The use of weighted baseballs to increase arm strength and ball throwing speed has been debated, argued and researched. Coaches and players often wonder, "Is there any benefit to training with under- or over-weighted baseballs?"
Weighted baseballs typically are used as tools to increase arm strength and speed for youth baseball players (ages 11-14) and for developing athletes (ages 14 and older).
While some research shows that weighted baseball programs can increase your baseball throwing velocity, it is important to understand that any exercise or training program that is carried out regularly with proper technique, proper skill sets and performed safely will produce positive results.
There are two popular types of weighted baseball training programs, each with their own weighted ball requirements and philosophy.
Both programs share similar exercise repetitions, number of sets to complete and exercise sessions carried out per week. The programs state that if performed consistently (anywhere from four to 10 weeks) increased velocity can be achieved.
A common training regimen can be generically described as the "20 percent plus or minus program." It involves throwing baseballs that are 4 ounces (20 percent less than regulation), 5 ounces (regulation weight) and 6 ounces (20 percent greater than regulation).
Proper throwing technique is vital with this program and needs to be carefully taught and consistently assessed. Variables include the repetitions, sets and the distances ballplayers are throwing. Thirty feet is a common starting distance, with 10 feet being a common interval for progression.
Another exercise program uses heavier baseballs, starting at 7 ounces and involves weighted baseballs ranging from a half-pound to 2 pounds.
With this program, players are instructed to use more defined arm motions originating from the shoulder, while involving their core and using specific leg positions.
The program should be taught by a certified athletic trainer, certified strength conditioning specialist or trained professional as the goal is to safely develop total shoulder strength (without stressing the elbow) by incorporating ball tossing (not throwing), foot positioning with functional steps and core involvement. Fifteen to 20 feet is a recommended ball tossing distance.
While both programs can be used by ballplayers at all levels, the program tends to be used by more mature athletes, such as intercollegiate or even professional baseball players.
Baseball players may reap the benefits from training with weighted baseballs, but it is crucial to train properly, consistently and with the right amount of supervision to prevent potential injuries.
Weighted baseball training programs are just one piece of the puzzle to get ready for the upcoming season. Players and coaches need to remember to implement a full-range of warm-ups and exercises to make sure that they are in the best shape possible for opening day and beyond.
For more information, contact Susquehanna Health Sports Medicine at 800-321-2946 or 320-7448. Have a great, safe season!
Ludwikowski is the outreach athletic training coordinator at Susquehanna Health.