The heavy ball reveals all
As I may have mentioned in the past, this year I have made overload/underload training with over- and under-weighted balls a regular part of pitching instruction. This was not a decision I came to lightly. I have used them sparingly in the past, but have been a little reluctant to go fully into them since I’d seen objections that they could lead to injury. Critics of weighted balls would say you can do the same with long toss. But since the facilities where I teach don’t really have the kind of distance required for worthwhile long toss, that wasn’t an option. Neither was going outside given that I live in the Chicago area.
I was finally convinced by two things. One was the endorsement by people such as Cheri Kempf of ClubK and Marc Dagenais of Softball Performance. Both know what they’re talking about, believe in weighted balls, and include workouts for them in their materials. The other was a summary of anarticle on injury prevention in softball pitchers that appeared in Marc’s blog. The article originally in a magazine for professional trainers, and said overload/underload training with weighted balls not only helps increase speed; it also helps prevent injury. Sold!
What I’ve come to find, though, is there is another less obvious benefit, which I call “The weighted ball reveals all.” (Hence the title of this post.)
When pitchers throw the heavier ball (it’s an 8 oz. ball, which is the most I will go over), any flaws in their technique or any letup as they throw is rewarded by seeing the ball immediately go into the dirt floor. In a previous post I talked about the upper arm being pulled down by the shoulder muscles, and the hand being pulled through release by the forearm muscles. It’s the latter where a lack of effort shows up mostly.
The added weight of the ball requires pitchers to give a little more effort to propel the ball forward. It also lets pitchers feel a letup at any point through the circle. So far I am seeing very good results not only in strength increases but improvement in technique.
It’s something to keep in mind, especially if you feel a pitcher is not accelerating through release. Again, though, I’d caution to go only 1 oz. above a normal ball, and be sure to use a lighter ball (6 oz.) to maximize the benefit.