Born and raised in sunny, southern California, you might wonder why I feel a need to write an article about a throwing program for inclement weather. Well, the truth be told is that this question has come up a great deal in the past few years. Coaches and players are beginning to realize that being confined to a limited space, indoors, for an extended period of time in the Fall/Winter months (3-5 months in some states) can significantly limit the conditioning and development of the arm. This reality is especially hitting home for those coaches and players who have experienced the tremendous benefits of distance throwing (Long Toss), and are now realizing how disadvantageous it is to suppress the arms needs to stretch out, lengthen and condition properly during this 3-5 month window.
This 3-5 month window, which can start as early as October and can last as late as March, often forces players to train indoors in facilities that may be significantly limited by height and distance constraints (e.g. basketball gym). As you will see throughout this article, this 3-5 month window, when coaches and players often feel that they can’t get the necessary work or conditioning in because they are forced indoors, is one of the most important periods in the calendar year. Quite simply, it represents a huge chunk of time when players can either “build on their base”, or face the real possibility that their arms will either stagnate or regress.
The reality is that while warm weathered parts of the country have the luxury to train outdoors, without throwing limitations, schools that are forced indoors for long periods of time are at a major disadvantage come Spring time if they don’t know how to insure that players get the necessary conditioning indoors (distance throwing/long toss). Going indoors can seem very limiting when it comes to maintaining a good throwing program but with a little creativity players can find ways to get the necessary distances of 200-300 feet even if the length of the indoor facility is no greater than 120 feet.
Considering that the key to any throwing program is to build the base of the arm correctly (September/October), the next most important factor is to ensure that this base is maintained or enhanced through the remainder of the Fall/Winter (and eventually, into the Spring). This period between November and March is a critical time to not only deepen the base that was built in September/October, but to insure that the players make a smooth transition once they get outdoors early in the Spring, without having to “rush” into shape. The arm should be in shape because of how it was properly conditioned throughout the Fall/Winter months, despite the fact that it was confined to indoor throwing.
This article has been written with this in mind.
Two Keys To Conditioning Indoors: Surgical Tubing and Long Toss
For those players or teams that have used the first two months (September/October) to condition their arms well on a Long Toss Throwing Program (see jaegersports.com/articles) the last thing you want to have happen is for your players to go from a great conditioning mode to “under conditioning” for 3-5 months because of being “limited” indoors. The arm needs to continue to train in a manner that allows it to fully condition, and that means it needs to find a way to stretch out (Long Toss) to distances that are consistent with the distances that are provided outdoors.
There are two key factors with regard to developing and maintaining the health, strength and endurance of the arm through the Fall/Winter months — number one is distance throwing or long toss, and a close second is surgical tubing exercises. There isn’t anything that’s a close third other than pitchers getting the necessary work off the mound at the appropriate time.
As mentioned in the previous article (see jaegersports.com/articles), building a “base”, progressively and thoroughly, is the most important principle in developing arm health, strength and endurance. And maintaining this base by conditioning properlythroughout the Fall/Winter is of extreme importance if you want to use the Fall/Winter to strengthen, rather than deplete this base. “Proper” conditioning starts and ends with Long Toss and Surgical Tubing — these are the only two factors that are notoptional.
Once a team is forced to go indoors due to inclement weather these are the two essential ways to maintain your conditioning through the Fall, Winter and into the Spring. If you are fortunate enough to have an indoor facility (field house/football field) that allows you to consistently get out to 250 feet or more, than simply follow your routine as if you are outdoors. But for most of the schools out there, a basketball gym, etc, seems to be more of the norm, and getting distance is a real issue.
Key #1: Surgical Tubing
Though you may be limited by the distance (e.g. 120 feet) and/or the height of your indoor facility you can still effectively supplement the “conditioning” of the arm by adding repetitions to your surgical tubing exercises prior to, and independent of your throwing program.
Fortunately, the net effect of increasing your reps helps the arm “make up” for the lack of throwing each day. This is especially effective by adding reps to the forward throwing motion (literally, the same throwing motion used as if you were “throwing” the surgical tubing like a baseball), which is the last surgical tubing exercise done prior to that days throwing session (see youtube: j-bands exercises). This forward motion exercise bests “simulates“ the arms throwing motion because, quite simply, the arm is getting the sensation that it is throwing.
There is actually a “Long Toss” effect without even picking up a ball because “throwing” the tubing in a progressive way (start with low resistance and slowly add resistance) allows the arm to “open up” progressively with each passing repetition, in the same manner that you start out by playing light catch, and slowly add more effort to each throw. Because the arm has had a chance to “measure”, for example, the first 25 reps as a stretch, adding reps begins to challenge the arm as if the distance behind the throws is increasing.
Again, this is all done in a safe manner because the arm is progressively being asked to “throw” through more resistance after the arm has already been safely warmed up (the increased resistance is created by slowly moving away from the fence or object that you have clipped the surgical tubing on to).
Over time, a player may actually increase from a distance of 3 feet from the fence and 25 reps, to 4 or 5 feet from the fence and 3 sets of 30 reps. This is ideal for the arm because it is going through basically the same range of motion as if it is throwing, and the resistance (distance) is being increased in a very progressive way. Surgical tubing is not only going to help establish a great base but it’s going to also increase the arm’s endurance in and of itself and best prepare the arm to maximize the effect of the actual throwing program on that given day.
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 wou