Pro scouts look for hard throwers and tough competitors. But you have to temper your tenacity, take a break from the mound and allow yourself to recover if you want to avoid injury. By taking care of your arm before, during and after the season, you put yourself in position to throw your hardest when it matters most.
Physical therapist Mike Reinold says arm care throughout the season is a "controlled fall." Your arm is going to lose strength, but your routine can slow the process, keeping you stronger, longer. But to fall, you must start from a high place. Proper arm care begins well before the season starts. Strength training gives your arm a solid foundation and adds weight to your body, allowing you to throw harder and reduce injury. Long toss prepares your arm for the rigors of speeding up and slowing down, making in-game performance less traumatic. Light weight dumbbell and resistance band rotator cuff exercises strengthen the small muscles in your arm that throw the ball. Begin your arm care routine at least eight weeks before the season.
Warm up to throw, don't throw to warm up. Perform 15 to 30 minutes of movement prep, mobility work, light cardio and stretching before you even pick up a baseball. Your body, especially your core and hips, needs to be moving properly so that you can throw a baseball efficiently and reduce injury. Start with a light jog around the outfield. Then perform a dynamic warmup with movement prep exercises that may include skipping, walking lunges, side lunges, side shuffle and arm circles. Open up your hips with spiderman lunges and the frog stretch. Get a good sweat worked up before you start to toss the ball lightly, working up to full velocity.
Ice the Arm Right
Blood brings healing nutrients to the arm after the trauma of pitching. Icing the swelled areas constricts blood flow and tempers swelling at first, but as the temperature in the area continues to drop, the nerve activity reduces and the blood vessels open up. Icing properly not only reduces swelling and pain, but it helps nourish the arm to speed up recovery. Ice it too long, however, and the lymphatic system fails to remove toxins from the affected areas. Use a large bag of ice on the elbow and shoulder for 10 minutes and then remove the ice for 30 minutes. Repeat this process as much as you'd like.
Stay in Shape
Starting pitchers should perform a challenging lower body lift with lighter upper body lifting the day after a start. Take a day off and reverse the lift the next day -- challenging your upper body with lighter lower body work. Perform mobility exercises and stretch on day four, and then get ready to take the mound again. Relief pitchers need to work out without fatiguing themselves so they can pitch on short notice. Perform a full body eight- to 12-set lifting routine at least three days a week, taking advantage of off days only after an appearance of 20 pitches or more. Perform short sprints at the ballpark, but avoid running long distances. Sustained cardio breaks down the explosive muscles that you've worked so hard to maintain.
- MikeReinold.com: 5 Things You Must Understand About Baseball Long Toss Programs
- Erice Cressey: It Needs to Be Said -- Throwing Doesn’t Build Arm “Strength”
- TheCompletePitcher.com: Pitching Warmups
- TopVelocity.net: Why Pitchers Should ICE their Arms?
- Eric Cressey: In-Season Baseball Strength and Conditioning: Part 4 – Professional Baseball
- Photo Credit Donald Miralle/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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