Driveline & Weighted Ball Programs - Dangerous?


#1

I read about the Driveline pitching/throwing program earlier this year in the excellent book, The Arm. In a nutshell, the program consists of (1) long toss, (2) various exercises throwing heavy plyo-balls against a wall, and (3) a small number of maximum velocity/effort throws using over-weighted and under-weighted baseballs. My son has been doing the program 2-3 times a week for the last 4 months or so, and he feels like it has increased his velocity - both for pitching and for throwing across the diamond 3B to 1B, and I tend to agree.

I recently stumbled upon another pitching exercise program called Top Velocity. From what I can tell, this program focuses on lower body strength and mechanics, and has terrible things to say about Driveline and weighted ball training in general. Obviously, both programs have a vested interest in promoting themselves and discrediting other, competing programs, so I take all of that with a grain of salt. I know weighted ball training used to be frowned upon due to injury concerns, but I’ve read some things recently that seem to conflict with that criticism. Any thoughts from this forum on whether other not a Driveline-type program is helpful, dangerous, or both?
Thanks.


#2

To think weighted balls, in and of themselves, would be dangerous is to believe that 5 ounces is somehow a magic weight or was the product of great scientific and medical debate to come up with the optimal safe weight…and that the arm is that much different from every other part of the body which can be strengthened or made more explosive using underload and overload methods.

Weighted ball programs work. Like anything that creates gains there is an inherent possibility that you could get injured, just like you can get injured doing long toss, pitching, or walking out to the mound. Nothing is “safe.” Driveline’s program does have numerous protocols for maintaining arm health, but I’m sure they would say there is no guarantee of “safety.” Throwing hard comes with its own set of risks.

Top Velocity is marketing itself against Driveline. It believes the legs and triple extension are the keys in addition to olympic weight training–while minimizing focus on the arm, arm path, etc… Obviously, olympic weight training is not risk free either (people get injured olympic lifting all the time).–and most weight training does help with velo (strength, explosiveness, mass)

Bottom line is nothing comes without risk. Driveline has a number of pro and college testimonials from folks who use their program religiously. They don’t have all of the answers–and that is a strength. Thinking you have all of the answers leaves you stagnant and stuck in an echo chamber. They do try to experiment and find out all of the answers using scientific methodology…which is pretty much more than anyone else does.


#3

I’m a huge advocate for driveline. Kyle Boddy is a very smart guy and he bases his program of data he and his team collect with pitchers. The stats back up the claims that his program works. I’ve do kyle’s MaxVelo program and it really does work. I follow his stuff to a T and if done correctly your arm will be stronger and healthier. ■■■■■■■■■■■ I have strongly mixed feelings about. I understand triple extension and what all he says but 497 dollars is pretty steep for a “one size fits all program.” I’m not trying to put down a program I haven’t done, so that’s all I can say for topvelo. In the end, driveline has worked for me and I can’t speak highly enough about Kyle Boddy and his team.


#4

Thanks for the responses. The other program we’re thinking about doing over the Holidays is the Texas Baseball Ranch Elite Pitchers’ Boot Camp. I’ve noticed that TBR and Driveline seem to speak highly of each other. Any thoughts or experience with the TBR boot camp?

Thanks


#5

We’ve been to the ranch several times. It’s gotten really expensive IMO. They do have a good bit of good info, and somethings I don’t agree with (connection balls). If you’re looking for bang for your buck, I’d get Driveline’s hacking the kinetic chain stuff. If you’re looking for a trip and don’t mind the price, the Ranch is not a bad option. If you go for a weekend and don’t follow up and do the work, it’s wasted money. If you do the work, it’s probably worth it. There are no magic answers…it’s all about hard work and what works for you specifically.


#6

Thanks, McLoven (great screen name, by the way). You’ve hit upon my biggest question about TBR - namely, what exactly am I getting for the hefty price tag. I’m not so naïve as to think that they can give us a magic tip or trick that will instantly turn my son into a D-1 pitcher. But if all they do over 2.5 days is walk us through a bunch of exercises that we then have to go home and spend countless hours doing on our own before seeing any improvement, I’m just not sure that’s worth the money. Any further thoughts on that?

Also, can you tell me a little more about your experience with Driveline’s HTKC?

The other program we’re looking at is Tom House’s National Pitching Association. They claim all of their techniques and exercises have been scientifically tested and validated. They also do a lot of analysis of pitching mechanics using super slo-mo cameras and motion tracking. I really like the idea of focusing on my son’s mechanics, because when I see him pitch, his form looks a bit different from most of the other “good” pitchers we see at his level. Also, as of last week, the NPA now has a certified instructor about 40 miles from our house, which would make it relatively easy to schedule follow-up lessons and analysis - rather than just doing a one-time camp like TBR.
Thanks for your help with this.


#7

It’s not all they do at the TBR. There is definitely good instruction. But, pretty much anything is all about the work you put in afterwards. They even say at the camp that the most important day is the day after the camp ends. You need to put what you learn into play. You can’t change anything instantly. Too often I find people looking for quick velo fixes, etc. In my experience as a dad of a pitcher who throws 90+ mph and a HS baseball coach, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s no such thing as a quick fix. Improvements are almost always gradual. Every pitcher who comes to me and says “Oh, I figured it out…now I throw harder, watch!” is always disappointed when they see their velo on a gun. You have to focus on getting a little bit better every day and putting the time in. Get velo quick schemes are the baseball equivalent to Get Rich Quick schemes. You have to put countless hours in.

Driveline’s HTKC is extremely detailed with drills, information, arm care, strength/conditioning/training, etc. In my experience, it’s the most comprehensive information on gaining velo. But it’s worthless if you don’t put a ton of work.

I know the NPA’s work, but haven’t used it much. I would rank it a lot lower on the spectrum. I’m sure others have a better opinion of it. I can tell you that, IMO, there’s no way they’ve put in as much “Science” as Driveline, who has their own lab with trackman, several guns, many different recover modalities, etc.

Again, all my opinion. I’m just one person who’s tried a lot of stuff and figured things out through trial and error…and am still learning.


#8

Thanks, McLoven; this is very helpful stuff and exactly what I need. My son has put in decent work so far on the “basic” Driveline program, and we both feel like he has seen results. My concern with a mail-order program like HTKC (we don’t live anywhere near Seattle) is that it’s difficult to know whether he’s doing the drills and exercises properly. That’s one possible benefit of TBR - I assume they will make sure he’s doing them the right way by the time we leave the ranch. The NPA program would be even better in that regard, since we can go in every couple of weeks for a “tune-up” to make sure he’s doing everything the right way (of course, that assumes their program works).

And while I don’t doubt the TBR program is great, I’m just not sure a set of drills and exercises is worth almost $2,000 when HTKC is $300. I guess the question is: Does TBR give you enough “extra” (video analysis, personal instruction on how to do the exercises, etc.) to justify the extra expense?

Do you know anything about the Max Velo program that Driveline is promoting now? I can’t seem to figure out how that differs from HTKC, or whether it can be done remotely.

Thanks again.


#9

The MaxVelo program is a more intense and increased throws set of the weighted ball routine. Generally for guys who are already mid 80s or higher or at least guys who have matured enough to handle the intense throwing. The basic program is great for starters, but you will generally plateau after going through the 8 weeks, so the MaxVelo program is designed to surpass those periods when your velo isn’t budging. The weighted ball programs are a less mechanical way of refining mechanics and strengthening the arm and focus on arm proprioception, not conscious movement patterns.


#10

I am a HS coach in SoCal and have looked into the Driveline program for the last 6 months, talked to a couple other coaches who have used it. I purchased the program and started to install it within my HS program about 6 weeks ago. I have made some small adjustments to fit everyone from Freshman - Seniors. Every single kid has said they have already felt a difference. Its either their arm is healthier - the ball is coming out of their hand quicker and with more “pop” they say. I would highly recommend the DriveLine program.


#11

My son is 15. He did the “basic” 6-week program after Summer ball, before Fall ball. Based on that, I sprung for the “Hacking the Kinetic Chain” book and website access, and we’ve been doing the 8-week program (more or less) since Thanksgiving. He’s in his second week of practices for his JV team and just yesterday he told me he feels like his arm has gotten stronger and he has more confidence is his ability to thrown hard and accurately. His velocity hasn’t been tested recently, but he seems to be throwing harder. One qualifier I will give: Driveline claims that their workouts not only strengthen the arm, but also subtly “re-map” the arm path to result in better mechanics. I don’t know that I’ve really seen much change/improvement in his mechanics, but then again, I might not have an expert enough “eye” to be able to tell either way. Also, absolutely no injury setbacks for him yet with Driveline.


#12

As a follow-up, Tom House has been using a science-based approach for many years - longer. I believe, than Kyle has (Kyle is still a fairly young guy). He’s uses full-on motion capture systems, He collaborates with experts in the sports medicine field (e.g. Dr. Andrews), the nutrition field (e.g. Robert Yang), the strength training field (Todd Durkin), and even the golf field (Dr. Rose of the Titlist Performance Institute) since the gold world has been using motion capture longer than the baseball field.

The NPA weighted ball program was originally developed as a shoulder health program with increased velocity being a pleasant by-product. They have now run a couple thousand pitchers through the program without issue.


#13

Our son uses NPA and has done several Tom House camps. He has had great results and without any arm issues. My little bit of research shows that according to Driveline, the major difference in the programs are the “holds”. Outside of those I’m not certain what either program would site as a difference. Tom House does have experience as a MLB pitcher and coach. He also is a serious study of science and partnering with those who are experts in their respective fields. We have loved his clinics and his certified instructors have the same information that he does. He seems to be very open to new science and always seeking to improve. He is quick to say where he is wrong after researching. And, of course, he was an inspiration for Kyle Boddy to get started with his own program. Much of it came from House and others. I have not heard Boddy admit to this, perhaps because he is not a fan of House. Gotta give credit where it is due. Driveline seems very solid as well. House is more seasoned in my humble opinion.


#14

Boddy does give credit to House along with others (Nyman, Marshall,etc.) that came before him. I have seen it multiple times on his social media posts.

There are also more differences than just holds (Boddy uses wrist weights). House teaches equal and opposite, Boddy has a blog on his site on why he does not believe in this teach. House is a big believer in the towel drill, Boddy not so much. House uses drills along with mechanics coaching. Boddy lets the drills/plyocare/weighted balls do the work with very little mechanical coaching. You have to dig a little deep, but the differences are there.

I think both do great work and the pitching community is lucky to have them.


#15

My son is a 14 year old hs freshman who just started the Driveline program in August of 2017 with a local baseball training company.

In 17 sessions, he has added 13 mph to his throwing velocity. He now sits in the mid 70s with nine sessions to go until freshman tryouts.

In the five months or so he has been training in the Driveline system, I have seen marked differences in his arm speed, hip flexibility, core strength, rotational power, scapular strength and joint stability.

I have read HTKC cover to cover and find it to be very informative, data driven, and scientifically validated.

The workouts themselves encompass a lot of stretching, medicine ball work, arm patterning with plyoballs, j band work and core exercises. There is also a strict adherence to warming up and cooling down/arm care.

Surprisingly, not much actual throwing. My son isn’t at the point where weighted balls have been introduced but I assume by the summer he will given his rate of progression.

I must also add that my son lifts 3-4 times a week and works with a professional strength and conditioning coach once a week, as well as doing JBand work on his own almost every night.
In short, he does plenty extra. It’s been made very clear to us that the program alone isn’t a cure all or panacea and that if he wants to continue making gains, or at least not regressing, he needs to continue working.

To give one an idea, my sons weekly workout schedule is as follows:

Monday-Driveline Velocity training
Tuesday-Lifting/hs team training
Wednesday-Strength and Conditioning training
Thursday-Private instruction/hs team training
Friday-Long toss
Saturday-Driveline Velocity training/lifting
Sunday-Travel team training/lifting

I have also looked at Top Velocity and like some of what they have to say. I’m not sure why one can’t incorporate aspects of both programs into their training. What I don’t like is the constant negativity directed from Top Velocity to Driveline. Big turn off. And childish.

As for the Texas Pitching Ranch, we’re going this summer. If nothing else, it will be a nice weekend of father/son bonding.

This is my son yesterday (Jan 2018) after 17 Driveline training sessions:

This is my son when he started the Driveline program in August 2017