Off-season throwing for baseball and softball players

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Team West pitcher Jazmine Ayala in action Wednesday. Team Southeast from McLean, Virginia was defeated 9-0 by Team West from Tucson, Ariz., in the 2013 Little League World Series Championship game Wednesday night Aug. 14, 2013 in Portland. (AP Photo/The Oregonian, Ross William Hamilton)

Throwing a baseball or softball is one of the most difficult activities in sports and requires extreme accuracy and skill. It is also one of the most unnatural motions in sports and leads to many injuries, especially among baseball pitchers.

The speed of the pitching shoulder in baseball has been shown to reach 6900 degrees per second in youth pitchers (and higher speeds in adult pitchers). That is equivalent to spinning your arm in a circle approximately 19 times in 1 second (or about half the time it took to read this last sentence). With speeds that fast, it is no surprise that shoulder and elbow injuries are common. One way to decrease injury risk is to perform an off-season throwing program that gradually builds arm strength and prepares a thrower or pitcher for their season.

Two common mistakes among baseball and softball players are:

1) Too little rest time in between seasons (at least 3 months is recommended),

2) Throwing bullpens or from a mound too quickly once resuming their off-season throwing.

Although each player is different and may require different amounts of time to recover, long tossing for at least 6-8 weeks prior to strenuous throwing (i.e. pitching from a mound or playing a position in a game) is necessary to build proper arm strength.

The following are general off-season throwing programs and can be used as a guide. Days can be adjusted as needed. If there is soreness, do not progress your throwing program—stay at the same distance or back off slightly until the soreness subsides. If at any point you experience pain while throwing, consult a physician. Good mechanics are always essential and cannot be sacrificed.

Baseball or Softball players - 60 ft. bases:

Week 1: Throw Monday, Wednesday, Friday (50 throws up to 45 ft)

Week 2: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (60 total throws, 10-25 @ 60 ft, remainder at45 ft)

Week 3: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (70 total throws, 10-25 @ 75 ft, remainder at 45-60 ft)

Week 4: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (75 total throws 10-25@ 90 ft, remainder at 45-75 ft)

Week 5: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (80 total throws, 10-25 @ 120 ft, remainder at 45-105 ft)

Week 6: Throw Monday and Thursday, (85 throws, 10-15 @ 120-150*ft); Tuesday and Friday (85 throws, 10 @ 90-120ft); Wednesday (50 throws, 20 @ 60 ft). Remaining throws at less than max distance.

Week 7: Monday and Thursday (90 throws, 15-20 @ 120-150*ft) Remaining throws at less than max distance; Tuesday and Friday (Throw 20-25 pitches from the mound after warming-up at 90-120 ft)

Wednesday and/or Saturday (light throwing days 60-90 ft or take off from throwing).
(If not pitching, progress to normal game activity.)

Weeks 8 and beyond: Progress bullpens by 5-10 pitches per session until comfortably throwing 40-45 pitches in a bullpen (or from mound). At that point it should be safe to begin throwing in games.

*If the thrower is unable to throw at 150 ft, it is OK to remain at 120 ft with good mechanics.

Baseball players - 90 ft bases

Week 1: Throw Monday, Wednesday, Friday (50 throws up to 45 ft)

Week 2: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (60 total throws, 10-25 @ 60 ft, remainder at 45 ft)

Week 3: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (70 total throws, 10-25 @ 90ft, remainder at 45-75ft)

Week 4: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (80 total throws 10-25 @ 120 ft, remainder at 45-105 ft)

Week 5: Throw Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday (90 total throws, 10-25 @ 150 ft, remainder at 45-120 ft); Wednesday (50 throws, 20 @ 60 ft)

Week 6: Throw Monday and Thursday, (100 throws, 10-15 @ 150-180* ft); Tuesday and Friday (100 throws, 10 @ 120-150 ft) remaining throws at less than max distance; Wednesday (50 throws, 20 @ 60 ft).

Week 7: Throw Monday and Thursday(100 throws, 10-15 @ 120-150ft); Tuesday and Friday(100 throws, 10 @ 180 – 210* ft); Wednesday (50 throws, 20 @ 60 ft), Saturday (100 throws 25 @90-120 ft).

Week 8: Monday and Thursday (100 throws, 15-20 @ 180-210* ft); Tuesday and Friday (Throw 20-25 pitchesfrom the mound after warming-up at 120-150 ft); Wednesday and/or Saturday (light throwing days 50-75 total throws, 20-25 @ 90-120 ft).

(If not pitching, progress to normal game activity.)

Weeks 9 and beyond: Progress bullpens by 5-10 pitches per session until comfortably throwing 40-45 pitches in a bullpen (or from mound). At that point it should be safe to begin throwing in games.

* If the thrower is unable to throw at 180 or 210ft, it is OK to remain at 150 ft with good mechanics.

Progress pitches in games slowly and make sure to follow USA baseball rules for maximum number of pitches. It is not normal to have regular daily soreness from pitching or throwing, if this occurs, it is a sign of injury and indicates the player needs to reduce their current workload and/or consult a medical professional.  

Although cold winter temperatures make baseball and softball season seem a long time away, spring will be here soon. With proper preparation, you can reduce your injury risk and have a healthy productive season. 


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