Diamond Notes: Off-season conditioning, Part I

By: David Marchbanks-November 29, 2006

One thing I have always prided myself on is my ability to condition my body for a long and grueling season. I’ve always felt like there are few things you can control in this game, but the one thing everyone can control is their work ethic and the way they prepare their bodies for a season. Running and weight lifting not only prepares your body but it also prepares your mind by constantly challenging yourself and making you mentally tougher.

There are so many types of workouts out there and you just have to find one that works for your body. I’ve always felt like there is no right or wrong workout, as long as you find a structured conditioning program, and stay committed to it, you will get significant strength gains.

In this article I have outlined a basic off-season conditioning and throwing guide for young pitchers to properly prepare their mind, body and arm for the upcoming season. In part one, I’ll talk about taking care of your arm and building your arm up for the upcoming season. In part two, I’ll discuss a good off-season conditioning program that has worked for me throughout my career.

At every level you often see two types of pitchers, people that overthrow and people that baby their arms and don’t throw enough. I’ve always fallen into the category of overthrowing and I’ve learned the hard way on several occasions. So obviously the goal of every pitcher, is to find a happy medium and find a way to give your arm enough rest while developing and preparing your arm properly for your season. When it comes to long tossing, I am a big believer that the only way you’re going to strengthen your arm is by continually increasing the distance you throw and constantly challenging yourself by trying to throw farther each week. In this article I’ll discuss a basic throwing program that has worked for me over the years. There isn’t one set way to strengthen your arm, so find what is best for you and hopefully you will find this beneficial.

The first month following the conclusion of your season, probably around August if you played summer baseball, you should take advantage of the off-time and totally shut down your arm from any throwing to allow yourself a chance to rest. Many people don’t realize how important this time is until they experience arm fatigue from overthrowing during the season, and then it’s too late.

After your month off in August, it’s time to start getting your arm going again by slowly building it back up. I’d recommend long tossing two times a week, preferably on Monday’s and Friday’s. When you long toss during the first month, don’t air it out as much as you can, keep your long toss somewhere between 120 or 150 feet. It’s real important not to rush your arm and start throwing the ball as far as you can during the first month. Continually back up as far as you feel comfortable throwing during this time.

During the month of October, I would recommend long tossing twice a week with one day of light throwing mixed in at some point during the week. By mixing in a light toss to about 90 feet, you get your arm used to working into three long tosses a week.

During the month of November, I would always start working into long tossing three days a week: Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday’s with flat ground work on Monday’s and Friday’s. During flat ground work, I would always get my partner to squat down like a catcher at the conclusion of my long toss and work on commanding my fastball to each side of the plate and developing feel for my change-up.

During the month of December, I would start working bullpens into my weekly routine by long tossing Monday’s, Wednesday’s and Friday and throwing a 35 to 40-pitch bullpen on Wednesday’s. During my first couple of bullpen sessions, I would always keep my focus on the command of my fastball and change-ups. Later in month when I started feeling comfortable locating my fastball and change-up, I would start working my breaking ball into my bullpen routine.

For the month of January, you should start gearing up for your high school season by long tossing four days a week on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  You should also get in two 35 to 40-pitch bullpens during the week, preferably on Monday and Friday. This should get your arm going and should make for an easy transition going into your high school tryouts and practices.

It’s important to realize that everyone’s arm is different and everyone has different goals and things they want to improve on during the off-season. There are several different theories and throwing programs to help you increase your arm strength and help you to reach your goals. It’s important to find what is best for your arm and stay committed to your program to allow you to reach your highest potential. This is a throwing regimen that has always helped me to build up my arm strength and allowed me to soak up a lot of innings during the course of the year. Best of luck on a great baseball season this year and remember that one of the only things you can control in this game is your preparation.

Throwing Program Recap


September-Long Toss 2 days a week

October-Long Toss 2 days a week, mix in a light toss one day during the week

November-Progress to 3 Long Toss days a week.

December-Long Toss Monday, Wednesday and Friday with a 35-40 pitch bullpen on Wednesday.

January– Long Toss Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday with a 35-40 pitch bullpen on Monday’s and Friday’s.

About the author: David Marchbanks was South Carolina’s Mr. Baseball in 2000 before an outstanding career at the University of South Carolina. As a Gamecock he made two trips to Omaha, was a First Team All-American and named SEC Pitcher of the Year in 2003 before being drafted in the seventh round by the Florida Marlins. He played two years in the organization topping out in Double-A. Presently, the 23-year-old Marchbanks is a coach for the South Carolina Diamond Devils and conducts pitching lessons in the Greenville area.

For more info on lessons with David Marchbanks, click here.

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