a few change-ups will allow you to get used to throwing them at full arm speed.

Next is distance. Obviously a great warm-up is needed in order to proceed but this is another topic. For long toss, there is really no reason to throw any farther than two times the distance between bases. For example: if your bases are 90 feet apart then 180 feet is the maximum throwing distance. I prefer about 150 feet. Little League pitchers probably shouldn't exceed 100 feet. We are trying to get maximum distance without sacrificing form.

One thing to keep in mind here is that your body needs time to recover. You should not do long toss everyday. In fact, twice a week is more than enough to start seeing results. If you can't throw these distances right away it is okay. Form is more important that anything. Keep working and you will get there in no time.

Remember: nothing can get you to the next level faster than working with a professional. If you, or someone else you know, need individual instruction please contact me via email at for more information.

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