The Conjugate Approach to increasing Throwing Velocity

It’s no secret that we employ the Conjugate Method in the weight room at OPP. But what about improving a pitchers throwing velocity? Eventually it takes more than just a quality strength training program to do this optimally. At OPP we prefer to use the scientific method to come to conclusions. Such as what training system or approach works best to serve our athletes.

 

The scientific method 

1) a problem or issue to solve

2) a hypothesis to be created

3) testing of the hypothesis

4) draw conclusions and refine the hypothesis

 

A baseball player’s skill work must blend well with the stimulus they input in the weight room. If it doesn’t then the work the athlete is doing is not optimal. If the one thing every athlete is limited by is TIME, then we must constantly search and employ the scientific method to find what is optimal so we can progress at the fastest pace possible.

 

It’s important to note that there is a difference between the system used to periodize an athlete’s training and the means/methods applied.

  1. system is a tool that organizes the training means and methods at both the micro and macro level.
  2. means is the specific exercise.
  3. method is how the means is applied (sets / reps, tempo, specific training protocols, etc.)

 

Conjugate definition: Coupled, connected, or related.

This definition is important because it’s how our baseball players constantly increase their throwing velocity, improve their hitting ability, improve their sequencing, drop sprint times (get faster), jump higher and further, become more explosive, and increase their strength. However, for this article we will primarily focus on the development of throwing velocity.

At OPP we wave and conjugate our means and methods to raise the capacity of all systems by transferring general preparatory stimulus into more directed stressors. This approach raises the ceiling for sport specific improvements. We provide the most comprehensive training program known to baseball players because of this conjugated approach.

I credit a lot of our success to Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell. I have studied their work from afar for years and out of respect for Louie I personally hold and value their special strength certification. I say all this so that you know the information in this article regarding the conjugate method comes from a credible source. I truly employed the scientific method with hundreds of athletes using the conjugate method for both skill and strength development. Over the years, OPP has proven to have real world results that back our conclusions.

What initially drew me to the Conjugate approach of periodization for baseball players was when I realized the pitfalls of linear periodization during my own baseball career. As I began testing different forms of periodization with myself and other athletes I saw that the human body was definitely not a linear organism and therefore shouldn’t be trained as such. I saw how complex each individual was and how naive it was to assume that a linear approach would work for a non-linear organism.

I embodied this conjugated approach with everything including our skill work. Such as the rotation of “exercises” (throwing drills) with high intensity stimuli (max effort throwing) and the importance of having a throwing program that was complemented by the weight room. We give our athletes physical problems to solve and they in turn answer with multiple different movement solutions. This is largely because of our environment and how we train all systems of the body in a non-linear fashion. This system preps an athlete to handle more intense and specific stimuli both in the weight room and on the skill side of development as they mature in their training process. If you would like more information, click here to take our Conjugate 4 Athletes™ coaching course.

Consider this, conditioning for a specific task is specific. Throwing fitness and running fitness are 2 totally different things. The baseball player won’t improve their throwing fitness by running more and the marathon runner won’t improve their running fitness by throwing more. Understanding this allows us to approach our athletes throwing fitness the same way we approach any other particular fitness attribute an athlete needs to improve in the weight room.

If an athlete has a surplus of explosive strength but lacks overall force output or absolute strength, then most likely raising the athlete’s absolute strength will lead to an increase in the athlete’s potential for even more explosive strength. Why? Aside from just targeting deficiencies, absolute strength is often looked at as the foundation (near the floor) while explosive strength is one of more sought after qualities in most sports, therefore it can be considered closer to the ceiling. Raise the floor and thus raise the ceiling. As the ceiling rises so does the athlete’s overall potential. Why is this important when improving an athlete’s pitching velocity?

In physics, potential energy is the energy that is stored in an object due to its position. In other words, if you placed an arrow in a bow and didn’t draw it, the arrow itself would lack potential energy. It’s not going anywhere. When the bow is drawn, energy is stored in the bow and now the arrow has potential energy because of its new position.

As you can now see, it’s important to put athletes in the right position to obtain increases with specific qualities and skills. This is why it’s easy to see an increase in throwing velocity with newbies simply by hitting the weight room. Raising an athlete’s skill potential starts in the weight room. As specific qualities and movement deficiencies for a pitcher improve in the weight room, their throwing velocity potential also rises with it. This however is no guarantee that their throwing velocity will increase. If the athletes throwing velocity increases without any significant training economy spent on improving pitching mechanics and without the management of throwing fitness, then at best, you simply got lucky. Anyone selling the idea that a good strength training program is all you need to increase velo consistently either lacks experience or is simply stating a fallacy to gain more clientele. These are simply not repeatable results especially with higher level throwers who are already close to reaching their potential in the college or professional setting.

It doesn’t make sense to pull down on day 1 of a throwing program at 100% intensity. It also doesn’t make sense to skip over developing a base of hypertrophy and just hitting a 1 Rep Max on your first day of training in the weight room. Much like one would prep for higher intensity stimuli in the weight room, one should prep for high intensity throwing. This is usually done by increasing volume and/or frequency and later on increasing intensity. The on-boarding of new trainees into the weight room and on the throwing side call for a similiar process with an accumulation of work. However, each person is different and how much “work” they may need varies. When one athlete needs more frequency one may need less. When one is ready for high intensity work, one may not be. Regardless of this, once an athlete begins higher intensity work there must be variance in the stimuli with a systematic rotation of throwing drills to ensure continual growth. This is the Conjugate Method. An example of this rotation may be max effort pull downs on week 1, followed by a plyo velocity day on week 2, followed by a mound velo on week 3 and so on. This helps our pitchers avoid the law of accommodation. Much like the rotation of lifts for the maximal effort (ME) method in the weight room.

Obviously baseball players shouldn’t be in a velo phase 52 weeks out the year. There are times for chronic low intensity workload and times for high intensity work. Even during a velo phase we follow the 20/80 rule we do for the weight room. On the skill side, 20% of our throwing is velocity work, the remaining 80% of the throwing is based on constraint drills to improve mechanics and chronic workload (volume) to increase throwing fitness. In the weight room, 20% of our work is on the bar, the remaining 80% is spent on our accessories bringing up our weak points including mobility deficiencies and more.

If the athlete’s throwing capacity is low and they are out of shape, then Max Effort (ME) throwing will affect them negatively both physically and mentally. The same can be said for the weight room. If the athlete’s work capacity is low and they are out of shape or mentally weak/fragile, then ME work on the bar (1RM) will affect them negatively both physically and mentally.

I hope this article made you think more critically about how you approach your own throwing development. If you’re interested in working with us, click here to request and application and begin the process. If accepted, you will join 100s of other athletes chasing their potential using the most detailed player development system for baseball players ever created.

Aj Arroyo

Aj Arroyo

Founder of OPP
Director of Player Development

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