At this time of the year, after a full off-season of strength training, upcoming tryouts and practices, erratic throwing schedules, sitting on the bench in a kyphotic posture, waiting to get your reps on the mound are a few of the variables that can wreak havoc on an athlete’s body and more importantly his arm. There are several considerations when you’re looking to maintain your strength and mobility with in-season baseball workouts.
Basically, if quality weight room work trails off, so will power on the mound and / or on the field, leaving an athlete vulnerable to a cavalcade of maladies. These include a potential gradual drop in velocity, mobility, and most importantly injury as the season moves onward. Pitchers can lose anywhere from 5-10 degrees of internal rotation during an outing due mostly in part to tightness in the posterior cuff from decelerating the arm repeatedly.
Once the athlete’s power output drops down below 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 illustrative graph, courtesy of PT Mike Reinold who I once heard refer to this as a “controlled fall”, tells us a lot.
While throwing a baseball does help increase arm speed and the soft tissue’s resilience to stress, it can’t be maintained unless you are maintaining strength and mobility as well. If that was the case pitchers would be stronger at the end of a long season instead of crawling back into the gym in August wondering why their arm hurts “right here” or “right there”.
So, here we go, 7 topics to consider with in-season baseball workouts:
- Continue with Strength Training
- No Humeral Movement in Mobility Work
- Maintain IR and Upward Rotation
- Med Ball Work on Non-Dom Side Only
- Modifications with In-season Baseball Strength Workouts
- Decrease Volume / Intensity
1. Continue with Strength Training
Playing is ABSOLUTELY NOT the same as training!
Getting in at least 1 to 2 workout sessions / week during the season for younger athletes and 3-4 times for the more experienced college and pro athletes will not only help you maintain your strength, it will guarantee that you’re getting in the necessary mobility work to help get those 10 degrees back before you pitch again. That alone would be a win-win situation. Maintaining that IR while your external rotation increases naturally from going into lay-back during throwing is paramount in helping to maintain both total motion at the shoulder and velocity throughout the season.
(Standing Cross Body Stretch)
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 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. Strength losses begin to accumulate within 2-3 weeks after strength training stops. Below is a list of athletic qualities and how long it takes before these traits begin to diminish. I’ve also included how many times per week/month they should be trained in order to be maintained.
Without getting too much into the nuts and bolts of the actual programming, I’ve sketched out some of the parameters that I include in my in-season programs. These sessions should be designed to maintain your strength and mobility without creating any residual soreness that could have an impact on field performance.
2. No Humeral Movement in Mobility Work
With throwing having started, I tend to keep the arm in less provocative positions when performing mobility work. One example would be replacing side-lying windmills with quadruped t-spine mob.
(Quadruped T-Spine Mob.)
3. Maintain IR and Upward Rotation
Pitchers can lose anywhere from 5-10 degrees of internal rotation during an outing due mostly in part to tightness in the posterior cuff from decelerating the arm repeatedly. Here is a great drill to help get the ribs down and create more space without over-cranking on the arm.
(90 / 90 Reset)
4. Med Ball Work on Non-Dom Side Only
Although we’ll never get our guys totally symmetrical (nor should we try), getting back some symmetry rotation-wise can help avoid problems elsewhere in the chain.
(Split Stance Shovel Pass)
5. Modifications with In-season Baseball Workouts
Modifying strength training exercises to accommodate the increase in throwing volume is extremely important. For example, moving from deadlifts to hip bridges takes a lot of the weight out of our pitcher’s hands and gives the lats a much-needed break during months when they are throwing regularly.
(Barbell Hip Bridge)
6. Decrease Volume / Intensity
By keeping set ranges to no more than 12-15 total sets (not including cuff work) and intensities at around 70-75% we can make sure we’re not creating any residual soreness that may affect on-field performance 24-48 hours later. We’ll generally use an 8-rep set done with a 10-12 RM intensity.
Note: These workouts do not include conditioning work (athletes will get enough movement during the week at practice, doing sprint work, fielding ground balls and warm-ups).
The reality is many student-athletes between games, practices and homework can’t get to the gym more than 2x per week. In this case, we use 2 “full body” strength workout sessions per week, instead of a 3-4 day “high / low” periodization we incorporate with our college and pro guys.
With pitchers, we would optimally like to see them the day after throwing so we can account for a majority of their weekly training / playing stress within a 24-hour period. This allows them to have time to recover in-between starts. We can also make sure that they are doing their mobility and soft tissue (foam rolling) work correctly.
Remember, it’s not about who’s the strongest, it’s about who stays the strongest all season. So think twice about “not having the time” to train in-season… you can’t afford not to.
See ya’ in the gym…
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS)
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