Weighted ball or no weighted ball? That is the question. If you ask us, we say YES! Weighted balls are a terrific way to increase pitching speed. Top notch programs like University of Alabama and James Madison University are using them in their workouts. Why not you?
For years there has been a controversy surrounding the use of weighted balls to help a pitcher train. Research has dispelled many myths about safety concerns, and proven that weighted balls are one of the BEST ways to improve pitching velocity. Thanks to the research, we now know how to use weighted balls safely. To be clear, “weighted ball” does NOT only mean a HEAVY ball. Light weighted balls are also included. In fact, we have found that we sometimes prefer the Light (5oz.) ball to that of the Heavy (9oz.) ball, but each definitely have a place in our regular work out routines.
Overload and Underload Training
Building velocity requires pitchers to increase strength AND quickness. Pitchers need to train both elements, that when combined, results in maximum pitch speed. The concept of overload and underload training has been around since the 1970s. However, it didn’t catch on with baseball and softball until much later. Overload training uses heavier resistance than the normal. For pitching, a regular 12 inch softball weighs 6.5 oz. so, a weighted heavy ball of 8 oz. or more would represent the overload training tool. Underload training is the opposite, and utilizes a lighter object with less resistance than normal. A light weighted softball would be 5.5 oz. or less. When using the heavy weighted ball, the pitcher is building strength in her motion. However, when using the light weighted ball, she is able to move at a faster speed, thus increasing speed of motion. When combined, pitch velocity improves!
Weighted Ball Safety Guidelines
We’re familiar with the notion that weighted balls are not safe to use and cause injury. While that is a possibility, it is also a possibility of that happening with a regular ball as well. While recently there has been an increase in the research being done with the sport of softball, we often have to turn to the sport of baseball to help steer us in the right direction. Hopefully, now that softball is back in the Olympics, we will see even more research on our sport. However, there is quite a LOT of research out there on weighted balls with baseball pitchers, as well as overload/underload training in other sports. Coop DeRenne ( strength and conditioning consultant for the Chicago White Sox Major League baseball team) is a leading researcher on this topic and many of these safety guidelines are based on his research.
- Have good pitching mechanics before starting a weighted ball pitching routine. Do NOT start a weighted ball routine for very young or inexperienced pitchers.
- Protect your Rotator Cuff. You may even want to consider doing some rotator cuff strengthening before beginning a weighted ball routine. We have our students follow the J-Bands program.
- Use weighted balls of appropriate weight. Research suggests a 20% difference in weight (either heavier or lighter) is the optimal amount of overload or underload needed to stay within the “safe zone” and reach maximum potential. Risk for injury increases when a pitcher deviates from the recommended 20% differential. For a pitcher using a 12in ball, she should use a ball no heavier than 9 oz. in weight and no lighter than 5 oz. in weight when training with our Weighted Ball Pitching Workout.
- Watch your repetitions. You do not want to overdo the number of reps you do with either type (heavy/light) of weighted ball. It is important to start with less repetitions and build up to, but no more than 242 pitches in a 3 day period.
- No Long Toss with Weight Balls. Weighted balls provide enough resistance without the the added stress of long toss on the shoulder and should not be used simultaneously.
The truth is if you follow the safety guidelines set forth by the research, you do not increase your risk of injury using weighted balls than that of a regular softball. I’m not saying that you won’t get injured, but you are not increasing your chances any more than using a regular ball when following the safety precautions. As a side note, in my 20+ years of playing and coaching, I’ve never personally had an injury, or met a pitcher who injured themselves using a weighted ball.
“To become fast and explosive, you must train to be fast and explosive.” –Jon Davis
According to the research, the best results come from using BOTH light weighted and heavy weighted balls. Research suggests to throw 2 heavy weighted ball pitches for every 1 regular weighted ball pitch. Keep the same ratio when using light weighted balls(2:1). “Greater than 60 pitches a week is needed to improve pitching velocity when training with weighted balls.”
In addition to the physical aspects of weighted ball routines, it is important that the pitcher have the right mental approach. A pitcher needs to step outside her comfort zone and move with great effort and intensity for all repetitions during the workout. Often pitchers have a difficult time of doing this if they do not maintain good accuracy. Many pitchers struggle to throw strikes with weighted balls, particularly with the light weighted ball. Strikes are not and should not be your focus point when training speed. Remember, we’re not training accuracy while we’re training speed in a weighted ball workout routine. As your body learns to maximize effort, you will also learn how to control it.
Weighted Ball Workout
COMING SOON – Pitching Workouts! We have three versions of weighted ball workouts that we recommend to our pitchers. Access to all 3 versions that we use with our pitchers will be available in our online store. To be updated as soon as these are available, please subscribe to our mailing list. For now, check out this FREEBIE below!
You can watch this version in the video clip below. The effort level for each set is listed next to the weighted ball used. A Cannonball is suggested in this version, but due to the weight of cannonball, it is NOT recommended to do those reps at full speed. Instead, it will feel like slow motion to the pitcher. In several conferences I have heard world-renowned instructor, Cindy Bristow, mention having pitchers execute slow motion pitches to learn body awareness and control. Do 5 pitches with each ball and transition quickly between each weight. Take the time to do a glove snap as you switch the weight of the ball to help the fingers adjust how to release the different weights. Do entire sequence from the stationary drill, then repeat from the mound. If you can, radar all pitches with the light weight ball & get speeds 1-4 mph faster than normal. Clock the final set of pitches with the regular ball to see if the pitcher can match the new, higher speeds. This is a great trick to increase speeds!
*5 reps each
Cannonball 70% effort level
Heavy ball 9 oz 100%
Regular ball 6.5 oz 110%
Light ball 5 oz 120%
Run into pitch with light ball 5oz at 130% super high intensity! Get the arm speed & entire body speed super fast!!!!
Regular ball 6.5 oz 130% match the intensity!
Rita Lynn and our staff are frequently asked how we get so many young students to such high speeds. (Check out our speed club). Speeds in the 60s in early high school years are a must to be recruited by high level programs. Over time you when doing this routine correctly, you should see an improvement in your pitchers’ velocity. A weighted ball routine is a proven technique that gets results! As with any sports training, it’s important to keep within the guidelines to ensure your athlete’s safety. Make sure you are completing enough reps to make it worth your time. Finally, let go of the strike zone and maximize your effort.
To purchase your weighted ball set, and other pitching tools, visit our online store! Join our mailing list (see button below) to receive a discount for the Weighted Ball set, good for the month of February. For more videos with tips and drills, subscribe to our YouTube channel! Come train with us in Virginia to learn our ENTIRE weighted ball program and other speed builders. Please check out our contact page to come train in our indoor facility in Richmond, Virginia!
Derenne, Coop. Effect of Under- and Overweighted Implement Training on Pitching Velocity.