With New Year’s Day having come and gone, two things have occurred. One, the holiday season is over; and two, baseball season is just around the corner! It’s certainly an exciting time here at MSI: our pro pitchers are continuing to dial in their stuff on the mound, college guys are building up in preparation for their season, many of our high school guys are in the middle of their velocity phases, and our youth guys are starting to on-ramp after shutting down for a few months.
High school baseball starts in the beginning of March, leaving 8-9 weeks before daily practices and lots of throwing. The rest of this article will detail why it’s important to start throwing now and provide two free throwing programs to get you ready for March!
First, why is it important to start throwing two months before practices start? Can’t you just show up March 6th and get your arm in shape without a problem? Giving an answer to this question is challenging and heavily nuanced. However, the short answer is no.
Every time we throw a baseball, lift a weight, or go for a jog, our bodies are stressed. As we experience stress, the body is forced to react and adapt. As we adapt to this stress, more and more stress can be applied. If high amounts of stress are placed on the body before it’s ready, soreness, fatigue, and in some instances, injuries can occur. On the other hand, if stress is gradually applied over days, weeks, and months, the body will continue to positively adapt.
So, what does that have to do with pitching? Well, if you don’t throw for three months, then decide to throw a bullpen at max intent, you’re likely placing way too much stress on your body. (Note: I’m not saying that you will get hurt if you do this. I don’t use fear-mongering to motivate athletes. But, just understand that you are at a higher risk for injury.)
A common metric used to measure stress is acute to chronic (AC) workload ratio. AC ratio is defined as the amount of stress during one week of activity divided by the average total stress over the previous four weeks. In baseball terms, that means how much throwing you’ve done in one week compared to your total amount of throwing over the previous four weeks. A recent study, Relationship between workload and throwing injury in varsity baseball players (Mehta, 2019), found that players who had an AC ratio greater than 1.27 were 14.9 times more likely to get injured compared to baseball players with an AC ratio lower than 1.27. Some takeaways from that study highlighted the importance for throwing workload to be built up over time as a means to decrease injury risk.
That’s where a throwing program comes in.
By following a program that gradually increases your chronic workload without spikes in your acute or daily workload, you may decrease your injury risk. That is the goal with the two programs shared below. One throwing program includes PlyoCare drills where athletes will do several drills designed to focus on certain parts of the delivery. The second throwing program is a simple long toss progression. Both are designed to keep your AC ratio in line as you prepare for the high school season. On top of that, both programs include consistent mound work and bullpens. This gives sufficient time to work on things like velocity, command, or a new pitch.
For each program, on one tab you’ll see a layout of the 8-week throwing program, followed by the drills, sets, reps, and intensity for each day. On the second page, you’ll see the same 8-week layout, but with numbers labeled instead of days. That number is the approximate daily workload for each given day. The daily workload (measured in arbitrary units) is calculated by taking the total number of throws multiplied by the rate of perceived exertion (RPE) for that day.
Daily Workload = # of throws x RPE
Daily workloads for each week are added up under the column ‘Acute Workload.’
Acute Workload = SUM (Daily WorkloadSun-Sat)
The next column, ‘AC Ratio,’ takes the Acute Workload for a given week and divides it by the average Acute Workload of the preceding four weeks.
AC Ratio = Acute WorkloadWeek 4 / Average Acute WorkloadWeeks 1-4
So, that concludes my first blog post. I hope the information presented can be helpful to athletes and coaches interested in learning more.
Both throwing programs are linked below. Please reach out with any questions or comments.
Mehta, S. (2019). Relationship between workload and throwing injury in varsity baseball players. Physical Therapy in Sport, 40, 66–70.