Due to the fact that in past years too many of our players (pitchers and position players alike), were coming up with arm injuries that prevented them from practicing or competing in games, I initiated a throwing program at UCLA a few years back to help remedy this.
The reasons for our problem were two-fold:
- We were not devoting enough time to throwing.
- We did not have a systematic plan for throwing.
Before this year, we were spending only 10 to 15 minutes per day of haphazard throwing. That just doesn't get it done when it comes to strengthening your arm and or preventing injuries.
So, with the advice and suggestions from Alan Jaeger, one of the nation's leading experts on throwing, we implemented a new throwing program this fall that has, thus far, solved our problems.
Furthermore, it has definitely improved the accuracy, velocity and distance of all of our players throwing ability. In general, this is how our throwing program works in chronological order:
- Twenty minutes of stretching the entire body, including arms, legs and torso.
- Ten minutes of internal and external arm circles to warm-up and strengthen the rotator cuff muscles, which are so crucial to every player's arm.
- Ten minutes of "tubing exercises." Every one of our players has his own personal surgical tubing that he is required to bring to practice daily- just like his glove or bat.
- Ten minutes of the "Mechanics Drill."
- Starting at about 40-50 feet apart and increasing to 70 feet apart, players play "loose and relaxed" catch with their stride foot already planted forward, and their back foot square (as if against the rubber). The front foot should be pointed at 75-degrees and each player throws to their partner's opposite knee (to guarantee a proper follow through).
- Fifteen to twenty minutes of long toss. Partners gradually increase the distance, beginning at about 70 feet. They begin with a normal step and throw, but as they increase the distance between each other, they throw using a balanced position and a "crow-hop." The final distance of the long toss depends upon each individual's strength and condition. Our players at UCLA, when in top form, long toss from 250' to 300' at their peak distance. After the partners reach their peak distance, they then gradually work their way closer to their partner until they are at about 70' again. Two important rules to remember when long tossing are:
- Use exactly the same arm speed and effort while throwing both at your "peak" distance, and at your minimal distance.
- Always stay mechanically sound and do not over exert- stay loose and relaxed.
After our players finish their long toss workout, they run at least one complete lap around the field and then jump into practice immediately. By increasing the players' heart rate and activity level, this helps to promote better circulation and ultimately improves their recovery rate.
Whether you are a pitcher or a position player, remember: Your arm is your future! Make the time to take good care of it.