Why You Should Be Long Tossing, and How to Do It

Posted: May 3, 2013 in Baseball, Softball, Velocity Development
Tags: , , , , ,

Even with all the strength training my athletes do in the offseason, I always tell them the most effective way to develop throwing velocity is just throwing a baseball (or softball). That’s not to say that strength training isn’t important; building strength in the offseason allows players to exert more force and minimize injury risk during the season. But all the leg, core, and rotator cuff strength in the world will do you no good if you can’t figure out how to apply your strength properly when throwing. Enter: long tossing.

In my opinion, if you’re a baseball or softball player and you’re NOT long tossing, then you’re stunting your development as a ballplayer.

Back it up

Back up!

Long toss, done properly, does 3 main things for you:

1) It allows for maximum speed of movement

When trying to build power in any sports movement, you need to perform those movements at maximum speed to make improvements. Does running sprints at 70% make your sprinting speed increase? Nope. Does performing plyometric jumps at half intensity yield gains in your vertical leaping ability? Not a chance. Throwing is no different. By making a conscious effort to throw the ball as far as possible, you’re forcing yourself to work at or near 100% of your body’s maximal level of force production.

throw

2) It forces you to use your legs and torso to throw the ball

Long toss detractors like to point out the fact that the throwing motion during during long tossing doesn’t exactly mimic the throwing motion when pitching off the mound. They contend that since the ball is thrown on an arc instead of on a line, it renders long toss useless. While it is true that the mechanics of a max distance throw are different than mound mechanics, it really doesn’t matter. For one thing, not all throws during a long toss session are made on an arc. Max distance throws are made on an arc to maximize distance, but you also perform “compression throws” that require you to throw the ball on a line. Plus, not all players are pitchers, and throwing velocity is not situation-specific.

Also, what these people don’t seem to notice is that making max distance throws forces you to use your legs and core more than you would on short throws. You can’t throw the ball 300 feet by just flicking it out there. Long tossing teaches players to use their legs and core more effectively to put the ball as far away from them as they possibly can. And what other throwing motion requires good leg and core involvement? Oh yeah. It’s throwing from a mound. Whoops.

pitch

3) It provides instant feedback on mechanical adjustments

Unless you’re one of those rich kids with a JUGS gun in your backyard, long toss is probably the best method you have for evaluating the effect of mechanical adjustments. How do you do this? Easy. Throw the ball. Make an adjustment. Throw it again. Which ball went farther? Done.

What people don’t seem to realize is that long tossing can actually help to clean up your throwing mechanics. Throwing the ball as far as you can is going to require you to find a throwing motion that is both powerful and efficient. Softball players are notorious for throwing with low elbows and overall bad mechanics. But after they’ve been long tossing for a few weeks, you can see them getting on top of the ball better and using their entire body in the throwing motion.  One of the best things I did as a high schooler was starting a long toss program, because it helped me to streamline my throwing mechanics to ensure I was getting maximum distance on every throw. And the mechanics that allow for maximum distance are the same mechanics that allow for maximum velocity.

But, like anything else, there is a right and wrong way to long toss.

Long tossing isn’t just about launching balls as far as you can. There are 3 phases to a long toss session.

Count 'em

Count ’em.

1) “Stretching Out”

Start off with short throws, gradually backing up with each toss. Don’t try to put the ball on a line. Just throw it as hard as you need to to get the ball to your partner on an easy arc. Focus on using your legs and torso to supply the power. Keep backing up until you need to put some juice on the throw to get it to your partner, then transition to…

2) Max Distance

These throws should be made with the intent to throw the ball as far as possible over your partner’s head. Take a crowhop, keep focusing on using your legs and torso, and let it fly. Again, don’t try to put the ball on a line. Just launch it.

3) Compression Throws

Also known as the Pulldown Phase. Walk back towards your partner and perform compression throws every 30 feet. Compression throws are probably the most important, and most often overlooked, part of the long toss session. Basically, what you want to do is maintain the same intensity, leg and torso involvement, arm action, and velocity, but adjust your release point to put the ball on a line rather than just launching it. You’re going to have to really work to rein in your body and get on top of the ball. The idea is to “compress” a max distance throw down into shorter distances, working back to 60 feet. Focus on throwing the ball down or “pulling down”, while getting out over your front leg. Again, these throws should be made with the same intensity as the Max Distance throws, but with a different release point.

release point

Give it a shot. Even if Dick Mills told you not to. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

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Comments
  1. I’ve been trying to find a way to get some of my girls to lift their elbows on the throw and it’s been impossible to get them to adjust. I’m going to give this a shot.
    – I’ll let you know how it goes.
    Thanks,

    • Andrew Sacks says:

      Good! Just make sure you tell them to “reach out” towards their target, throw with a long arm, and really try to get on top of the ball during the compression throws.

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