Our latest edition of Coaches' Corner features longtime pitching guru Tom House and his latest innovation, the Velocity Plus Program. The program has made an instant impact on the baseball diamond and already has some of football's biggest stars – Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Joe Flacco, to name a few – utilizing its methods. In addition to detailing how the Velocity Plus Program has resurrected the careers of pitchers who thought it was all over, this Q&A session with House also explores how the program has gotten overwhelmingly unprecedented results and what makes it so much more effective than others.
Inside Pitch: What observations led to the development of the Velocity Plus Program?
The genesis of the whole thing started off with the health side of the equation. Baseball just doesn't do as well with shoulders –medical or otherwise – as we do with elbows. The "magic word" we use is called GIRD – Glenohumeral Internal Rotation Deficit. We stumbled on the fact that tennis players never have GIRD and after 45 years of watching pitchers come up with shoulder injuries, we asked ourselves why don't these tennis players have bad shoulders? The answer is because they hang on to the racket through accelerator and decelerator actions.
So we said okay, let's ignore the traditional protocols to fix GIRD- which is basically stretching – and we got a goniometer, which measures internal and external rotation of the shoulder capsule. We started measuring before, during, and after our velocity program now, where we hang on to various weighted balls. We found that through mediating GIRD, we actually built balance into the shoulder capsule and once that got functional again, the really cool thing was that velocity just went crazy. What we do actually complements long toss.
IP: What makes the Velocity Plus Program unique?
There are two edges to this sword – there's a "pre"-habilitation and a re-habilitation. The cool thing about Velocity Plus is it works either way. The thing that makes it unique is not just the hanging on to (as well as the throwing) of various weighted balls, it's called ground force production – force equals mass times weight.
We go through the whole protocol of hanging on to and throwing weighted balls from the knees, the "rocker" position and from the "run and gun," or crow hop position. When you throw on your knees, you basically just have body weight- the force you generate from the ground up. When you do the rocker drill, it's two times body weight, and when you do the run and gun you basically get four times body weight. You match it with timing, sequencing and whatever functional strength you have, and that combination seems to not only help muscle but nerves as well. When you have muscle and nerves and you're combining it with heavy and light balls, the whole system gets better and better.
What's the outside threshold? We're not quite sure, but we've had kids that throw the two-ounce balls in the 112-114 mph range, which tells you what the arm is capable of doing. Will anybody ever do that in a game? We're not sure, but we know that's the outside limit right now of what we're doing.
IP: How about the Velocity Plus Program in other sports? Football?
The only difference with football (weighted balls) is that we do a two pound, a one-pound, and a six ounce ball with a towel attached to it. It’s the same protocol but in their terms they throw from the knees, the two step drop and the four-step drop. It’s not specifically for mechanics – we’re not quarterback coaches – but we train the arm to handle whatever the coaches are teaching these kids.
IP: What about the time and space requirements for the program?
You can do it year-round; all you need is the bag of balls and net to throw them in. You don't need a partner, a mound, or a big space. I call it Personally Adaptive Joint Threshold Training – the kid, relative to his functional strength, arm slot, etc. basically creates a joint threshold that is functional to him specific to how hard he wants to work.
IP: Do players using the program need any other assistance? What kind of support staff do you have in place to analyze the data you're receiving?
TH: We benchmark, with a five-ounce ball, the best velocity that a pitcher can handle at the time. That starts the process. Then you train – knees, rocker, run and gun, hanging on to and throwing the weighted balls. Once you go through the whole progression at maximum intensity with all the weighted balls, then you can go to actual testing for velocity. This is the only time you really need help – someone needs to test the velocity. That data capture- whatever those velocities are- are sent in and we evaluate those numbers. The spread of the velocities between the various weighted balls will help us tell the kid whether they need to work a little harder on strength (heavier balls) or speed (lighter).
We have data now where we can actually tell the kid what he needs to do in his second round of training to get better numbers. The third round puts all the pieces together and anything after that is just basically maintenance. So you train, you test, and based on the results you re-train, then you test another time and after that, we can tell the kid what he needs to do to maintain those velocities.
IP: Are players using the program able to withstand their velocities throughout the season?
We’ve been pleasantly surprised. I’ve done velocity programs before where the players couldn’t sustain their arm strength through the course of the season, but with this protocol since there’s strength training involved, velocities are sustained along with functional strength and health. I would call it velocity improvement in the offseason and velocity maintenance during the season.
IP: What do you see in the future for the Velocity Plus Program?
I think it’s going to go through any throwing or striking sport, and it doesn’t have to be just pitchers with
baseball. We think we’re just scratching the surface, and the more numbers we get, the more hands-on we can get and the smarter we’ll get with the protocols and progressions. We got lucky. Steve Delabar made the program visible and enlightened a lot of people. That combined with a lot of hard work from Joe Newton and Jamie (Evans) and blind luck – with GIRD and the tennis model – have really resulted in a rise in velocities across the board. It’s the perfect storm.
For more information, visit www.velocity-plus.com