Below is Part Two of Alan Jaeger’s Off Season Workout. If you missed Part One, click here.
Long Tossing Indoors (into a net if necessary)
Where surgical tubing can help make a significant difference in your ability to both properly warm up and condition the arm without picking up a baseball, getting distance (Long Toss), even in a restricted space, is crucial. Though it may seem very limiting if the length of your facility is no longer than 120 feet the reality is that with a little patience and creativity (and an indoor net), there are ways to get the necessary distance that the arm so desperately needs during this 3-5 month indoor period (as you will see, you can actually throw the ball as far as you want on any given day).
Here’s how it’s done:
Assuming you’ve done a very thorough Arm Care/Surgical Tubing warm up, use the first 5 minutes to have your players play normal catch as if they were outdoors (the first 5 minutes of warm up should come pretty quickly due to the increased work load with the surgical tubing). I would assume that if your players are in good shape they will get out to 120 feet in 6-8 minutes. Once they’ve hit the wall of the indoor facility (ie 120 feet), they can stay there as long as they desire, especially if that’s all the distance they want on that given day (ie they bull-penned the day before). But if it’s a Long Toss day, they should come back in to a net (again, this is assuming you have an indoor batting cage/net) and finish their throwing program the following way: Just as you would expect with regular Long Toss, the more stretched out your arm feels the farther you are going to throw the ball, and the more your going to need to raise your angle. Therefore, as your arm gets looser, keep aiming slightly higher on the net as if you are simulating the same angle as if you were throwing outdoors.
For example, at 60 feet, there is no real angle yet, but as you “move back” in theory every ten feet, your might move your target up one degree or so ( a few inches). That would suggest that after you “moved back” to 100 more feet, your new focal point is raised up to about 10 degrees on the net. Thus, if you were able to throw outdoors as far as 300 feet, your angle up should be approximately 30-35 degrees. Naturally, distance and angle may vary from player to player but the bottom line is that in time, you’ll start to know how high to aim, depending on “how far out you would have gone outdoors”, and how many throws you need to make at each increment. The idea is pretty simple — the more stretched out your arm becomes the more you raise your focal point. As you take your arm through the same motions as if you were long tossing outdoors you will begin to notice that you are getting the same sensation you’re accustomed to feeling at 120 feet, 200 feet, 240 feet and 300 feet. If you are someone who is already intimate with your arm these sensations should come pretty quickly.
Once you get to your desired distance and feel completely stretched out, it is time for the “pull down” or downhill phase of Long Toss (if that is what your workload is that day). This is the time when you would normally come “back in towards” your throwing partner if you were outdoors. So, to simulate this pull down phase into the net imagine that you were coming in toward your partner in 10 foot increments with each passing throw (so it would take you 24 throws, or 240 feet, to go from 300 feet to 60 feet). With each throw, simply lower your focal point on the net by one degree or so, and keep lowering this focal point until you are back to 60 feet. Once back at 60 feet, you may begin to notice that in order to maintain your furthest throw that day (e.g. 250 + feet) you actually have to aim lower than chest height to keep the ball on a line. This is because you are compressing a great deal of distance (250 + feet) into a very short space (60-65 feet). Another way of saying this is to aim 20-30 degrees downhill (your partners waist) and make sure you are maintaining your furthest throw (by not decelerating) and the ball should end up no higher than chest height or so. This lower focal point will teach the body (mind) how to be explosive downhill and how to not decelerate. And if you’re a pitcher, and you want to work on getting even more leverage out in front, simply lower your focal point down to your throwing partners shins or toes (see jaegersports.com/articles) and see if you can get it to where the ball is ending up at knee height. Again, it all comes down to lowering your focal point and not decelerating in order to maximize the compression of your furthest throw into your shortest throw; to be in the best position possible to have optimal leverage downhill with explosiveness. If you are a position player you can aim a at your partners belt line (which should equate to the ball ending up at your partners chest if done correctly).
Note: once you come back to approximately 120 feet with your pull downs into the net, it would be ideal to go back out with your throwing partner to the 120 foot range in the gym and finish your pull down phase back in to 60 feet with your partner. Naturally, throwing the ball to someone rather than into the net will give you more realistic feedback.
By the end of your pull downs, you will have taken your arm through the same Long Toss throwing routine as if you were outdoors, without any height or distance restrictions. In essence, what the arm needs is full range of motion uphill and downhill just as if it had been throwing outdoors without any restrictions. This ability to “stretch” the arm out thoroughly, and “pull down” aggressively through a well prepared arm is what allows the arm to best condition — it’s what allows the arm to evolve, rather than regress indoors.
A Smoother Transition into the Spring
What you do during the time you are forced indoors is not only crucial to the development and maintenance of a players arm, but also, to allowing pitchers/players to make a smooth transition into the Spring when they do go outdoors. Remember, when players get outdoors after being indoors for months they are often excited and in a “hurry” to get going. If their base was not maintained and strengthened well indoors you may have a lot of players vulnerable to breaking down simply because they have gone from 1st gear to 5th gear in a couple of days. When a pitcher/player rushes into shape the first thing that tends to suffer is recovery period, which is also a sign of poor conditioning (poor recovery period is a sign that the arm is heading into a precarious position). In either case, players who didn’t do the proper work to condition and maintain the health, strength and endurance of their arm indoors are very vulnerable to not only losing arm strength, but to breaking down.
Conditioning the arm indoors through the Fall/Winter months is imperative. Emphasizing Surgical Tubing/Arm Care exercises is Step 1.…Step 2 is Long Toss. Though it may seem difficult to throw 300 feet into a 120 foot space it can be done. Put rather bluntly, there is no substitution for distance throwing (Long Toss) — it, along with Surgical Tubing exercises, is the most important factor in the development and maintenance of a players arm throughout the Fall/Winter months, and to best ensure a safe transition period into the Spring. Again, it’s all about making the time and being creative. Now that you are aware that there is a way to condition and develop your players arms thoroughly, despite the “limits“ of being forced indoors for a rather significant period of time, you can do something about it.
Alan Jaeger has consulted with several high school/college programs including UCLA, Arizona and Cal State Fullerton, and MLB Organizations including the Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels and Cleveland Indians. For more information about Jaeger Sports and their products (“Thrive On Throwing 2” DVD or Digital Download, J-Bands and Mental Training Book, “Getting Focused, Staying Focused”), please visit their website at www.jaegersports.com or call 310-665-0746. You may also download additional articles/videos at http://www.jaegersports.com/press_articles.php/, and Youtube, keyword jaeger sports. Twitter: @jaegersports