Data-Led Velocity Enhancement

All across the country, the most common training approach to training the throwing arm is velocity enhancement training, otherwise known as VELO Programs.

VELO Programs often involve high-intensity weighted ball drills, which include run & guns, and backward running janitor throws, which produce the highest forces on the shoulder & elbow…even higher than what is experienced when pitching in a game.

Increased layback of the throwing arm is a major adaptation from using weighted balls and can be problematic as weighted ball research does not show increased arm strength. This means that arm speed is coming from increased length of soft tissue around the shoulder, loading them like a rubber band, and if strength is not there, tendons and ligaments could snap. Think of this saying, LENGTH WITHOUT STRENGTH IS THE KISS OF DEATH, as athletes cannot sustain velocity and they are exposed to greater injury risks.

Pre-Velo Screen

Research has consistently highlighted a number of modifiable risk factors, that predispose a pitcher to an increased risk of injury. Each of these risk factors should be assessed during a pre-velo screen:

Arm Score

The Arm Score needs to be at a minimum of 70. This number reflects your total arm strength as a percentage of your body weight. For example, if you weight 200 lbs, your total arm strength needs to be 140 lbs. Velocity can not be increased if the throwing arm is weak, so maximum throwing arm strength needs to be at 70% body weight or better to handle the demands of high intensity weighted ball training

Arm Strength

All strength measures need to be normal ranges. If you see any Watch, Warning, or Medical alerts, velocity programs are not advised until you improve your strength levels

Strength Velocity Ratio

The SVR value needs to be at least 1.6. With an increase in velocity, you will experience an increase in elbow joint loading at almost 1:1. That means for every mph increase you achieve, you will achieve 1 unit of load on the elbow. As a result, your total arm strength needs to be at least 60% higher than the maximum velocity your can throw. As an example, a player who throws 100mph needs to have 160 total pounds of arm strength to withstand increases in elbow joint loading.

Going into VELO Programs, players’ velocity gains are often tied to their arm strength, shoulder balance, total body strength, and lower body power.

Utilize this Data-Led Velocity Enhancement Checklist to determine who should & who should not participate in a high-intensity weighted velocity program.

Athletes who do not pass this checklist should focus on their arm strength first and foremost in addition to total body strength, speed and power which will offer significant velo gains.

Above all else, once cleared for velocity enhancement training, the ArmCare.com technology should be integrated every step of the way to monitor and adjust programs based on changes in arm strength, velocity gains, throwing arm fatigue and recovery needs.

Velocity Checklist

If you pass the Velocity Screen that is great. But just because your arm checks out, does not mean that you are ready or it is the right time to start a velocity program. Below is the Velocity Checklist that you need to pass prior to beginning a velocity program:

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You are 17 years old or skeletally mature (Your Body)

In skeletally immature adolescents, the growth plates on the ends of the bones are still open, meaning athletes arms are still growing. The arm doesn’t become fully mature until 17 years old in non-throwing athletes and may be later in throwing athletes. For this reason, weighted ball training is not advised for athletes under 17.

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No arm pain while throwing (Your Body)

You never want to throw through pain. If you experience pain while throwing that lasts beyond 48 hours, we recommend that you see a licensed sports medicine professional.

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You are not in-season (Seasonal Timing)

The competitive demands are too high on the throwing arm in-season. Weighted ball training creates increases muscle activation demands, intensity, and volume that can all increase recovery needs for the arm. Velocity programs are recommended for the off-season and pre-season (60-80 days before the season begins).

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Have been throwing consistently for at least 6 weeks (Seasonal Timing)

You need to build a base of throwing prior to engaging in any Velocity Program. If you are a pitcher, you should have two bullpen sessions completed where you are throwing maximally. At this point, you will be better prepared to handle forces and arm speeds that you will encounter during the velocity program.

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Have taken time off if your workload was high last season (Seasonal Timing)

If you had a heavy throwing workload last season (80 or more innings) you need to take at least 2-4 weeks off from throwing. If this is you, focus on strength training during this down time and go through 6 weeks of throwing before engaging in velocity programming.

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Baseline of strength & conditioning - minimum 12 months (Your Strength)

You need to build a foundation of strength at least one year prior to starting a velocity program. Full body strength, speed and power will add to performance gains and protect your arm from injury by addressing weak links. Baseball specific strength program can help you increase throwing velocity by 2% – 4%. The following performance measures are benchmarks to achieve prior to entry:
Vertical Jump <28 inches Broad Jump >8 ft
Triple Broad Jump >25 feet
Lateral Jump > 5.5 feet
6 RM Lunge at 50%BW
5 RM DB Press at 80% BW
3 MIN Plank
6 Pull-ups with 1 second hang
Sprinting for 2 months prior to VELO programming

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Baseline of arm care - minimum 12 months (Your Strength)

Arm strength is a critical requirement that leads to sustained velocity enhancement. Athletes should use the ArmCare Platform to remediate deficiencies and imbalances prior to the start of velocity enhancement training. Athletes also need to have a consistent routine that prioritizes their arm care training, meaning that it is challenging and dynamic to increase strength, power, and endurance. Please refer to the ArmCare Strength Data for specific arm strength criteria

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Have a qualified coach designing & monitoring your program (Your Skill)

Velocity programs must be individualized, monitored, and implemented progressively. You need the guidance of a coach who has a successful track record of conducting velocity programs with positive results that includes sustainable velocity and injury-free outcomes.

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Your throwing mechanics are consistent (Your Skill)

Throwing mechanics need to be analyzed on slow motion video and determined to be reasonably efficient by your coach. Athletes should also be able to consistently throw strikes.

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Nutrition, Hydration and Sleep are essential (Your Habits)

Nutrition, hydration and sleep are critical in promoting recovery. This is especially important when participating in a velocity program. Velocity enhancement training will increase caloric expenditure, sweat rates, adrenaline, and muscle breakdown. Dial in these important habits to maximize performance, recovery and injury protection.

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Understand that there are risks involved (Your Mind)

In high performance, you have to assess risk and rewards. No matter how well you have prepared, whenever you are pushing the limits of human performance to excel, there is going to be an inherent potential of injury. The goal with this screen and checklist is to minimize those risks as much as possible. If you do not meet the criteria for the checklist, do not be discouraged. Just continue to improve upon your weak areas and recheck your requirements again in the future.