By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
Velocity… It’s the one thing that seems to be the most sought after, yet few know how to deliver it effectively. Everyone thinks they know how to do it. But there are many different threads that need to be weaved into a safe and effective velo program. Today, we’re going to go over what I believe to be some of the key points to look for in an effective velo program and honestly, they should ALL be present. Here we go…
1. Full Movement Assessment – Any significant physical constraints that may negatively affect the athlete’s “movement strategy”, such as pain or extreme tightness, should be addressed prior to the start a velo program. The Assessment will also help us better design an individualized program with respect to mobility/stability work, weight room programming (it may even identify the need for a PT and whether training needs to be put on hold altogether).
2. Power Testing – In order to provide our athletes with the best possible training to optimize performance, we need to maximize the amount of power they have at their disposal. Every athlete, based on factors such as biological age, physical maturity and training age, has different speeds that correlate to the different strength zones. This is where creating a Force-Velocity profile for each athlete comes into play. The profile tells us if the athlete needs to get stronger, become more elastic or both. Also, by finding out what kind of “engine” is under the hood, we can design specific programs in the weight room to find the “sweet spot” where optimal power is produced. This helps provide the athlete with a higher velocity ceiling by optimizing this transfer of power from the weight room onto the mound.
3. Kinematic Sequencing – Not all throwing motions are created equal. Some guys rely more on strength, some guys elasticity (facial tissue) and some are simply genetic “outliers”. But close analysis, in not only numerous studies but also from our own experience at the facility, reveals that there is one common denominator why hard throwers create effortless velocity and command and that is proper sequencing up the kinetic chain. This timing pattern is referred to as the “Kinematic Sequence” and can be only viewed through motion capture sensors that we place on the athlete’s body during our throwing / video analysis.
4. Full Video Analysis – Using high definition video helps us to find any “disconnects” in the delivery where the athlete may be leaking energy and/or negatively affecting the timing of his kinematic sequence, thus possibly robbing himself of valuable mph. The use of throwing correctives will teach the athlete how to re-tension the throw and find the quickest most effective path to the plate.
5. Adequate Dynamic Warm-up – This should account for at least 25% of total session time (approximately 25 minutes), including soft tissue work, mobility and stability work, cuff activations, stabilizations (if laxity is present) and movement.
6. Adequate 2-3 Week Ramp-up – You wouldn’t just jump into a huddle and run a route on the football field. Well, throwing a baseball is no different. Workload needs to be slowly increased in preparation to throw with high intent. This includes 2-3 weeks of throwing at 50-70% RPE (rate of perceived exertion).
7. Varying Weighted Balls and Dosage Within Each Session – This helps keep the proprioceptive learning environment rich in variation by forcing the arm to adapt to various stressors (different weight balls) in short periods of time. Strict attention MUST be paid to the “dosage” being used. Heavier balls are used for shorter “decel” patterns to help ingrain correct movement and when a big “lay back” isn’t present. Lighter weight balls are used on high intent days only to improve arm speed. The dosage (volume) of the programs are paramount and tailored to the strengths and weaknesses of the individual (click here).
8. Command and Control Must be Maintained – Throwing hard is great, but of no use if you’re not hitting your spots. We use weighted balls as a proprioceptive tool to give athletes immediate feedback while they go through their normal delivery with new stimuli. This helps them make adjustments and improves “feel”.
9. Adequate Amount of Recovery – Recovery should reflect 25 % of total session time (approximately 25 minutes), including additional soft tissue work and lower body mobility work. At Least 2 Recovery Days and 1-2 Days Off/Week – Recovery days involve cuff activation and stabilization drills as well as light catch. As for days off, this not only gives the athlete a physical and much, much needed rest, but it’s a great mental break as well. Remember, “work hard-rest harder”.
10. Complete Strength Training Program – Much of the velocity that is developed in a velo program comes from developing lower half power. This can only be accomplished through a thorough strength and conditioning program. Any velocity program that doesn’t include a thorough strength training is selling you snake oil. Period.
Of course, this should all go hand-in-hand with a proper nutrition program to help the athlete gain and/or maintain an appropriate amount of lean muscle mass during the program (click here).
We have spent the last 18 months developing our velo program and there is a tremendous amount of scientific research behind it and driving it. Here is a brief video on the program:
Also, please feel free to click here for additional details on our Summer Velo Program.
See ya’ in the gym…