Too many pitchers at all levels either treat their pre-throwing or warmup routine like a hassle or simply don’t do it properly. The warm-up program below is meant to provide you with a comprehensive protocol similar to that being done by top professional ball players. Arm care for pitchers and a proper warm-up program before a game should take 20-25 minutes. It’s in six parts as follows:
- Breathing / Reset
- Foam Rolling
- Band Activation
- Decel / Posterior Cuff Activation
All you need is the right equipment. Since every pitcher is different, this arm care and warm-up program for pitchers is designed to cover all the bases. Feel free to click each exercise for a “how to” video on proper form.
Before we begin, let me also say…
Arm care for pitchers is a full body endeavor and it shouldn’t be just about the arm!
1. Breathing / Reset
What does breathing have to do with arm care? Frankly, a ton. Breathing could be an entire blog in itself. We all do it, all day every day, but if we aren’t breathing through our diaphragm (which is most of the athletic population) and instead are breathing into our chests, the rib position displaces the scapula from its proper place. This ultimately can lead to poor scapular upward rotation, excessive tone in the lats and closing down the acromial space causing alignment issues, restricting mobility and possibly causing impingement issues at the shoulder.
- 5 Complete Breaths / Exhales
- 90 / 90 Hip Lift
2. Foam Rolling (SMR)
Much of the discomfort from throwing is a result of not working on improving the pitcher’s tissue quality prior to throwing, which in turn can also add to the residual stress associated with the act of throwing.
In this section of the arm care program, we will be dealing with getting the soft tissue ready prior to throwing. Self-myofascial release (SMR) is a great way pitchers can help increase tissue quality without over stretching, especially for pitchers with laxity (loose joints).
SMR stimulates a contraction in the muscle, triggering a reflex known as “autogenic inhibition”. In layman’s terms this is where the muscle will relax as a protective device. Basically, you can get many of the benefits of stretching without the lengthening of the muscle which may not always be the best thing for certain pitchers (30 seconds each).
Mobility is “the ability to move freely into a desired position” and is definitely something that is lost fairly quickly. In fact, many pitchers don’t even realize they’re losing it until they’re injured. If you combine a loss of shoulder and hip mobility with the speed of the pitching movement, and for many repetitions you can get a recipe for disaster. Once mobility goes, the body will begin to compensate and that’s precisely why it should be a part of arm care.
Let me start by saying that not all pitchers need extensive mobility work. Those with laxity (excessive joint range of motion) need to get stronger through strength training but should be careful as to how much mobility work they do. For these athletes foam rolling may be all that’s really needed.
Shorter stockier pitchers generally have adequate amounts of weight room strength but tend to be a bit tighter from a mobility and flexibility standpoint. For these guys some foam rolling and mobility work to the lower half may be all that’s needed to help increase stride length and increase hip mobility.
4. Band Activation
There is certainly no shortage of pitching bands and baseball band exercises for pitchers. There are actually so many that it can make your head spin. For arm care for pitchers, we use several baseball band exercises as a part of our warmup routine and over the years we have refined them down to what we believe to be the min / max of what you should be doing.
5. Movement Prep
Throwing is an extremely dynamic movement and can be very ballistic on not only the arm, but the entire body. Before placing high amounts of torque, we employ movement prep to warmup and get ready to withstand these forces. It’s not uncommon to work on glute activation, hip mobility and anterior core control among other things all in one exercise.
6. Decel / Posterior Cuff Activation
Reverse throws should be a part of arm care and warm-up routine. They are a ballistic movement that train power while helping to activate the posterior shoulder musculature when going into lay back. The drill is great for training t-spine rotation during counter rotation of the trunk, as well as keeping the trunk stacked when coming down the mound. The 90-90 position helps maintain a stable lower half in order to focus on upper body mechanics.
- Reverse Throws (2 x 10, select 1 or 2lbs. as appropriate)
As I mentioned in the beginning, a warmup routine and arm care for pitchers is not just about the arm. It should take approximately 20-25 minutes and really should be a fully body endeavor with multiple components that support the arm in a highly ballistic movement pattern.
For post-pitching arm care and recovery click here.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, PES, FMS)
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