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Isolated drills DO NOT help with velocity

Sep 29, 2008
Northeast Ohio
I'm doing a lot of searches regarding increasing pitching velocity. A number of sources site "long toss" as a key. That is why I found the article below so interesting. It deals with baseball but basically argues (using plenty of source notes) that only repeating the entire pitching motion from the mound is beneficial because the body is not using the same muscles and firing sequence in other isolated drills or drills not specifically related to pitching from the mound. I hate to waste my DD's time and confuse her with needless drills like a mad pitching scientist if it is actually useless. How do those who have helped measurably increase speed over say a 3 month period feel about the article and could you share actual cases where you could measure the improvement-

"Don't waste your time long-tossing either. Luttgens and Hamilton (1997), in their book on kinseiology about The Specificity of Neuromuscular Patterns: "Skillful and efficent performance in a particular technique can be developed only by practice of that technique. Only in this way can the necessary adjustments in the neuromuscular mechanism be made to ensure a well-coordinated movement. (p. 507).

That supports that if you want to get better at pitching, you do it from 100% intensity while being videotaped on the mound so you can see what you're doing wrong and make the necessary corrections. You do not go out and do long-toss, which doesn't replicate the pitching motion 100% intensity off the mound.

From 8.2 of The Science and Art of Baseball Pitching: "Total actions (e.g., those to be used in a competitive setting [ie. pitching]) need to be practiced. The partial or isolated training of movement segments (e.g., long-toss, resistance training) would not replicate the unit function in the total action [it's not the same as pitching from the mound]. Thus, once techniques (total response patterns) are being refined, partial practices will serve no purpose other than to learn another movement. There should be no intergration of the partial practice movement into the total response movement once an individual-determined level of skill competency is reached. The only way a highly skilled pitcher can improve his pitching, is to practice pitching. No axuiliary training activities will contribute to skill enhancement once the skill has achieved a resonable level of proficiency."

The specificity of movement patterns and control is a scientifically established principle of human exercise. There has been no wavering on this scientifically validated phenomenon over the past century, although minor theoretical incursions have been attempted. The training of the pitching skill and its variants has to be specific and hole.

The key is that baseball pitching is overwhelmingly a skilled acitivty. Every long-toss throw replaces a throw that could be made from the mound while working on perfecting better mechanics, stimulating game conditions, and mentally focusing and rehearsing the very refined and difficult skill of hitting the glove with all pitches.

Strength in the throwing shoulder is equal with the strength in the non-throwing shoulder (Sirota, Malanga, Eischen, & Laskowski, 1997). Ellenbecker and Mattalino (1997) also showed there were no differences between both shoulders in isokinetic work in professional pitchers. Strength did not differentiate the throwing arm and non-throwing arm and therefore, is an element that is irrelevant for pitching. It shows that strength in the throwing shoulder is not that important (for velocity) because it is no different to the non-throwing shoulder.

Long-toss is a different skill than pitching, the neuromuscular patterns are different, it will not transfer anything positive over to the pitching motion for anyone who has a decent level (or above) of skill at pitching.

Arthurt Salter-Hammel, personal communication, October, 1967 = When an arm was extended vertically downward and the index finger slowly traced a 12-inch circle, a pattern of sequential firing of the shoulder muscles was displayed with most muscles assuming a propulsive (agonistic) function at one time and a control (antagonistic) function at another. HOWEVER, when the same circle-tracing was sped-up, the sequence and functions of all the muscles were totally changed despite an observer seeing the "same action" done at a faster velocity.

Do you see why specificity matters? Not only in exercise, but in pitching from the mound at game-type intensity."

Best of luck!
7 months ago
The Science and Art of Baseball Pitching
The coach's complete handbook to scientific pitching by Dick Mills and Dr. Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D., R. Psy
Nov 6, 2008
Mills has a lot of interesting but controversial views in the world of baseball pitching. One thing to keep in mind is that long tossing in baseball involves pitching from flat ground vs an elevated mound in real life- this is the basis for some of his objection to long toss. He also is firmly against overweighting and conventional weight training. He has a lot of good points if you read a lot of his stuff, but I'm not sure there is direct application to softball pitching in all that he advocates.

As far as speed building drills, as I posted on another forum, I agreed to experiment with several of my students ages 10 to 16 using a program of high intensity throwing with regulation, 9oz and 5 oz balls with immediate speed gun feedback on each pitch. My initial results were as follows:

Routine followed (At the end of the lesson, when thoroughly warmed up):

Regulation ball 5X at 100%

9 oz ball 5X at 100%

Regulation ball 5X at 100%

5 oz ball at 100%

This was repeated three times for a total of 60 pitches thrown at max effort, all with immediate speed gun feedback.

I chose one student from each age group from 10 to 16 (8 total). I would not have included the 10 year old but she is exceptionally big and strong. Out of the eight students, the average mph gained was 1.1 for the 8 week cycle. The 16 year old gained 3 mph and the 10 year old gained 2 mph. Two girls gained nothing, the rest 1 mph.

In the four weeks since I computed the results above, I have continued the program with better results. The 16 year old gained another 2 mph (in addition to the initial gains),the 15 year old 3 mph and the 10 year old and 13 year old gained another 2 mph. Everyone else unchanged. I offer the results for what they are worth, other factors could have played into the results, for instance the high school aged girls are doing lots of core and leg work this time of year in off season conditioning, so who knows. Maybe the program just takes 12 weeks to really begin to show improvement.

This program is very different from the traditional (like Club K) weighted ball routines, which I have tried in past years with little if any results. I have not been a fan of weighted ball routines of any kind in the past, but now I have to rethink my position.

Sep 29, 2008
Northeast Ohio

That is really a detailed and helpful post. The reason I initially asked about a 3 or 4 month period is as you communicated there could be many other factors. With kids it could be muscle growth or coordination or so many other things.

Did the girls with no improvment have obvious mechanical issues?

I think this could be a most interesting thread if other experienced pitching coaches or players could detail their tested method for improving speed and the measured results or lack there of.
Nov 8, 2008
Fort Worth, TX
Long toss

I believe in long toss. We started with 10 long toss pitches from 10ft further than normal then 15 pitches then 20 pitches over a season during her warm up. We have even moved to the 11 inch. My girl is only 7 but she was clocked at 43MPH a few months back. She is faster and has tons of stamina now. My 13yr old does the same, she throws in the low 60's. The best thing you get out of these exercises is accuracy. If they can throw strikes from 10 ft back, normal distance becomes easy. It builds tremendous confidence. ;)
I think the main reason we use long toss is to get more out of the legs. The further back you go the more you need to use your lower half to get it there. I do agree that you should throw as much as possible at the required distance for your child. Drills that require the entire motion at the required distance are what I suggest but isolation drills are sometimes needed to fix a problem.
Aug 6, 2008
Specialized "Long Toss" for softball pitchers

I believe the current thinking is that long toss for baseball is not a drill designed to improve mechanics or speed for baseball pitchers. However, it is viewed more as a "keep your arm in shape" exercise. I agree with your statement that there is nothing like reps from the mound to perfect baseball pitching mechanics. Speed for baseball pitching is achieved by different means than for softball. You really don't want your baseball pitcher pushing off - it's more of a "fall". However, if you're pitching a softball windmill style, you'd better be using your legs and exploding off the rubber!

While speed is connected somewhat to mechanics, it is also very much dependent on intensity. Quite often, a young girl has no idea what it feels like to really "bust it" and throw hard. Slow mechanics, or lack of intensity, is a learned reflex. You don't know what throwing hard feels like until you've actually thrown hard. The thing about doing drills is that the drill MUST exactly mimic the activity you are doing.

My daughter started pitching club ball when she was 12. For speed improvement, the best "drill" she did was a form of long toss. At the end of each practice session, she would throw 3 pitches from the pitcher's plate, then move back about 10 to 12 feet. Throw 3 more pitches, move back 10 to 12 feet. She would keep moving back until she could no longer get the ball to the plate WITH GOOD MECHANICS, which was usually barely into the grass, or shallow center field. Then she would reverse the process until she was back throwing from the pitcher's plate. The result? In the span of throwing 27 to 30 pitches, her speed would increase on average 3 - 4 mph (gunned) in the same session. Video showed her the difference in her intensity. I'm convinced this particular "drill" is what showed her what intensity and arm speed is all about. She still uses this drill over the summer for conditioning. During the spring, she pitches DI college ball on a full athletic scholarship. I'm a believer.
Timing is critical-----period.
Some pitchers have difficulty getting timing correct when using the full motion.
Backward chaining to a point where they can get the optimal timing is a good thing. Groove in the timing then move a little closer to the full motion----groove in the timing----etc. etc.

Throwing from the "K" position(called slingshot in the old days) is the single best method I know for developing good timing. When girls get good from this position they can hit 90% of their top mound speed. Subsequently, their mound speed increases because of better timing.
May 12, 2008
Good question and good answers. No need for me to chime in unless someone wants to discuss intent and motor learning theory as relates to long toss. I'll just offer the opinion that I wouldn't key off what Mills says.
May 12, 2008
The same activity/drill yields vastly different results based on the subject's intent. Say intending to emulate a certain form versus intending to make contact versus intending to achieve a certain ball exit direction versus intending to create high bat speed at contact versus intending to achieve quickness. IOW, intent shapes training results.

Another point is the importance of immediate objective feedback to learning. Feel will lie to you. For instance, the kid who muscles up and thinks they threw it hard versus the kid who stayed loose, felt like they didn't do much but the ball was actually faster. Until they understand that feel and that result, they need objective feedback. The more immediate that feedback the better. Feedback could be radar, long toss or the like. Sure they can learn without those aids but immediate objective feedback speeds the process.

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