Professional Baseball Strength & Conditioning


Research Review

Is Perceived Effort a Valid Method of Assigning Training Load in Pitchers?

By Gene Coleman, Ed. D., RSCC*E, FACSM

At some point in the season, every pitcher at every level from Little League to the Major Leagues, has been told by a coach or trainer to throw at a reduced level of effort, such as, 50, 60 or 70% of max. The pitcher almost always understands the directive, but recent research at the Mayo Clinic indicates that the perceived effort does not always correlate with reductions in throwing metrics1.

Researchers at Mayo Clinic asked 28healthy male high school and 32 healthy male college pitchers to complete a series of predetermined, structured long-toss sessions. After warming-up, each pitcher made 5 throws with max effort, 5 at 75% and 5 at 50% from a distance of 120-feet while wearing a motusBASEBALL sleeve.Pitchers threw on flat ground without a crow hop. They used a fastball grip, made all throws “on a line” and rested 60 seconds between throws.

Throws at each level of effort were recorded and evaluated for elbow varus torque, ball velocity, arm slot and shoulder rotation. Results indicated that reductions in measured effort did not match changes in perceived effort for any of the throwing metrics tested. Measured effort was significantly greater than perceived effort for all metrics tested.

The researchers concluded that when players throw at what they perceive to be reduced effort, their actual throwing metrics do not decrease at the same rate as their perceived exertion. When they looked at elbow varus torque and velocity, for example, the data indicated that for every 25% decrease in perceived effort, torque decreased only 7% and velocity by 11%.

While these results might not have significant implications for health pitchers, they do for those engaged in rehab programs. One possible workaround this problem would be monitor every throw in with a radar gun to help avoid overexertion and ensure that appropriate level of effort is being met.



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1. Heath, PM, et. al. Baseball pitcher’s perceived effort does not match actual measured effort during a structured long-toss throwing program. Am J S Med, 47(8): 1949-1954, 2019.


Gene Coleman is a S&C consultant for the Texas Rangers, Professor Emeritus in the Exercise and Health Sciences Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake and Website Education Manager

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