KEEP YOUR ACE IN THE ROTATION
Late in the season, my ace had a minor shoulder injury. It is hard to win when your top pitchers are having problems. I began a very intensive search into training and conditioning methods I had not found in baseball.
My search began with gymnastics training because these young men and women have strong arms and shoulders. Training to increase muscle size and strength is important. Maximum strength from minimum size is the most important training goal and baseball should have the same goal. A player must not lose his flexibility.
Gymnastics specialists have warned against decreasing strength training during the competition season. #1. One of the most important insights of modern gymnastics training is that a highly developed level of strength cannot be maintained even by the intensive performance of the event itself. #1. Consistent, special strength training is necessary for the best possible performance in gymnastics and I believe the same to be true for baseball. I adopted many of their training techniques for my high school team.
The second area of my search began with one of the Olympic events that resemble throwing a baseball, the javelin. At one time the Russians selected their javelin team from prospects that could throw a baseball 300 feet. During the off-season they threw lead shot filled balls against the gym wall that weighed up to eleven pounds. An article from West Germany on training stated that they would make enough throws to “groove” the throwing motion and strengthen the muscles and tendons used in throwing. Up to 1,000 throws per week was not unusual. This article then stated that a mixture of heavy, standard and lightweight balls year-round was necessary. #2
The women’s training javelin weighs 600 grams or about 1-½ pounds and I selected this JAV weight for my high school team to throw. We began throwing after the last football game. By the end of January our strongest seniors could throw the JAV weight 150 feet.
Make sure your player is not trying to throw flat or on a line and don’t let them lean back to throw. First, rotate the shoulders back to a fully loaded position (reach back). We throw with a shoulder rotation with the shoulders level throughout. Have him release the JAV weight at about a 30-degree angle putting backspin on the weight. As he builds up strength and confidence, he will automatically begin to have a follow through, which are the results of shoulder and arm speed. Gradually build up the distance thrown over a 30 to 90 day time frame.
Those using throwing weights for the first time may experience soreness the day after throwing, similar to your first workout in the spring. This is normal, even at mid-season. Always work out the soreness before throwing again. Your players will throw harder with better accuracy when they are in the groove and stronger in the arm and shoulder.
Throwing the JAV weight causes several improvements. First, it forces a player to really reach back with a good shoulder rotation before making a throw and it strengthens the muscles and tendons used in throwing. The legs have seven times the power the arms have. The power to rotate the shoulders and throw with velocity comes from the legs. Without a good reach back and shoulder rotation, you could injure the arm, shoulder or elbow when throwing the JAV weight.
Second, it quickly helps put the arm in its natural throwing groove or slot causing you to throw without stress, pain or soreness afterwards. The JAV weight will help get the arm in the 90-degree power slot. It gives a player a lot of confidence when he knows he is in his natural throwing groove and how to get there.
Third, I used the JAV weight with players that were having control problems because it will groove the player’s throwing mechanics so rapidly. I believe an error in a player’s mechanics is the cause of control problems. I believe that injuries to the arm, shoulder or elbow incurred when throwing are also caused by errors in a player’s mechanics. You cannot throw the JAV weight without stress unless your form is nearly perfect.
Fourth, players used the JAV weight to loosen up the arm before throwing. It is especially good to use in cold weather. While holding the JAV weight they would swing their arm in figure eights and then around the world until the shoulder began to feel warm. Then they would throw the JAV weight a few times before picking up a baseball. It made the baseball feel like a feather while at the same time grooving the arm before pitching or throwing. Many used the JAV weight for years after leaving high school.
Players that are having soreness after throwing, stress or a little pain when throwing, may benefit from using the JAV weight. I have had players tell me they had a lot of soreness or even pain when throwing. After a short time of using the JAV weight, their stress, pain or soreness was no longer a problem. One player told me that after catching a game, his arm would be dead the next day. The JAV weight eliminated this.
The last twelve years I coached using the JAV weight, we eliminated all soreness, stress, pain or injuries incurred from throwing a baseball. We even quit icing the pitchers arm after a game. We never ice the catcher’s arm and he makes many more throws than the pitchers. I used the JAV weight successfully with over 200 young men playing in the DABA (Dallas Amateur Baseball Association). I had never coached any of these young men.
Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemons are both advocates of throwing a 15-ounce football throughout the season. Both of these guys are flame-throwers with remarkably few arm problems over long careers. In addition, Nolan Ryan defied the prevailing logic by lifting weights all year long…unheard of for a pitcher in the 80’s and 90’s. Even Michael Jordan broke protocol by lifting weights after games. Every hitter swings weights in the on deck circle in order to stretch the arms and shoulders while grooving their swing before hitting?
Do not fear using throwing weights. It is the quickest and most positive way to help groove players throwing mechanics while building strength in the muscles and tendons used in throwing. For year-round work, use ten to fifteen ounce balls. Players can carry it in their bag for daily use. Remember, javelin participants often throw up to 1,000 times a week. Throwing weights may be the answer to keeping your Ace in the rotation.
- Strength Training Fundamentals in Gymnastics Conditioning by James J. Major
- Tips For Improved Javelin Training by Edward Harnes, West German National Coach for Women’s Throws