When people speak of improving arm strength they are basically asking “How can a ballplayer throw a ball faster?” This is one of the most asked questions I received from parents in my twenty one years of teaching baseball and softball. Throwing the ball faster and building arm strength for baseball and softball is basically the same thing. The answer to the question is very simple, “Throw correctly and throw often.” There is no magic formula. The secret is all about good, solid throwing mechanics and throwing at least six to nine months out of the year. Of course, many experts will tell you that arm speed is based on genetics; that players are predisposed to being able to throw top speed based on their genetic make-up. I am sure they are correct, however until a player gives it everything they have, meaning the mentioned blend of good mechanics and continual throwing, players do not know what speed they are genetically capable of throwing. Every player is capable of greater arm strength if they put in the practice time. Of course, weaker armed players need to practice more than strong armed players, but weaker armed players have the most to gain, also.
With this in mind, following are tips for helping players improve arm strength:
1. At a young age, parents should have players’ throwing mechanics analyzed by a professional throwing coach. Any suggested deficiencies should be addressed until correct throwing fundamentals are attained. Without the correct fundamentals, a player will not reach their potential and probably will be unable to avoid arm (shoulder or elbow) injury at some point.
2. About a month before their team practice begins, players should begin throwing two times a week, followed by three and four times a week.
3. Players should gradually increase speed and distance of throws until they are at maximum line drive distance. Players should throw at least 10 throws from this “long toss” distance and stop when their arm begins to tire or their throws begin to lose distance. Long toss is when players throw at maximum “in the air” distance without putting a big arc in the throw.
4. Once the season begins, position players should throw up to 5 days a week. No extra throwing than normal game day throwing is required. Of course, pitchers must take rest days after pitching.
5. Players should continue throwing a few days a week after their season concludes, up to nine months of the year, with two days a week performing long toss.
Players may not notice immediate improvement in arm strength, but over time they will see much stronger arms. As a coach, I have seen all players improve greatly when they stuck with a long term throwing program. Although strength training exercises do not lead directly to increased arm speed and throwing strength, it can lead to over all strength and quicker arm recovery time. Therefore, a controlled, age oriented strength training program is advised.
A few extra points worth knowing:
* The number of maximum effort throwing days (pitching or long toss) should eliminate one day of throwing during the week. For example, players who normally throw four or five days a week should cut off one day for an extra days rest after pitching or long toss.
*Players who complain of tired or sore arms should not throw through it. Rest days are important to improving arm strength, too.
* Pitchers, who are on travel teams or in leagues without set inning guidelines, are in the most danger of developing sore and tired arms. Adults associated with these teams and leagues should pay special attention to “overuse” throwing. With this in mind, coaches are responsible for making sure their teams carry enough pitchers to handle the pitching load.
*Players should have a three consecutive month break without any throwing at some time of the year.
* There is no harm and maybe some benefits of using a lighter weight ball for some of this throwing.