There’s a lot of controversy around weighted balls in baseball today.
Let me start with this: There is mountains of evidence of how effective weighted balls can be for developing velocity. This is a proven training protocol going back decades. But, a lot of players hear weighted balls and assume it just means throwing heavier baseballs. it’s really not weighted balls, per se that increases velocity. It’s the principle of overload and underload training.
Let me give you an example:
If you ran uphill, you would obviously run slower, but you would be building strength. If you ran downhill, you’d be running faster and you’d be developing speed. When you throw a heavy ball, you’re building strength, but that’s only half of the equation. One of the problems that comes with weighted balls is that kids tend to go too heavy and they only throw heavy balls. So that would be the equivalent of a runner just running uphill to become a better sprinter. You would get stronger, but slower.
The combination of running uphill and downhill is what makes the magic. It’s getting stronger AND faster.
Knowing the proper weight of balls to use is important too…
No weighted ball or underload ball should be more than 20% greater or lower than a baseball.
A baseball is five ounces…
Your weighted ball should be no heavier than six ounces.
Your underload ball should be no lighter than four ounces.
Let’s go back to the hill with the sprinter. Can you imagine running up a hill that’s too steep? There comes a point where the hill becomes so steep that you’re not gaining strength anymore; it’s now taxing the body. What would happen to your running mechanics if the hill was too steep? You wouldn’t have proper running mechanics anymore, right? What if the hill was too steep and you were running down it? It almost causes the other effect. It becomes dangerous. There has to be that right balance. I’ve never seen a pitcher that needed to go heavier or lighter than four and six ounces.
There’s a few things that have to be in place before you start a weighted ball program:
- There has to be a foundation of functional strength.
- You have to have solid mechanics.
If you don’t have functional strength, a weighted ball program is not going to help you.
If you don’t have solid mechanics, a weighted ball program is not going to help you.
If you do not have solid mechanics and functional strength, adding a weighted ball program is just going to accelerate your rate of injury.
There’s a lot of evidence out there that talks about throwing extremely heavy balls and extremely light balls, and the evidence does point to increased velocity…
But I thought we were talking about pitching? Throwing harder and being a healthy, successful pitcher are two different conversations.
Velocity is one aspect of pitching, and yes, there is evidence that the heavier and the lighter balls will make you throw harder when used the right way…
But at the expense of what?
I think there’s a part where weighted balls can be beneficial, but there’s this very fine line between beneficial and dangerous.
I’ve seen too many pitchers be too aggressive and think that if a six ounce ball is good, then an eight ounce ball must be better. If a four ounce ball is good, then a three ounce ball must be better… and on and on and on from there…
Eventually, what they do is end up gaining velocity and blowing out their arm.