Is Your Strength Training Helping or Hurting You?

By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)

I’ve spoken to a few college and pro guys in the past few weeks who are complaining of shoulder and lower back pain which is beginning to present itself as “tight” or “faulty” mechanics to their respective pitching coaches and organizations.  My response to this is… “You need to analyze everything you’re doing and find the culprit, many times needing to look no further than your off-season strength training program”.

I’ve borrowed from many great people and systems to create what I feel is my own way of doing things, so let me start by saying that nothing will be as effective to me as my own programming. However, many modalities such as powerlifting, H.I.T.T (High Intensity Threshold Training) and yes, even CrossFit have very good qualities found within them but none are specific enough to deal with all the issues present in such an asymmetrical sport as baseball. When my guys come in from a long season presenting with 10-25 degrees of glenohumeral IR , a significant lack of upward rotation, elbow pain and a cranky lead hip, the last thing I need them doing is putting undue stress on their upper body and shoulders.

Is Your Strength Training Hurting You - CrossFit Image

This is way too much external rotation for the off-season when the shoulder actually needs a break from laying back all season.

While using straps can be a good thing when squatting putting the bar on the clavicles which is a big player to optimal shoulder mobility, ain’t such a great idea.

Is Your Strength Training Hurting You - Clavicle Image

Instead, we use safety squat bars to create a more optimal and safer pattern for overhead athletes.


I constantly tell my guys that “power lifters and cross fitters are athletes, but not all athletes should be power lifters or cross fitters”.

In a population such as baseball where many athletes have joint laxity (loose joints), doing weight bearing exercises such as Olympic lifts (snatches, back squats, etc.) for time or a random “workout of the day” can put an athlete in a compromised position especially while under extreme fatigue. This is exactly when shoulders dislocate and lower backs get tight and even herniate. Besides, the energy system demands of the sport don’t require doing anything explosive for more than 10-15 seconds with a 30 second break and that’s even pushing it.

In closing, my clients depend on me to give them the best program possible to help keep them as mobile and injury free as possible when March comes around. So, if you’re experiencing joint pain or tightness while throwing, you may want to take a deep, honest look into your strength training program.

See ya’ in the gym.