“But can they do it on the mound??” How we transfer running throw performance to the mound.
Updated: Oct 25, 2019
ISSA Certified Strength Coach
Owner Elite Athletic Performance LLC
18 years of experience training athletes
Your Student Athlete; Should Do, Must Do, and Don’t
This is a question I field a lot. It’s definitely valid, in a world where flashy Instagram videos of big radar gun numbers are all the rage. Some folks want to know if this stuff “translates” to actual increases in on-field performance.
The answer to this question is Yes.
How long it takes, depends.
I have seen it go both ways. I have seen guys get directly on the mound and immediately show an increase in velo and I’ve seen guys actually have lower numbers from the mound after increasing their max effort “run and gun” numbers.
For what it’s worth, we refer to them as “Pulldowns” in the gym. In Alan Jaeger’s Long Toss Program there are two phases to long tossing.
Extension- The part where you and your partner are throwing the ball really high and backing away from each other.Compression or “pull down”- (Sidenote: this is the part most people screwup about long tossing)This is where you have gotten as far away from each other as you can manage to throw the baseball. You then begin to “pull down“ walking towards each other continuing to throw with that exact same high intensity level of effort required to throw as far as you could, only now, every throw is thrown LOWER than your partners eye level(hence the “pulling down” part). You continue this until you are about 60’ away from each other. Basically you begin playing “burnout”.
Before we go any father, I need to give you a brief explanation of a term called “Mound Blending”. This basically when we take what we’ve been training with the Pulldowns and “blend” it to the mound. We find the things they are doing within the running pulldown and plyocare drills that are leading to increased velocity. Then we use slowmo and individualized drills to help them recreate as much of that as possible on the mound.
First off, I would like to point out that the body/brain seems to have this amazing ability to retain performance capability even though it doesn’t have the physical capability of expressing it yet. This is completely anecdotal of course. I’ve learned this through a couple scenarios.
An athlete will contact us late in the off-season. Of course he is not aware that he basically is coming in and giving me just enough time to “blend” him to the mound along with the athletes that been with us from the beginning of the off-season. But he’s missing the training that would lead to an effective “blend”.
So do I blend him to the mound and just send him away with the exact same ability that he had when he walked in? Of course not.
I tried to find a GIF of Pepito from Dr. Doolittle 2 saying “My blender is broken” to insert here but no luck.
Very underrated movies btw.
So what do we do?
We will put him through an assessment and assuming we find that a weighted ball program would be beneficial to him, I am going to start him on what we call “full velocity“, which basically means one day per week of plyo ball velo testing and one day per week of running pull down velo testing. With a crap ton of recovery and some good strength and mobility work sandwiched in between. I’m going to explain to him that we are leaving a big chunk un-addressed because of the timing in which he contacted us and that it is my opinion that our best path is to teach his body how to move better and faster, and build raw throwing ability. Then do our best to blend him to the mound once he is back at school.
The other scenario I’ve witnessed the body’s ability to retain performance before it can express it, is when we have a miscommunication on when the athlete is moving back to school and I don’t get a chance to blend them to the mound. So basically they leave and head to school without having stepped on a mound and only performed plyo care and running pulldown throws over the last two months. The first time they step on a mound in the fall, it’s ugly, but it gets less ugly as they go. The velocity isn’t changed much maybe up a tick or two but nothing crazy. Then the next thing you know spring rolls around. After about three starts they’re texting me telling me that their velocity has gone through the roof.
How? The best explanation I have is we built the ability for their body to move faster and in a better organized manner and they basically blended themselves over a longer period of time via fall ball and what work they did on their own.
I have had both of these scenarios played out many times over the years (more than I care to admit regarding the latter) and a majority of them still ended up with the results they were looking for. The second scenario definitely sucks more because I basically spend the entire fall beating myself up because I felt like I failed that athlete.
Why did I tell you about this?
Because it seems when people ask
“Can they do it on the mound?“ They are really asking
“Can they do it on the mound RIGHT NOW?”
I’ve always said, in this field, If the majority of a performance coaches answers don’t start with “it depends“ then he might be trying to sell you something. Because every single solitary situation is different.
So, what does it depend on?
Basically it depends on the athlete. What factors are leading to the increase in velocity in the pulldown? Or the Plyocare Drill? I’ve seen a lot of guys throw harder with an 8oz plyocare ball doing the Rocker drill
Drill shown in this video:
Than they throw with the 5oz ball off the mound.
That shouldn’t physically be possible.
Our job is to figure out why. Why is he moving better in this setting than the mound with a baseball.
In order to understand this, you need to understand the “Why” behind using our weighted ball training in the first place.
Loooong story short it’s kind of similar, on the outside looking in, to how athletes are trained for the 40 yard dash. Will they ever run as fast in a competition environment as they did in their 40? Of course not, but they all perform at a percentage of that 40 time. An athlete running at 80% of 4.4 caliber speed is faster than an athlete running at 80% of 4.6.
The process is much more complex, but an athlete will always throw a certain percentage of their one-rep max effort velocity, from the mound. Our goal(when an athlete needs to add velocity) is to:
1) Build that full out, max intent throw to the highest velocity possible
2) Help the athlete throw as large of a percentage of that throw in a mound setting while maintaining his pitchability needs (Command, Movement,etc). Lot of work, but a lot of fun and rewarding.
We use a method called Mound Blending
to get as much transfer to the mound as possible.
Sone call it “Back-Chaining”. Although technically Back-Chaining is referring to the entire process. Starting from day one of the pull downs and all that. You can read more about Back Chaining here
Although I have seen it in random cases, I’ve seldom seen it translate immediately to the mound. As previously mentioned, You have “blend” to the mound.
Each athlete is different. Some need a more technical approach “You move like a gazelle when pulling down, but you move like a 2x4 with arms on the mound. Why?”
Basically we try to find things they do well, be it, One, or several plyocare drills and blend those to the feel of the mound.
Then we show them some things with slowmo video that are happening when they throw hard in a pulldown that aren’t happening on the mound.
E.G. Lead Leg Blocking, Hip/Scap separation, stuff like that and work from there.
There are seldom exact paths but there are similar ones sometimes.
But for the record, even if I saw no translation to the mound, I would still use them simply to build resistance to high level acute stress to the arm.
My goal is to create stress in a controlled environment over time for the athlete to adapt to so uncontrolled (game)stress doesn’t result in breakdown. This is known as the GAS principle. General Adaptation Syndrome. Basically it’s how the body adapts to a perceived threat to better equip itself for survival of said threat in the future.
In layman terms, if you don’t throw HARD in your training environment, then you can’t be upset when your arm hurts in a game.
Click the link below to sign up for our Newsletter!
Pick up a copy of my book today! Click the link below for Kindle Version and Paperback available on Amazon!
Your Student Athlete; Must Do, Should Do, and Don’t
The “Owner’s Manual” for parents to maximize their kid’s time, help them perform better, and avoid injury