Pitchers need to take a different approach to in-season training than position players, and that includes their warm-up. Many high school and college pitchers don't have a clue how to warm up or train during the season and are in the gym doing more harm than good.
For the season to be successful and injury-free, it's important to develop a pitcher program that maintains the shoulder. Here is a good program to try on your off days.
Each training session should begin with dynamic stretching and soft tissue work with a foam roller, focusing on the bigger muscles throughout the body. Following the dynamic warm-up, the pitcher should warm up his arm and shoulder.
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The Shoulder Warm-Up (performed with ball in throwing hand)
- Arm circles, 30 forward, going from small to big with palms up, followed by 30 backward with palms down
- 15 lateral, front, and rear raises, focusing on getting a little bit further each time
- Crossover triceps stretch, holding 3 stretches for a minimum of 25 seconds once a good stretch is made
- Overhead triceps stretch holding 3 stretches for a minimum of 25 seconds
- Horizontal internal rotation: Arm at 90/90, rotate arm 30 times with ball in hand
- Push-Up Plus (Scapula Push-Up): In a close grip push-up position, palms flat on the ground, lower your body by using both scapula. Almost round your back until you feel a good stretch around each scapula. This movement focuses on the smaller muscles around the shoulder, which are often ignored. Perform 3 sets of 15 good repetitions.
- Side Plank with Single-Arm Cable Lat Pull: Many athletes have caught on to regular planking for core strength. Adding side planks with a pulling motion is even more beneficial. Lie on either side with your opposing forearm flat on the ground. Grab a cable and adjust yourself until there is a good amount of tension. While side planking, do 3 sets of 12 reps of Cable Pulls.
- I, Y, and T: Choose a dumbbell weight that allows you to perform 3 sets of 12 perfect reps for each exercise. Starting light is a good idea, because the form of these reps is far more important than the weight. Lying prone on either a flat or slightly inclined bench is the best option. For the I, move both arms into forward flexion with your thumbs up, gripping the dumbbells. For the Y, with your arms in 30-40 degrees of forward flexion (abduction), perform internal rotations in the scapular plane with your thumbs facing down. This exercise targets the supraspinatus muscle if performed correctly. Perform the T lying face down and with your thumbs facing down to target the rear deltoids and provide a resisted stretch for the pectoral muscles.
- Dumbbell Internal Rotation: Seated or standing, grab a light dumbbell and position your arm and elbow to 90/90. Slowly move into internal rotation until you feel a decent stretch, then repeat. Perform this exercise for 3 sets of 12 repetitions. This motion provides a resisted stretch to the posterior shoulder, where many pitchers are extremely tight.
- Forward Lunge and Twist: Holding a dumbbell with both hands, move into a forward lunge and twist toward the knee in front of you. This will activate the core and obliques while also providing a good stretch to the hip flexors and quadriceps muscles, all of which are used during the pitching sequence. Perform 3 sets of 10 reps per side, focusing on your forward knee not going over your toes.
Immediately following the workout, begin a light stretching protocol consisting of 30-second holds at the point of slight discomfort of the Sleeper Stretch, Cross-Body Stretch and Overhead Triceps Stretch. Incorporate at least one forearm stretch for flexors and extensor your muscles.
The warm-up stretching routine can also be used before throwing begins for practice or a game.
Incorporate this pitcher shoulder warm-up and workout program into your in-season routine. You will see great results, reduce the chance of injury and get you through your season stronger than ever.
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