As the great Olympic swimming champion Janet Evans states, the benefits of swimming are "numerous, significant, and undeniable." That applies to everyone from serious jocks to casual exercisers. For softball pitchers, who windmill bullets to the plate at up to 60 mph, water workouts can do wonders. Exercises to strengthen your pitching shoulder can be even more effective in a pool than on dry land. And for overall conditioning, swim exercises are tough to beat.
The Aquatic Advantage
New York Yankee strength and conditioning coach Dana Cavalea says swimming is one of the best ways for a baseball or softball pitcher to increase shoulder strength, endurance and stability. Submerging the shoulder in water enables you to better stabilize the shoulder blade, something many pitchers find difficult to do when exercising on land. Plus, you can control the intensity of your workout without the use of weights or bands, since you can increase resistance simply by pushing through the water more forcefully. Since water exercises are low-impact, the risk of injury is diminished as well.
Jobe Shoulder Exercises
Frank Jobe, an orthopedic surgeon and pioneer in sports medicine, who served as the long-time medical director for the Los Angeles Dodgers, created exercises for pitchers that specifically strengthen the often-injured rotator cuff area. Baseball and softball hurlers at all levels routinely perform Jobe exercises to develop shoulders that can withstand the rigors of pitching. Cavalea says Jobe exercises are particularly well-suited for the pool. Jobe exercises include 45 degree raises and internal and external rotations. They can be done in the pool without weights or with aquatic dumbbells.
Total Body Conditioning
A strong pitching arm isn't enough. You need to strengthen your upper and lower body and develop a strong core to pitch your best, and water exercise is a great way to do so. Cavalea recommends supplementing shoulder exercises in the pool with general conditioning exercises. For example, swim freestyle for two minutes, run in the water with a high knee action for two minutes, breaststroke for two minutes and flutter kick while holding the side of the pool for two minutes. "If you don't think eight minutes of work is a good workout, go ahead and try it," writes Cavalea.
Cross-Training Dos and Don'ts
Cross training is recommended for almost all athletes, and softball pitchers are no different. As Janet Evans writes, swimming not only works the entire body, it can be good for the mind and spirit as well. "The methodical repetition of swimming combined with its non-impact natures creates a soothing, relaxing form of exercise." But don't overdo it. Cavalea recommends staying on dry land the day before and the day after you are scheduled to pitch, since your shoulders can get fatigued quickly from aquatic training.
- Human Kinetics: Why Choose Swimming?
- The Complete Pitcher: Pitching Swimming
- The Complete Pitcher: Pitching Workouts
- STACK: Baseball & Softball Pitchers Protect Your Shoulders With This In-Season MIni-Workout
- KBands Training: Arm Strength, Baseball Throwing, Shoulder Exercises
- Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic: Frank W. Jobe, M.D.
- Photo Credit Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images