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  • building kids arm strength and endurance

    My son is 10 and on the smaller side, not a lot of meat on his bones, but wants to start pitching this year and has one of the stronger and more accurate arms on his team (9-12 year olds).

    What's the best way to develop his arm strength and endurance? I know I'm going to get a hundred different opinions on this, but I figured I'd ask anyway.

    We've been doing a little "long toss" this year, nothing extreme but we start at 20 feet or so and work our way back to 80-90 feet, then back in. He has a great time with this, and his accuracy and velocity are improving a lot. A session might last 5-10 minutes, it's not a whole lot of throws. For the past couple weeks we've been doing it 4-5 times a week, sometimes on consecutive days.

    In addition, he's been practicing with the team 2-3 days a week (no games yet and very occasional pitching), and I've had him pitch to me in our backyard bullpen two or three times a week (20 pitches max).

    We always warm up with arm circles beforehand, and I emphasize always starting with very light tosses at a close distance, never hard throwing without warming up. I taught him to throw properly with his whole body, so his legs and torso are doing a lot of the work. I notice in practices, though, when playing infield he likes to throw sidearm, which I strongly discourage (at least at his age and stage of development). Even saw him do that from the outfield once (cringe!). Seems to be subconscious, as when I ask him about it he claims he doesn't mean to.

    For the first time this weekend he complained of a sore arm. Not pain, just "tired" and a little sore. I had him not throw at all over the weekend and due to rain he won't throw again today. Think he's fine.

    Does this routine seem OK? I know some people are totally against long-toss, others think it's great, my sense is that in moderation it's fine and beneficial. But I'm thinking maybe we never do long toss on consecutive days, and perhaps just twice a week max.

    My main priority is protecting his arm, and my "rule" is that as soon as the arm is sore or uncomfortable, stop throwing and rest until the discomfort is gone. Definitely want to err on the side of caution.
    Last edited by Megunticook; 04-23-2012, 07:53 AM.

  • #2
    I would avoid any rigid regimen, or "throwing schedule" ... such as the ones major leagues players use. But, I would throw often and use different ways of throwing. I would not focus on velocity and arm strength. I would focus on accuracy and proper mechanics.

    I have a 10yo as well and we essentially throw daily. We either throw 40-50 pitches, or we throw SS to 1B fielding grounders or (my favorite trick) we throw "long" by taking fly balls. I love this kid, he's a catcher by nature and a center fielder at heart. *grin* So after he catches fly balls we throw home, no rainbows. In the air is preferable, one hop is fine (for the activity). Throwing, not pitching, IMO builds arm strength.

    We have fun.

    Note in our "bullpen sessions" (my perspective) or "Hey dad wanna go pitch?" (his perspective), we focus on spots. we use, what I call "free throw intensity", and we throw 10 pitches before moving to a new spot (or pitch). Then we throw 10-15 game pitches, and then we end on "silly time". I call out a pitcher and he has to do their pitching motion (he absolutely loves this. My stipulation is that any pitch that hits me in the shins, signals the end of the game).

    To encourage hitting spots, I call strikes in foreign languages. Now you and I know I can barely speak English, let alone 25 different languages. So, I just crap up for whatever "strike" would be in Korean or Filipino. He loves it. My neighbors think I'm crazy. I know I'm crazy. I have to do this stuff to keep myself in check. I will admit claling strikes in foreign languages and crazy voices is kinda fun.

    I've coached pitchers at many levels and know how important this stuff is (accuracy, mechanics, etc). I see how fast my kid is growing up, and how well he's doing in baseball, and how he's a "puberty jackpot" candidate, that is very easy to forget that he is just 10 years old ... and 10 years old is still young. My main job at this point is to teach him basics, be encouraging and understanding, and not completely ruin baseball for him. I'm not lecturing at you or anything, just explaining why I emphasize keeping it fun (or should emphasize having fun; I don;t always do it). If "catch with dad" becomes "pitching camp", then "catch with dad" might start dropping down the priority list .. and IMO, "catch with dad" should be the best part of the day for both guys involved.

    The biggest thing I see at this age are kids that don't keep the ball "above their ear" as the they bring their arm by their head. In other words they short arm the ball.

    Hip-Shoulder separation and arm speed are the keys to velocity (along with nature), and that can be trained to a degree. But, IMO, more gains can be made in the accuracy department and at this age is likely a better investment of time.

    I'm not proud that my son threw 120 pitches over 2 games on Saturday (we're a neophyte travel team and have 3 of our 7 pitchers that have never pitched before and I wasn't going to throw them to the travel team wolves in a 2-run game). I am proud that he threw 80 strikes. He saw 25 batters and threw 40 total balls out of the zone, and has very good mechanics that are easily repeatable without maximum effort. He's also in good throwing condition because we throw, not necessarily pitch, daily.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by CircleChange11 View Post
      We have fun.
      Agreed, that's the bottom line and all that really matters at 10 years old. I love the creative games, and the chance he gets to parrot his big league heroes. We do that with stances...would be fun to try it with pitching ("hey dad, guess who I am now...").

      One game he likes is to pretend he's pitching in the bottom of the 9th with a one run lead facing the top of the Yankees batting order at Fenway, he loves that. We see if he can strike out the side and not walk anyone.

      We haven't worked on hitting spots yet--at this point I just have him try and hit my glove and count it a success if it's in the strike zone.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by CircleChange11 View Post
        The biggest thing I see at this age are kids that don't keep the ball "above their ear" as the they bring their arm by their head. In other words they short arm the ball.
        Can you elaborate on this?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by bbrages View Post
          Can you elaborate on this?
          After the hips have rotated (belly button facing catcher), the upper arm should be parallel to the ground, and the lower arm vertical. As the arm is coming by the head (throwing) the ball should be higher from the ground than the pitcher's ear.

          What I see often are guys that bring the ball back fine, but then as the arm moves forward, they move the ball lower and/or closer to the ear. I don;t know if the do this because it's more comfortable with smaller hands or they feel it;s easier to "aim" the ball or what.

          Basically they can get to this position, they're in fine shape.
          http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/...Maddux_001.jpg

          It's just a coincidence the image is at O'Leary's site. I google searched for Maddux. Not promoting anyone's website.

          Another way of saying it is that when the arm comes by the head, the elbow should be higher than the shoulder.
          http://www.ndgbaseball.org/pictures/.../madduxdel.jpg

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          • #6
            Your son will gain a lot of strength and and endurance by growing. At his age I would focus on proper mechanics, focus and hitting quadrants. Then the foundation will be in place for when he grows. When my son was a preteen he did absolutely nothing in regards to physical development other than play four sports and other physical activity. He loved to practice. We spent a lot of time on fundamentals. He was 5 feet, 95 pounds at twelve. The ball still cleared/scraped the 200-220 foot fence. He still brought it in the sixties. When my son was ten I allowed him to throw two innings per week. My concern with arm development in preteens is abusing their growth plates which can cause permanent physical harm.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by tg643 View Post
              When my son was ten I allowed him to throw two innings per week.
              Disclaimer: The following is going to sound smart-assy, but it isn't intended to be.

              Why 2IP per week? Why not 1? Why not 3? Why not 5? I'm interested into the how/why you selected 2 IP/wk as the limit.

              At 10yo, I would much prefer to use pitch count than IP. For one of our pitchers, an IP is generally 12-14 pitches. For our #2, an IP is about 18 pitches, for our #3, it's 22-24 pitches/IP.

              --------------------------------

              In regards to progressive resistance, things like frequency, intensity, and duration all exist in inverse relationships. In other words, if a player throws often, they should throw in shorter duration under less intensity.

              I don;t see much intensity in the pitching of 10yos. Very few "violent" mechanics and a severe lack of back leg being "pulled over" and off of the ground due to intense trunk rotation.

              In that regard, I would suggest that young kids need more throwing to build up strength and endurance (in the absence of real intensity). Throwing, though, does not inherently mean more game innings. Playing catch, throwing the ball around, and pitching in a game offer different stress levels, not just to the arm, but to all of the systems of the body.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by CircleChange11 View Post
                Disclaimer: The following is going to sound smart-assy, but it isn't intended to be.

                Why 2IP per week? Why not 1? Why not 3? Why not 5? I'm interested into the how/why you selected 2 IP/wk as the limit.

                At 10yo, I would much prefer to use pitch count than IP. For one of our pitchers, an IP is generally 12-14 pitches. For our #2, an IP is about 18 pitches, for our #3, it's 22-24 pitches/IP.

                --------------------------------

                In regards to progressive resistance, things like frequency, intensity, and duration all exist in inverse relationships. In other words, if a player throws often, they should throw in shorter duration under less intensity.

                I don;t see much intensity in the pitching of 10yos. Very few "violent" mechanics and a severe lack of back leg being "pulled over" and off of the ground due to intense trunk rotation.

                In that regard, I would suggest that young kids need more throwing to build up strength and endurance (in the absence of real intensity). Throwing, though, does not inherently mean more game innings. Playing catch, throwing the ball around, and pitching in a game offer different stress levels, not just to the arm, but to all of the systems of the body.
                I allowed 9's to pitch one inning per week, 10's pitched 2, 11's pitched 3. At twelve I used judgement based on physical development. My reasoning went back to when I played. When I played LL majors was 9-12. I got a few innings at eleven. I pitched my six innings per week when I was twelve. The way youth baseball is set up now a kid's arm can be toasted by the time he finishes age tweleve baseball. Travel allows a kid to pitch many innings every week from age nine (or younger) through age twelve. Without going through the math again, I once figured the mileage on a 13U pitcher was the same as when I headed for college ball in high school. The reason being playing in multiple age leagues (LL, BR/junior high, Legion/high school) and having to wait a year or two to pitch.

                My son was not a preteen pitching stud. Many people said he could have been. It was more important to me he threw 85 in high school and closed games. He's at 88 fourteen months removed from tossing the sling from shoulder seperation surgery and not pitching last year. The three preteen studs in our area all had their arms in a sling by age twelve. No one remembers the preteen studs unless it's a story of abuse and injury.

                I am a big believer kids throw too little and pitch too much.
                Last edited by tg643; 04-23-2012, 01:06 PM.

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