By Nunzio Signore (BA, CPT, CSCS, NASM, PES, FMS)
At this time of the year, after a full off-season of strength training, and with upcoming tryouts and practices, erratic throwing schedules are a few of the variables that can wreak havoc on an athlete’s body and more importantly his arm. If quality weight room work (needed to maintain strength and mobility) trails off, so will power on the mound and/or on the field. It will likely leave an athlete vulnerable to a cavalcade of maladies including a gradual drop in velocity (have I got your attention now?), mobility, and possibly injury as the season moves onward.
The bottom line is if you’re injured you can’t throw as hard, run as fast or get to that ground ball as quickly. And I’m not just talking about a shoulder/elbow issue. Hip, back, ankle, and neck issues all contribute so any weak link in the chain is a direct route to the rest of the body. Just take a look at Tim Lincecum. He’s generating power starting from his ankles and taking it up and through to his hand.
If you’ve been involved in a successful off-season program, you owe it to yourself to continue with an effective in-season program. Spending four months in the off-season in order to increase body weight, mobility and strength is a big investment, both time-wise and financially. You don’t want to let it “trail off” when the season starts. And trust me, it will trail off.
Once the athlete’s power output drops down to 80% of capacity (or where he started at the beginning of the off-season), compensations begin to take place up the chain in order to maintain overall performance. This usually presents itself as shoulder or elbow pain in pitchers from over throwing with the upper body, or back and oblique strains in position players from over swinging. This graph courtesy of P.T. Mike Reinold tells us a lot.
Throwing a baseball does help increase arm speed and endurance but it can’t be maintained unless you are maintaining strength as well. If that was the case pitchers would be stronger at the end of a long season instead of coming back into the gym in August wondering why their arm hurts “right here” or “right here”. In the words of physical therapist Mike Reinold, managing ball players in season is like “managing a controlled fall”. If nothing else is achieved by training 1-2 days/week during the season other than:
(a) maintaining mobility, and
(b) enabling us to work on breathing to help get back some IR,
that alone would be a win-win situation.
Pitchers generally lose approximately 10 degrees of internal rotation after a single outing due mostly in part to tightness in the posterior cuff from decelerating the arm repeatedly. This will compound upon itself as the season goes on if not taken care of with weekly arm maintenance and strength training drills as in this one below.
(Half Kneeling 90/90 ER Holds)
So think twice about “not having the time” to train in season… you can’t afford not to.
See ya’ in the gym…