What Are Driveline Plyocare Balls and Should You Use Them?
Weighted baseballs have been a staple to pitching training for years, helping players improve throwing velocity and arm strength. However, Driveline Baseball, a baseball player development organization, offers a twist to this classic training method with its PlyoCare balls. Both weighted baseballs and plyocare balls can benefit a thrower's training, but "plyos" are meant to enhance your mechanics rather than just adding speed to your throw. Plyos can still lead to a boost in velocity, but that's not all they're good for.
Velocity is the name of the game now, as fastballs in the big leagues keep on getting faster. But speed isn't the only important factor of a decent throw. In addition to increasing velocity, plyocare balls improve throwing consistency, arm movements, a pitcher's command of the ball, and so on. They are also designed to be used in multiple environments, such as warm-ups, training, and recovery. As a result, they are a versatile throwing accessory that can positively shape a pitcher's development. They even make plyoballs for hitters!
While a standard baseball weighs between 5 and 5.25 ounces, plyocare balls range from 3 oz to over 4 lbs depending on the brand. Driveline's PlyoCare balls specifically range from 100 g (3.5 oz) to 2000 g (4.4 kg). The balls are coated with PVC rubber and filled with a sand-like material. Driveline recommends them for ages nine and up.
While there are other plyoballs out there, Driveline's line is the pack leader and is commonly known to be the most durable set of its kind. In addition, the company advertises on its website that the PlyoCare balls are engineered for 15,000 throws.
Now that we know precisely plyocare balls, let's dive into what sets them apart from other weighted baseballs and what they can offer to you as a pitcher.
Plyocare Balls vs. Weighted Baseballs: How Are They Different?
We do not hate weighted baseballs. Both types of equipment can enhance a pitcher's training and lead to improvement. But plyocare balls are a newer and more innovative method to train.
The main difference is their purpose and what they are made of. Soft-covered plyoballs are meant for submaximal throwing, restraint training, and arm conditioning, according to Driveline. There's also a more significant variation in weight with the plyocare balls, which means a more substantial variation in drills you can do. In contrast, leather-weighted baseballs are supposed to be used for max-intensity throwing to increase velocity. So plyos have more to do with mechanics than typical weighted baseballs.
Arm Strength, Mechanics, and More! The Reasons Why You Should Use Plyocare Balls
Many professional players go up to Kent, Washington in their off-season to train with Driveline and return to spring training with a couple more ticks on their average velocity, Driveline founder Kyle Boddy told The Washington Post. Some major league teams even contract with the organization as consultants. As a result, you can train with the same equipment that the pros use.
Because the plyocare balls have such drastic weight differences between the sizes, they have various functions you can utilize. Their capacity to help a thrower improve their velocity and their arm strength and mechanics sets them apart from weighted baseballs. Plyocare balls are all about enhancing a pitcher's mechanics.
The main functions of plyoballs:
- Strengthen and condition arms
- Adapt better movement patterns
- Improve feel and command of the ball
- Increase throwing velocity and sustain it
- Mix up low-intensity and max-intensity drills
Strengthen and Condition Your Arms
Plyocare balls open up a world of arm strengthening and conditioning exercises. You learn to adjust your movement patterns to the load and the task by training with underload and overload balls. This helps to build your muscle memory while also toning up your muscles. You can ready more efficiently when you switch up the weight of the ball you're holding. You're combining a weight workout session with arm exercises when you use plyoballs.
They also speed up your warm-up process. You can warm up faster when you use heavier balls. It doesn't take as much effort to get warm and limber as it would with a regular baseball. Instead of throwing to warm up, you can warm up to throw through performing exercises with the plyos. There is no need to waste so much stamina on warm-up pitches when you have plyocare balls in your toolkit.
Adapt Better Movement Patterns
When you use plyoballs to change up the tempo and momentum of your drills and exercises, your body forms better movement patterns in response. Using plyocare balls causes your brain and body to work together and store new information about your arm paths and other movements involved in a pitch. You can better examine and evaluate the direction your arms take when you pitch. You then develop a cleaner, more efficient arm action.
When you learn how to throw a range of weights, you remap your arm movement. Driveline explains it best: "Heavier balls effectively groove a more natural and efficient arm path. And the varied weights ingrain good habits with repeated use." So when you then pick up an excellent ol' 5-oz baseball after training with plyocare balls, your pitch patterns will be better. Your mechanics will be more robust, and your pitches will be more consistent.
Improve Your Power and Command of the Ball
Handling balls in a range of weights forces a pitcher to exert more power over the ball. A pitcher also must have control over the ball and his body movements. Having power and command of the ball helps a pitcher control the path the ball takes. When throwing balls of different weights, the body programs the release point of each throw. You can't be sloppy when you throw with weighted balls, or you might get hurt. When you work with plyocare balls, you have the opportunity to improve your power and command of the ball.
The two heaviest balls in the Driveline PlyoCare set are slightly larger than a baseball and comfortable to hold in hand. So, the transition between plyos and baseballs is more about the weight change, not how it fits into your hand. Plyoballs prepare a pitcher to throw consistently no matter the ball's weight, which will then help the player when they step onto the pitching mound for a game.
Improve Throwing Velocity and Sustain It
If you're interested in using weighted balls, it's likely partly (if not wholly) because you want to increase your average velocity. Plyocare balls can assist in improving your speed and, most importantly, sustaining it. All the work on your mechanics that plyoballs do will only make boosting your velocity more accessible. Since you're building a more muscular arm in the process of using plyoballs, you can throw harder and faster and with less effort. Improved force production and more efficient mechanics promote sustainable velocity increases.
Mix Up Low-Intensity and Max-Intensity Drills
One of the best parts about plyocare balls is that they can be used for various drills and exercises. You can easily mix up your drills from low intensity to max intensity. In addition, throwing balls in a range of weights diversifies your training program and will better prepare you for pitching in a game.
You can also be more independent in your training with plyocare balls. Plyoballs are typically thrown into a wall during drill work. Throwers can practice everything from low intensity to max intensity without a partner (for the most part). Throwing the plyos into a wall is meant to be followed by throwing a regular baseball to a partner with an improved arm path.
But, How Do I Use Plyoballs?
Driveline designed plyocare balls to be used routinely as an everyday tool in a variety of settings.
It would help if you used plyocare balls during:
Plyoballs aren't just a great training tool. As we mentioned earlier, they are an efficient way to warm up to throw. They are also helpful in the recovery process. If you get injured, you can use your set of plyos in your recovery protocols to safely exercise your muscles and build your mechanics back up. In addition, training with plyos prepares you in advance for a quick post-throw recovery. Strong and conditioned arms recover quickly and hold their velocity.
Driveline includes a training guide and a cheat sheet of drills when you purchase a set of their balls. If you prefer more instruction, enlist the aid of a training program. Ryan Weiss, a starting MiLB pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, hosts an array of training and throwing programs where he personally coaches you. He can help you understand all of the ways to use your plyocare balls to improve yourself as a player. It's also essential to learn how to use weighted balls safely to avoid injury. Asking for advice from a professional will hopefully keep you in the bullpen and off of the bench.
If you're looking to get more out of your weighted ball, consider using Driveline' PlyoCare balls. They can not only impact your throwing velocity but also help develop your mechanics and pitching consistency. Plyoballs are a versatile and durable tool for pitchers. And if you sign up for a throwing program, you can learn how to use them more effectively.